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The Highway to Health

The highway that connects our gut to our brain: The vagus nerve!

The Gut-Brain connection is a hot topic right now and for a good reason! These systems are intimately connected and many areas of our health depend on how strong the connection between the gut & brain are.

So how are these systems so closely connected & how do we exercise a more healthy connection?

The Vagus Nerve

The highway that connects our gut & brain together is called the vagus nerve. This highway runs from your brain to your bowels and actually interacts with ALL of your body's organs - especially the organs we don’t have conscious control over (i.e. gut, liver, adrenals, etc).

Ever feel nervous or have butterflies in your stomach? This message is sent to your brain from the vagus nerve!

The health of the vagus nerve plays a major role in mood, healthy digestion and prevention of IBS and digestive symptoms. It is a two-way street where the gut and the brain can talk to each other.

What is the vagus nerve responsible for?

  • Digestion

  • Stimulates saliva in the mouth

  • Digestive secretions (stomach acid, bile from liver, digestive enzymes from pancreas)

  • Gut motility (aka daily poop)

  • Promotes complete bowel movements

  • Self cleaning for the gut via MMC

  • Manage inflammation

  • Healthy blood flow to the gut (key for gut healing)

  • Gut emotions and gut feelings

  • Heart rate

  • Breathing

  • Immune response

  • Regulate stress

  • Links the gut-brain axis (more on this in future newsletters)

As you can see, the vagus nerve has may responsibilities to maintaining our overall health. It communicates by bringing information from our organs, like the heart, liver and gut, to our brain!

Roadblock to the Highway

People with IBS can experience a roadblock in their “highway” so it is important to learn how we can navigate the traffic. Since the vagus nerve plays a role in digestion, when the “highway” experiences a traffic jam or breakdown, it can lead to digestive symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety/Depression (more on this to come in future letters!)

  • Heartburn

  • Stomach acid, digestive enzymes and bile production

  • Gas or burping

  • Post-meal digestive symptoms

  • Prolonged fullness or early satiety

  • SIBO

  • Bloating

  • Diarrhea/Constipation

How can we support the vagus nerve highway?

  • Gargling... Yep! Fill a 6oz cup with water and gargle away until the cup is empty. The more aggressive the better!

  • Singing or Chanting... Pick your favorite song and sing your heart out. It might sound better in the shower!

  • Coffee Enemas... If you know, you know. These may not be for everyone and can feel intimidating, but they sure are helpful! (check with a knowledgable provider to guide you)

  • Deep Breathing... Implement deep belly breaths throughout the day, and specifically, before meals.

  • Cold Exposure... Incorporate a weekly cold plunge or daily cold shower/face bath. You can also try holding a cold compress or ice pack to your chest.

Meditation, Deep Breathing & the Vagus Nerve

Practicing meditation and deep breathing each day can help improve the strength of your vagus nerve, also referred to as our vagal tone. Incorporating just 15 minutes of meditation or deep breath each day can be incredibly beneficial for our vagal tone by strengthening the connectivity of our gut brain axis. This helps to lower inflammation, and improve the brain's ability to manage anxiety and stress.

Meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing. can be a powerful tool to maintain our overall mental health.

Here are some of our favorite apps to strengthen our vagus nerve:

Nerva is an evidence-based digital therapeutic that uses gut-directed hypnotherapy to help you create a positive relationship between your gut and brain.

Calm: #1 app to support sleep, meditation and overall relaxation.

Headspace: Meditation app to create life-changing habits to support your mental health and find a healthier, happier you.

To be magnetic: To Be Magnetic is a platform that supports the unique manifestation process and is backed by neuroscience, psychology, EMDR, epigenetic, and energetics with a little spirituality sprinkled on top.

Whether you have been formally diagnosed with IBS or experience digestive upset on the regular, it’s important to support your vagus nerve.

The NDD program teaches you how to support the vagus nerve for optimal digestion, as part of a comprehensive curriculum to eliminate IBS. Sign up now!

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