You may have heard that the gut is central to good health. I wonder if you also have been wondering why or how?

The gut contains 70% of our immune cells; determines what nutrients are available; connects with and affects ours hormones; is involved in the health (or not of our mitochondria; and interacts with microbes (further involving inflammation, hormone changes; nutrient availability and immune function). Interestingly, the Vagus Nerve connects to all areas of the digestive system and affects all these components!

Not just that, but changes picked up in the GUT by the Vagus Nerve create changes in the brain immune cells and neurotransmitters affecting all its functions. AND the Vagus, in turn, can cause alterations in the gut. It can alter enzyme production, inflammatory markers and reduce motility throught the digestive tract (leading to altered digestion and constpiation…). So as you can see, this connection is vast and far reaching. Showing how important the Vagus Nerve really is in the GUT-Brain Conenction.

What does the Vagus Nerve affect? Digestive Organs poster

Want to read the transcript instead?

Here it is…

Hello friends, I’ve spoken before on the importance of the gut on health: energy levels, inflammation and pain. Today, I wanted to delve into the vagus nerve, and how this, seemingly distant  cranial nerve directly affects all these components: itself and via its action on the gut. And is a key component of the hugely important gut-brain connection..

The vagus nerve, is a cranial nerve, exiting at the bottom of the skull, and gracefully traversing the body, like a neural super-highway. It connects your brain to an intricate network of organs and tissues throughout your body. This lengthy cranial nerve is a cornerstone of our autonomic nervous system, orchestrating a symphony of functions to maintain equilibrium and health.

 

Everythuing the Vagus Nerve affects

The gut-brain axis is a complex and intricate system that involves the constant exchange of information and signals between the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the central nervous system (CNS). So lets’d dive into how the vagus nerve contributes to this gut-brain connection:

  1. Neurotransmitter Signaling: The vagus nerve transmits signals using neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, which are chemical messengers that facilitate communication between nerve cells. These neurotransmitters are involved in regulating various processes in the gut, including motility, secretion of digestive enzymes, and nutrient absorption. They also play a role in conveying information about the gut’s state to the brain. And, via the chemicals that gut microbes secrete, alteres the neurotransmitter balance and levels in the brain 
  2. Microbiota Communication: The gut is home to a diverse community of microorganisms known as the gut microbiota. These microbes play a vital role in digestion, metabolism, and immune function. The gut-brain axis is thought to influence the composition of the gut microbiota, and conversely, the microbiota can produce metabolites and molecules that affect the functioning of the brain and CNS. Neurotransmitter levels and inflammation, most specifically. All mediated via the vagus nerve.
  3. Immune System Regulation: The gut is a crucial site for immune system activity, and the vagus nerve helps regulate immune responses in the gut. Through its connections with immune cells in the gut lining, the vagus nerve can modulate inflammation and immune function. This can have far-reaching effects on overall health and well-being, including potential impacts on mood and cognition. Further when there is inflammation in the gut or microbe dysbiosis, this can trigger an increased immune action and therefore inflammation in the brain. This is now being implicated as one risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases.
  4. Stress Response and Emotional Regulation: The vagus nerve is also involved in the body’s stress response and emotional regulation. It plays a role in the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes rest and relaxation. Increased stress, directly reduces digestion via reduced motility, enzyme secretion, insulin receptivity etc (as discussed in point 1), leading to a cascade in the gut that then negatively impacts the brain and whole body, again through communication of the vagus nerve. Activation of the vagus nerve can help counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response), leading to a reduction in stress levels, bringing the body more into the parasympathetic, balanced state where rest, repair and digestion are possible. This connection between the vagus nerve and stress response can also have implications for mental health and mood disorders.
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Research into the vagus nerve and the gut-brain connection has gained significant attention in recent years. It has been linked to various health conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), anxiety, depression, and even neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists are exploring ways to modulate the vagus nerve’s activity to potentially treat or manage these conditions. One approach is vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), where electrical impulses are delivered to the nerve to influence its activity. VNS has shown promise in various clinical studies, although more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and mechanisms of action. 

But the exciting thing is that due to the interaction of the vagus nerve and breathing, throat muscles and vocal cords… there are things that we can do ourselves to activate the vagus nerve to reduce stress levels, reduce pain and improve our health.

Was there anything that I discussed today that stands out? Please comment below! If you have any questions, leave them here too, so I can assist you further. If you enjoyed the information, please comment, like and share. And, if you ‘d like a copy of my “Unleashing the Power of your Vagus Nerve” e-guide, comment Vagus and I’ll DM you. Thanks for watching , until next time….and in health, Bye for now