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Work Out Your Longest Nerve: Increasing Vagal Tone for Less Stress, Better Digestion and Stronger Immunity

Work Out Your Longest Nerve: Increasing Vagal Tone for Less Stress, Better Digestion and Stronger Immunity

Also known as the 10th cranial nerve, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body, extending from the brainstem to the abdomen. It is a vital component of the body's internal communication system, connecting the brain to various organs and influencing essential functions. 

Many of us have heard that the vagus plays a key role in the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system. However, contrary to mainstream knowledge, it does not only affect stress or relaxation. It is likewise responsible for involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, and immune responses. That is precisely why enhancing the tone of your vagus nerve can lead to numerous health benefits, including reduced stress, improved mood, better digestion, and enhanced immune function. A well-toned vagus nerve helps your body recover from stressors more efficiently and supports a balanced emotional state.

Three do-anywhere strategies to increase vagal tone

The good news is that improving its vagal health doesn't require hours in the gym or expensive supplements. Here are five do-anywhere strategies you can incorporate into your routine to increase vagal tone for better digestion, improved stress management, and immunity. 

#1. Cold Water Immersion

Cold water immersion is a simple yet effective way to stimulate the vagus nerve. Exposing your body to cold water activates the nerve, helping to reduce your body's stress response. Just start with 30 seconds of cold water at the end of your shower and gradually increase the duration as you become more accustomed to the sensation. Bonus: this practice can also enhance mental clarity and resilience.

#2. Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) delivers electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, the major highway between your brain and internal organs. This stimulation can help manage various health conditions by altering brain activity. Traditionally, VNS required invasive surgery to implant a device, but technological advancements have led to non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) you can use at home. This new method stimulates the vagus nerve without needing surgery or needles, making it a more accessible and comfortable option for many individuals. 

#3. Resonance Breathing

Breathwork is a powerful tool for activating the vagus nerve and promoting relaxation. Specific breathing techniques, such as resonance breathing, can instantly help you achieve a state of calm and improve your overall well-being.

Resonance breathing, also known as coherence or HRV breathing, involves breathing at a specific pace—typically four to seven breaths per minute—where your heart rate, breath, and body's pressure system achieve a natural resonance frequency. The benefits include reduced stress, enhanced mental clarity, improved vagal tone, and enhanced heart rate variability (HRV), all linked to better overall health and resilience to stress. 

How to Do Resonance Breathing Correctly

This practice's calming and relaxing effects are profound, but unfortunately, they only occur when you breathe at the right frequency. The problem is that we all breathe uniquely, and this rate varies from person to person, averaging about four to seven breaths per minute. 

To discover your unique resonance frequency, you must understand the interaction between your heart and your breath, and that's where real-time biofeedback is essential. 

Oxa: A Live Biofeedback Wearable for Breathwork

Oxa is a breathing wearable designed to help you precisely perform breathwork exercises. It measures your heart rate, breathing rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and calmness levels in real-time and adjusts your breathing exercises accordingly. With Oxa, you can ensure you're breathing at your optimum frequency, leading to quantifiable improvements in your well-being.

Incorporating these tips into your daily routine can help you unlock the full potential of your vagus nerve, leading to enhanced mental and physical health. Whether through cold water immersion, regular exercise, or targeted breathwork with the Oxa device, you have the tools to improve your well-being and resilience to stress. Start your journey today and experience the transformative power of a well-toned vagus nerve.

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Pulsetto does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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