What is the Vagus Nerve and Why is it Important?

In an article entitled “Science Confirms That the Vagus Nerve Is Key to Well-being” by Markham Heid and featured on elemental, we read about the vagus nerve and its importance to our overall emotional health. Paraphrased: “The vagus nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves, (picture it leaving the brain, like a set of roots, connecting to our heart, our guts, our immune system and many other organs) with it being the nerve that governs the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps control the body’s relaxation responses. In simple terms, heightened vagal activity counteracts the stress response.”

So what does this mean exactly? Here are the highlights:

  • “The sympathetic nervous system is fight or flight, while the parasympathetic nervous system is more chill out,” says Stephen Silberstein, MD, a professor of neurology and director of the Headache Center at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals.”
  • “Silberstein says that heightened vagal activity slows heart rate and also switches off inflammation, in part by triggering the release of immune system calming chemicals.”
  • “Pick almost any common medical condition that’s made worse by stress or inflammation — everything from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease — and there’s research showing that vagus nerve stimulation can help treat it or relieve its symptoms.”
  • “More and more, we’re learning how critical vagal activity is to attention and mood,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.”

The article goes on to talk about how we can heighten our vagal activity; including massage, yoga, physical touch, meditation, deep breathing – essentially any activity that helps to elicit our relaxation response will increase vagal activity; thereby reducing stress and the inflammation that tends to come along with it. 🙂

To read the full article: https://elemental.medium.com/science-confirms-that-the-vagus-nerve-is-key-to-well-being-c23fab90e211

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Photo credit: http://Photo by Basil James on Unsplash



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