The vagus nerve, or the tenth cranial nerve, is one of the longest nerves in the body, stretching from the brainstem down to the abdomen! This extraordinary nerve is critical in regulating various bodily functions, including digestion, heart rate, respiration, and immune system function. The tone of this nerve, also known as vagal tone, refers to the strength and responsiveness of the nerve as it adapts to the environment.
The vagus nerve is a vital component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting relaxation, sleep, digestion, reproduction, healing, growing, and helping the body to recover from periods of heightened activity or stress. When the vagal tone is high, the body can better regulate stress responses, which leads to a range of positive effects on one’s health and overall well-being.
Research has shown that higher levels of vagal tone are associated with various health benefits. For example, people with higher vagal tone are less likely to experience chronic pain and may have lower rates of depression and anxiety. In addition, the higher vagal tone has been associated with better digestion, a more robust immune system, improved heart health, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. A high vagal tone can even result in positive health outcomes for infants and children!
The vagus nerve is directly responsible for sensory processing from the eyes, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart and abdomen! The vagus nerve is responsible for motor tone and coordination of the neck, tongue, check and chest which can affect feeding, speech, coordination and posture. The nerve also coordinates normal digestive motility for normal bowel movements, it also regulates the body’s respiratory and heart rates. Last, the vagus nerve plays a pivotal role in our social and emotional health and regulation. All of these functions are critical for a child’s growth and development!
Since Maintaining a healthy vagal tone is essential to maintaining overall health and well-being, how can we directly increase our vagal tone!? Get adjusted!
A chiropractic adjustment, which improves spinal alignment, can have a direct affect the function of the vagus nerve. When the spine misaligns ( a subluxation), it can interfere with the function of the nervous system, including the vagus nerve. Releasing the subluxations through chiropractic adjustments will restore normal nervous system function and improve vagal tone. Routine chiropractic care also improves vagal tone by reducing overall inflammation within the body. Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments can help to reduce overall inflammation in the body, which may result in a decrease in pain, improved digestion, reduction in disease. The nervous system and immune systems work intimately together. Chiropractic care may also help reduce stress, promote relaxation and a state of growth and healing. When the body is relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which helps encourage rest, repair, growth and digestion.
Other than an adjustment, there are Several strategies that you can practice daily that help to promote vagal tone, including regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, deep breathing, meditation, yoga and social support. By making these strategies a part of your daily routine, you can help to support your body's natural ability to manage stress and maintain optimal health. On the other hand, factors that increase stress and anxiety, such as poor sleep, chronic pain, and social isolation, can lead to decreased vagal tone. This can, in turn, lead to a range of adverse health outcomes, such as increased inflammation, poor digestion, and higher rates of cardiovascular disease and other diseases. Overall, chiropractic care may be an effective way to improve vagal tone and promote nervous system regulation. Improving spinal alignment, reducing inflammation, and promoting relaxation may help to restore normal nervous system function and promote overall health and well-being.