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Sleep, digestion and stress: the vagus nerve, an important player in your well-being?


What is the vagus nerve exactly? You may not have heard of it yet, yet it is responsible for the famous and common vagal discomfort that can cause loss of consciousness.

Thanks to the many research works carried out in recent years, we know more about the function and usefulness of the vagus nerve and what happens in the body when it is disturbed. The vagus nerve is also called the parasympathetic nerve. It appears to be one of the essential keys to our health. Where is he ? What is it used for ? What happens when it malfunctions? We explain everything to you to be unbeatable on the vagus nerve.

Where is the vagus nerve located in the body?

The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve, it comes out of the base of the skull, goes down the neck, crosses the collarbone to innervate the entire digestive system up to the uterus. Thanks to him, the links are made between the digestive system and the brain. At the base of the skull, the vagus nerve splits into two. We have a right and a left vagus nerve. Together, they regulate the automatic functions of the body. The left vagus nerve circulates and balances all the signals necessary for the proper functioning of the body: digestion, assimilation, the flora of the digestive tract. Without us realizing it, it activates the digestive system. When it works well, you sleep well, you digest well, you are not stressed, you are in good shape.

The different functions of the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve has a vital function for the regulation of our organism. It regulates the heart rate and gastric secretions during the phases of digestion, also promotes a good quality of sleep. It signals the muscles of the respiratory system, throat, vocal cords, muscles of the neck and face to help us breathe and to swallow safely.

From the esophagus, the vagus nerve participates in the stimulation of the digestive system as a whole (release of digestive enzymes by the pancreas, control of hepatic functions, emptying of the gallbladder, management of sugar and insulin levels, etc.) allowing thus the absorption of nutrients by the body.

But the vagus nerve plays many other roles. It transmits skin sensations to the ears. He then perceives the pressure, the touch, the temperature and the humidity on the central part of the ears. It allows you to feel sensitivities, aches and pains in the mouth and in the muscles of the soft palate, pharynx and larynx. As it connects a lot of information, it is able to manage feelings of hunger and satiety, inflammation of the intestines and the immune system. Just remember that without it, we could not live.

What happens when the vagus nerve malfunctions?

In practice, if you are stressed or if you are running, the blood and all the activity will be directed towards the muscles. You are in action, your heart beats faster. The sympathetic nervous system will then take over from the parasympathetic system and stop your digestive function. This is the reason why it is very difficult to eat or drink while running. Stress, our eating habits (eating quickly without resting) are not good for the proper functioning of our vagus nerve. The risk is then the modification and imbalance of your microbiota, which will be responsible for the dysfunction of the vagus nerve.

It can then have other more distant repercussions. It can have impacts on the oral sphere leading to gingivitis problems, by reflux of bacteria from the stomach into the mouth. It is responsible for certain problems of persistent sinusitis at the level of the ENT sphere, always with the same mechanism. Finally, studies have shown that there is a link between vagus nerve dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and autism, its bacteria that reflux from the stomach into the mouth also eventually come back up. in the brain. To function in the best conditions, the vagus nerve needs a low level of stress. It is possible to help it through the establishment of simple habits.

Activate your vagus nerve, by Dr Navaz Habib, €16.90

© Fnac

Based on recent scientific discoveries, Dr. Navaz Habib explains in his book Activate your vagus nerve (ed. Thierry Souccar) how to activate and regulate the vagus nerve by simple, natural means and accessible to all:

  1. Do breathing exercises such as cardiac coherence. Slow and deep, this method for better breathing is a relaxation signal that will promote the activation of the vagus nerve and slow the heart rate.
  2. Take cold baths or showers because contact with cold stimulates the vagus nerve.
  3. Avoid eating standing up or on the go, eating your meal in front of your computer. Take the time, sit down. The moment of the meal must be a moment of break and relaxation. Prioritize the consumption of vegetables at each meal to support your digestive system
  4. Breathe in lavender essential oil.
  5. Walk in the forest. Contact with nature contributes to the elimination of stress.
  6. Consult an osteopath to stimulate your vagus nerve.

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