4 Ways To Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve & Ease An Agitated Gut
If you pay attention, your gut can give you so much information about your overall health, and if you're experiencing gut irritation or digestive discomfort, it may be a sign that you should be making some adjustments to your routine that give you the support you need. While we regularly explore the connection between your diet and gut concerns, there are other areas to look at when it comes to giving your body some relief. So, have you heard of the vagus nerve?
What is the vagus nerve?
"The vagus nerve stems from the brain and connects to the heart, lungs, and the gut," explains integrative and functional dietitian Nour Zibdeh, M.S., RDN, in a recent Instagram post. "It's responsible for sending messages from the brain to these organs and also receiving messages from the gut back to the brain."
When your vagus nerve messages are suboptimal, you may experience gut issues—more specifically, gas and bloating alongside a range of other side effects.
"It's very important because it turns on the parasympathetic nervous system or our rest-and-digest response," explains Zibdeh. "And without that, we cannot digest, we cannot produce enzymes, and the muscles in the small intestine don't contract properly."
But just because your gut is unhappy right now doesn't mean you're stuck in that feeling, and there are several natural, at-home methods you can employ to stimulate your vagus nerve and effectively soothe your belly. Zibdeh lays out her top 10 tips within her Instagram caption, but here are our four favorites.
How to stimulate the vagus nerve:
Sing or hum.
Singing or humming can work to stimulate the vagus nerve by causing vibrations in the vocal cords and throat, explains Zibdeh. "Sing your heart out in the shower or in [the] car—tell everyone your dietitian said so," she adds.
Take a cold shower.
Cold showers or even just splashing your face with cold water is another easy way to stimulate the vagus nerve. "If you can't do it, turn the heat when done to cold and stand [for] 45–60 seconds. If you can't do that yet, wash [your] face and neck with cold water," explains Zibdeh. This works because while your body adjusts to the cold temperatures, the parasympathetic nervous system engages, while the sympathetic nervous system slows down.
Try some light exercise.
"Light exercise and yoga stimulate the vagus nerve. Some evidence supports interval and endurance training too," notes Zibdeh. "What matters is movement that makes you happy and energized." Need some inspiration? Check out our roundup of low-impact exercises to try the next time your gut needs a little extra help.
Take a probiotic.
It stands to reason that a nerve directly relating to your gut (actually, science indicates the vagus nerve is at the interface of the gut-brain axis1) may be stimulated by a probiotic supplement designed to support the gut in a targeted way.* "Probiotics improve beneficial gut flora that release dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. These are feel-good/happy neurotransmitters that send calm & relaxed signals to the brain," explains Zibdeh.
However, not all probiotics are created equal, so if you're in the market for a high-quality supplement specifically designed to soothe your belly, we recommend mbg's probiotic+. With four targeted strains to help reduce bloat and aid in proper digestion and abdominal comfort, this probiotic works via four science-backed strains to keep your gut happy.*
There are so many different avenues you can take toward improving your gut health and overall well-being, and stimulating your vagus nerve is one of the best natural remedies for an agitated belly. Easing stress and supporting digestion with the help of a high-quality probiotic and some handy tricks for activating it, you can use your vagus nerve as a simple hack for a healthier you.*
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.