Until recently, the vagus nerve has received little attention for the seismic role it plays in the body. Interestingly, though, this nerve immediately sets itself apart upon comparison to all other nerves: originating from the skull, this nerve traverses through the body like a vagabond (hence the name vagus), providing function to a cascade of different vital organs including the heart, kidneys, diaphragm, pancreas, and spleen before terminating in the digestive system.
The diverse functions of the vagus nerve show the complexity of the way our body works, and also indicate the importance of maintaining its health. Stimulating the vagus nerve has led to improvements in conditions such as depression, stress, and even Parkinson’s disease. As a large component of the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve helps your body to feel calm, grounded, and peaceful when you are in a safe environment. A decreased ability to stay grounded is correlated to decreased vagal activity or vagal tone and is therefore a target for research for treating stress-related diseases like PTSD.
Therefore, maintaining vagal health and tone is crucial to not only physical well-being, but also your levels of peace and comfort that promote your mental well-being. In previous posts, we’ve highlighted the use of conscious breathing as a take-anywhere tool to help manage stress and anxiety. Interestingly, one of the ways deep breathing regulates this is by stimulating the vagus nerve. By taking conscious breaths throughout the day, you improve your vagal tone—in turn, this will help you to manage your stress and your overall health.
We hope we helped spread some awareness of the fascinating role of the vagus nerve in the body. While research on this topic provides hope for the treatment of complex diseases, it also may have broader implications for the management of other personal health issues that many people contend with.