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Seven Ways to Naturally Stimulate the Vagus Nerve_Final

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>> Hello and welcome back. In this lecture, we are going to discuss some simple ways that you can show your clients how to naturally strengthen the health of their vagus nerve. This mighty nerve sends messages to most of the essential organs, including the main players in the digestive process. It serves as a pathway for communication between the gut and the brain, and it helps mediate stress. So it's important to give this nerve some TLC. Stress can affect digestion in various ways. It can either slow down or speed up the emptying of the GI tract, think constipation or diarrhea. It can decrease stomach acid and digestive enzymes and alter the composition of bacteria in our gut causing dysbiosis. Stress can also deplete key nutrients and vitamins and contribute to the development of a leaky gut. Finally, stress plays a significant role in inflammatory bowel disease or IBD and irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. The vagus nerve helps the body transition between activation of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. But chronic stress can interfere with the vagus nerve's ability to do its job, calming the body down. This could explain why there tends to be vagal dysfunction in individuals with gut disorders such as IBD, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. The correlation between IBS and stress and mood implies a cognitive factor involved in these conditions and an ongoing conversation between the gut and the brain. The vagus nerve is like the telephone line for this conversation. For this reason, researchers are starting to explore the role of the vagus nerve in alternative treatment approaches to these gut-brain conditions, addressing IBD and IBS from both the bottom-up and the top-down. The nervous system can be overly sensitive when it isn't functioning properly, which can lead to IBS-like symptoms. Since the vagus nerve can help balance and regulate the nervous system, engaging in practices to keep it active and healthy may be another helpful step in leading the body back to health and strengthening the gut. So how do you do this? Let's talk about what you can do to stimulate your vagus nerve naturally. Deep breathing can help strengthen vagal tone, which is an indicator that the vagus nerve is functioning well. Breathing at full capacity, full inhales and full exhales, slows down heart rate and increases heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is the variation between heart beats and can be used as a measurement of stress. Heart rate increases when you inhale and decreases when you exhale. So extended exhales, in particular, support a healthy vagal tone. Have you noticed that we have a tendency to take short shallow breaths when we're stressed out? It's part of the stress response. Doing this prevents any focus on the exhale thereby activating the sympathetic nervous system more than the parasympathetic, keeping the body in a state of fight or flight. Sound familiar? Yogis have been teaching this for centuries, breathing expansively into and out of your abdomen also known as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing will calm the body down and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Teaching your clients to practice belly breathing even for just a few minutes a day can create a shift that will help reduce their stress and keep the vagus nerve active. Have you even tried alternate nostril breathing? This is often taught in yoga classes, and it's a form of diaphragmatic breathing. Let's try it together. Take a moment to sit in a comfortable position. Use a finger to close one nostril and breathe in to a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Switch sides and exhale to a count of four. Now reverse it. Hold for four. Switch and exhale. So I went in and out and in and out. That's one round. Now let's do one more together. In for four. Hold. Exhale. In. Hold. And exhale. So how did that make you feel? Now release and place your hands on your knees, return your breathing to normal, and focus on how you feel. Do you feel more relaxed? When you finish this video, sit calmly and try four rounds of diaphragmatic breathing. Then let us know in the Facebook group how you feel. Acupuncture has many great purposes. Did you know that one of them is that it can be used to stimulate the vagus nerve? Acupuncture can help produce an anti-inflammatory response and reduction in heart rate. But when the vagus nerve is blocked, this effect is not observed. Any kind of positive emotion can affect the nervous system and the vagus nerve. First, positive emotions may help build vagal tone. And a well-functioning vagus nerve or high vagal tone could in turn make us more prone to have positive thoughts. Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about how this occurs on a cellular level in his book The Biology of Belief. He believes that our negative thoughts can create inflammation while our positive thoughts can reduce inflammation. An active vagus nerve releases anti-inflammatory cytokines. So it's possible that this is the mechanism by which emotions and inflammation may be connected. Either way, bottom line, bad thoughts are stressful and stress stunts cellular growth as resources are conserved for fight or flight. Looking at this on a cellular level, Dr. Lipton observed that these cells receive instructions from chemicals produced by the body which are triggered by thought. And good thoughts trigger oxytocin and dopamine. The implication here is that the more positive thoughts we have, the more we can help ourselves thrive. How can your clients create more positivity in their lives? Sometimes this is easy, but sometimes it's tough, particularly when they're going through a rough time or when life feels frantic. Fortunately, it doesn't take a trip to Disneyland to bring more positive emotions into one's life. In fact, here are five super simple mood altering techniques that anyone can do to spark more positive emotions in the brain every day, laughter, meditation, vocal work, hypnosis, and social connection. Laughter can stimulate the vagus nerve and increase heart rate variability. Not surprisingly, a correlation exists between laughter and an increase in positive mood. It's unclear whether it's due to the mood change or the throat stimulation, but the act of laughter does seem to help promote a healthy vagal tone. Encourage your clients to watch a funny movie or swap an educational podcast for a comedy recording once or twice a week. There's a reason why they say that laughter is the best medicine. Meditation has a positive effect on stress and heart rate. This might be because the happiness or the positive emotion created from meditation releases oxytocin and dopamine which are stress-relieving hormones. A study done on a yogi who practiced silent meditation found that the longer he remained silent, the stronger his vagal tone became. This could be due to energy conservation, creating less stress within the body. We're not suggesting that you take a vow of silence. But even just meditating for five minutes a day may create a significant shift. Vocal work means singing, chanting, or humming. Ask your clients their preferred way to create positive sound, karaoke night, singing in the shower, a morning ritual of chanting "Om". Let their bio-individuality guide them to what resonates best. The benefits of singing may come from the deep breathing required. And any type of prayer may result in positive emotion including vocalized prayer. But it appears that in addition to these variables, any sort of vocal work where positive emotions are vocalized can stimulate the vagus nerve. Hypnosis is another way to stimulate positive emotions. Hypnosis can also be used to visualize or suggest optimal GI functioning. This is more effective when someone has an understanding of how the GI system works, which is where you can provide educational support as a health coach. There's a lingering stereotype that hypnosis is a practice of mind control. But really, it can be considered a form of deep guided meditation. Hypnosis when done on a regular basis can increase heart rate variability and enhance the parasympathetic response. It's even been investigated as a treatment for IBS symptoms. Positive emotions can also be built by social connection. A psychiatrist named Stephen Porges developed polyvagal theory. Porges believes that the vagus nerve which only exists in mammals evolved to help serve our need for community and connection. According to his theory, positive emotions lead to a feeling of social connection which calms the nervous system, and a healthy vagal tone encourages social connection. This idea complements the fact that those who live longer, healthier lives tend to have higher levels of social connection and positive emotions. Both of these factors are mediated or influenced to some extent by the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is linked to voice and facial expressions so that it can register social connectivity. Hormones like oxytocin, sometimes called the cuddle hormone, are released along the vagus nerve when positive connections through facial expression and tone are made. This theory could explain why high vagal tone is linked to positive moods. Let's explore a few more ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. The cold plunge is a practice that exists in many cultures. Typically, this involves immersing yourself in hot water for about 5 minutes and then immediately plunging your body into cold water for about 20 seconds. This practice is done to help build the immune system, which it does by building resilience to stress, which is the shock of going from hot to cold and by supporting the body's ability to transition between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. Many spas have hot and cold plunge pools or this can be done easily at home by going from a hot bath to a cold shower. But if the thought of going from a nice hot bath to a dip in some ice cold water sounds horribly unpleasant, splashing cold water on your face after emerging from a hot bath or shower can produce a milder but similar effect. Any form of regular exercise helps support a healthy vagal tone. Yoga and Tai Chi can both increase vagal tone and increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA due to the attention these practices place on breathing in combination with movement. Some great yoga poses for stimulating the vagus nerve include inverting the body with legs up against the wall, gentle backbends, and sun salutations. Pranayama, the yoga of breathing, helps calm the body, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and thereby stimulating the vagus nerve. We explained this earlier in the lecture when we discussed how deep exhales and belly breathing can support the vagus nerve. All right, that was a lot. So let's recap. Stress is a key factor in the development and persistence of many gut health conditions. Learning how to manage stress is critical to good gut health. The vagus nerve plays an important role in the management of stress on a biological level. Engaging in behaviors that stimulate the vagus nerve can strengthen our body's ability to transition out of the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system into the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system. We discussed five ways to naturally stimulate the vagus nerve and improve vagal tone. These are deep breathing, acupuncture, increasing positive emotions, cold plunges, and gentle movement. A healthy vagus nerve promotes resilience in the body. Keeping in mind that this nerve is the communication line between the gut and the brain, a strong bridge between these two control systems may reveal a powerful component of our gut health and our health in general. You've learned a lot of great information in this module. And now it's time to put it to use. Select one way to naturally stimulate your vagus nerve. Try it out this week and then let us know how it goes in the Facebook group. Thank you so much for joining me.

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Duration: 13 minutes and 17 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: integrativenutrition on Jun 28, 2018

Seven Ways to Naturally Stimulate the Vagus Nerve_Final

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