A catalyst Kia ora, I’m Hannah - a mum, nurse & passionate women’s wellness advocate.…
You likely know by now that excellent gut health is foundational for vibrant well-being.
Let’s delve into what this might look like, and what you can do to get yourself there.
The words “gut-brain connection” get thrown about all over the place. What the heck does this even mean? Well, it actually is broader than just the gut and the brain. It describes the neurological connection between the stomach, small intestine, heart and lungs, to the brain via the vagus nerve. This nerve is the 10th cranial nerve. It is the longest in the body; beginning at the brain stem and ending at the small gut. Interestingly, this nerve is implicated in the experience of a “gut feeling” and also plays a significant role in our mental and emotional health.
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the “rest and digest” functions in the body. This is the opposite of “fight/flight mode” – which many of us end up stuck in as we immerse ourselves in our crazy-hectic modern lifestyles.
How can we get out of “fight/flight” and into “rest/digest”?
There are many ways in which you can do this, the most typical are deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. Essentially, any (healthy) thing that will leave you feeling in a blissful state. But also, strengthening your vagal nerve tone!
The stronger our vagal nerve tone, the better our mental well-being, digestive health, memory-making ability, and inflammation levels.
Having a toned vagus nerve is particularly helpful for symptoms of anxiety and depression; it also means we recover better, and relax faster, after incidences of stress.
Get your vagus nerve strong AF:
- Gargle (not half-heartedly either) morning and night – use warm water or a natural mouthwash
- Cold water therapy – cold showers and dips in the river or ocean (freeze your nips off for health, it’s a thing)
- Deep, slow breathing (and while you’re at it…get those shoulders off your ears)
- Singing, humming, chanting (again, like you damn-well mean it!)
- Fibre/plant rich diet + fermented foods (the more diverse your microbiome, the stronger your gut/brain connection is)
- Probiotics (specifically lactobacillus rhamnosus + bifidobacterium longum)
- Regular meditation
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Massage (my fave massage therapist in Nelson is LunaBloom)
- Intermittent Fasting (do not go here if you are stuck in chronic stress mode)
- Social connection + laughter (heckkk yes!)
Of course you don’t have to do all of these things to improve vagus nerve function, however, many are simple and could be implemented into your daily routine to help ease existing symptoms, or build resilience for greater mental well-being.
Let me know how you go.
Thanks for reading, grateful for you!