The Vagus Nerve: Linking Gut and Brain

The VAGUS® Test to measures it

Vagus is finally getting the attention it deserves.

In recent years, the gut has taken center stage in the world of health research. Once dismissed as an everyday subject, the gut and its microbiota, immune functions, and energy regulation now command the attention of serious researchers and investors. This shift marks a positive change in the way we view the gut’s importance in overall health.  Together with this trend, the Vagus nerve has become a fashionable subject for social media and health tracking.

The Gut’s Silent Commander: The Vagus Nerve

The Vagus nerve, often referred to as the “Gut Boss,” is the key to understanding the intricate connection between the gut and the brain. One of its critical roles is controlling gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach fails to empty properly. Chronic gastroparesis can be debilitating, as it disrupts the stomach’s natural emptying process, which is a function driven by the Vagus nerve.

When the Vagus nerve isn’t functioning correctly, it affects the coordination of intestinal muscles, making it challenging for food to move along the over 6-meter-long digestive tract. You’ve likely experienced the Vagus nerve’s influence when it triggers vomiting in response to ingesting harmful substances. This is a result of the Vagus nerve’s ability to assess gut homeostasis and initiate muscle activity to expel toxins.

The Gut Microbiota: Our Microbial Allies

The gut is home to an astounding number of microbial cells, primarily bacteria, which outnumber our own human cells tenfold. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiota is crucial for overall well-being, but it’s influenced by various factors, including diet, environment, antibiotics, stress, and even our DNA.

Research has shown that stress can have a significant impact on the gut microbiota, leading to disturbances in its delicate balance. These effects highlight the importance of paying attention to stress management for maintaining gut health.

The Gut’s Second Brain: The Enteric Nervous System

The enteric nervous system (ENS), a network of gut nerves, is often referred to as the “second brain” due to its vast size and relative independence. It connects to the Vagus nerve, acting as a crucial intermediary in the gut-brain communication network. Most signaling within the gut travels along the ENS and the Vagus nerve, making this connection a promising area for research on non-digestible gut stimulation.

The Vagus Nerve’s Role in Digestion and Stress

The Vagus nerve regulates various aspects of digestion and plays a central role in managing metabolic homeostasis. It communicates with the brain about the gut’s status, including nutrient levels and gut wall expansion, helping to control hunger and regulate food intake.

During times of stress, the Vagus nerve redirects energy away from digestion and towards other more urgent bodily functions like muscle activity and alertness. This stress response evolved to ensure our survival when faced with threats, but it also affects digestion and energy utilization.

Sugar, Obesity, Diabetes and Vagus Nerve

The Vagus nerve plays a vital role in regulating metabolic homeostasis, including glucose production and sugar absorption from the gut. It also influences sugar preference development, reinforcing our cravings for sweet foods.

Poor Vagus nerve function can contribute to obesity by affecting metabolic activity and signaling pathways. However, Vagus nerve stimulation shows promise in treating obesity and improving metabolic regulation.

The Vagus Nerve and the Immune System

The Vagus nerve has a cholinergic immune system, which plays a significant role in regulating inflammation. Its influence extends to the gut, where it affects immune responses. This connection between the Vagus nerve and the gut’s immune system is well worth tracking for a deeper understanding of immunity and gut health.

The Power of Diaphragmatic Breathing

One simple method to improve both gut functionality and Vagus nerve health is through diaphragmatic controlled breathing. The diaphragm, a muscle responsible for breathing and aiding in gut function, can significantly impact lymph circulation and food movement in the stomach. Proper lower chest breathing enhances lymphatic circulation, essential for removing toxins from the body.

The VAGUS® test on the BREATHE FLOW app for ECG smartwatches

The VAGUS® Test is done by performing 3 deep – 10 seconds long – diaphragmatic breaths while recording a smartwatch ECG.  If the Vagus nerve is performing normally, this breathing triggers the ‘rest-and-digest’ response.  The analytics tell if the person has a healthy Vagus nerve or if there are some issues with Vagal tone or ECG patterns.  When the gut is not working normally – or reacting negatively to foodstuff, pills, or drinks – then one can see it from the VAGUS test results.

Conclusion: Nurturing Your Vagus Nerve and Gut Health

Understanding the Vagus nerve as the link between the gut and the brain underscores the importance of maintaining gut health for overall well-being. Whether it’s through stress management, mindful eating, or diaphragmatic breathing, there are various ways to support both your Vagus nerve and gut function. By prioritizing these aspects and tracking your health with the VAGUS® test, you can enjoy a healthier and more balanced life.

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