I had no idea when I began my journey to heal SIBO and IBS that I would learn SO much about the body. I used to think that healing my gut would be solely rooted in improving my nutrition habits and taking some supplements.
Given, those 2 things are key in repairing the microbiome and the health of the digestive system there is also one huge part that often goes overlooked.
The structural component to digestive health.
More specifically, your vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is named after the word 'Vagabond'. It travels through the body and interacts with many different body systems but for the purpose of this blog we'll focus on its role in digestion.
The vagus nerve is responsible for getting the gut to perform its daily functions. Things like secreting digestive enzymes and performing peristalsis don't happen if the vagus nerve isn't stimulated properly.
It can become 'lazy' and not activate when the body is under chronic stress or if there's been an injury. A common sign that it isn't functioning properly is chronic constipation.
I first learned of my vague nerve when I began working with our medical advisor at the IBSA, Dr Murphy, as she explained a few common symptoms that are aligned with a poorly functioning vagus nerve as well as what I could do to repair it.
For me, specifically, I noticed I didn't have a gag reflex. I know. Strange thing to admit, and it was a bit of a head scratcher for me! Brushing my teeth or needing to make myself purge because I ingested something I didn't want anymore (this happened only once but was very frustrating as I couldn't make it happen) left me noticing that something had changed in my body. I was no longer experiencing a gag reflex. I knew something was up!
So, I began working on repairing it on my own time at home and with techniques that cost nothing to very little.
I am happy (oddly enough) to say that I do have a gag reflex now and my vagus nerve is now responding!
Here are some ways that Dr Murphy taught me how to stimulate and repair my vagus nerve. I hope you begin to try these today if you're experience chronic constipation.
How to support the vagus nerve
This doesn't have to be a long and complicated process. Just a few minutes before or after brushing your teeth is suffice. Try doing this for 5 minutes every night for 2 weeks then check in on your symptoms.
2. Cold Water Stimulation
There are many ways you can use cold water stimulation to improve your vagus nerve. Either begin your shower with 30 seconds of cold water then switch to hot water, splash your face with cold water morning and night or drink cold water.
There are SO many types of meditation and breathing techniques that can help to tone your vagus nerve and relax. My favourite coach is Joelle Anderson of Kernel of Wisdom. Check out her YouTube channel here for amazing guided meditations and mindfulness education.
Probiotics for 2 main reasons:
Acupuncture has become one of my favourite complimentary treatments to incorporate into my healing practise. Whether it be due to injury, gut health issues, nervous system or endocrine issues - acupuncture (when seeing the right practitioner) can be very effective.
Specifically, traditional acupuncture as well as auricular acupuncture (of the ear) stimulate vagus nerve activity.
We hope you feel inspired to begin incorporating some (or all) of these practices into your daily practise to begin repairing your vagus nerve and improving your digestion, today!
In good health + happiness,
Cassandra Hope RHN + Founder
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