The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and is the longest nerve in the body. It is the nerve that connects the brain to the digestive system and vice versa. The gut-brain axis is controlled by the vagus nerve. Activation of the vagus nerve can be beneficial in treating both digestive disorders and supporting healthy mood. The vagus nerve also impacts our heart function and immune system.
Some simple ways to stimulate the vagus nerve include:
- Gargling for 1-2 minutes after brushing your teeth
- Eating bitter foods: radish, rocket, dandelion root tea, chicory, bitter Asian greens
- Lemon water: squeeze ½ lemon in ½ cup warm water and drink this on waking (also works via the bitter mechanism)
- Breathing out for longer than you breath in. E.g. inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds – repeat this for 5 minutes as a breathing exercise/meditation
- Singing – however good or bad!
- Washing your face with cold water
- Cold showers
- Journaling and writing gratitude lists – lists of things you are grateful for
For more information on calming your nervous system, check out the e-book How to Heal Your Anxiety.