What the heck is a vagus nerve? It just so happens to be the LONGEST of the cranial nerves but is hardly ever talked about. We refer to it as the vagus nerve not because it’s wild and crazy like the Vegas strip, but rather because it is more like a vagabond in the way that it likes to “wander” throughout the body. It’s also the big cheese on campus, it’s basically the commander and chief of your parasympathetic nervous system.
What’s its purpose? It has a few actually.
- Prevents inflammation and could even be an effective treatment of chronic inflammation, as mentioned here
- Strengthens memory and helps you create memories, in fact we have done a few human studies on this as well as studies on rats
- Tells your lungs to breathe (that’s kind of important).
- Controls heart rate. We conduct a heart rate variability test in order to assess the strength of your vagal nerve.
- Relax mode, let me give a bit more detail on this one. When we are in a state of fight or flight we are pouring out our stress hormone cortisol. Our vagus nerve tells our body to chillax by releasing acetylcholine. It has these fantastic fibers that are connected to various systems which in turn stimulate the production of prolactin, vasopressin and oxytocin which all help to calm your ass down.
- It is the go between for your brain and your gut. It brings messages from one to the other. There really is such a thing as a gut feeling!
So how do we stimulate this bad boy? Well the easiest way is to gargle… yup that simple. You can also use electric stimulation however the most effective way is still gargling, it’s more cost effective too. What happens if it’s overstimulated (this can happen) well your blood pressure drops, heart rate drops and you pass out, this is what happens when some people see the sight of blood – same thing.
Cheers, happy gargling!