Long known as the nerve that helps keep the parasympathetic nervous system functioning, it helps us coordinate digestion, rest, as well as function sexually. It starts in the brain stem and works its way into the inner ear, along the throat, around our heart and branches further into our digestive organs. There it helps coordinate the juices we need to break down our food as well as the blood vessels to absorb it, but not only that. Our vagus nerve also works hand in hand with our immune system in our gut, to help control things when bad bacteria or viruses try to house themselves in our digestive system. These can come in through our nose and mouth, or build up over time based on the quality of our food choices.
This is how chronic low level stress, without proper sleep and rest, and poor food habits can manifest themselves in poor digestive function. Osteopathically, issues also arise with whiplash injuries, concussions, or lack of movement in the neck and diaphragm. By working against the vagus nerve, these habits and experiences can also negatively affect how our immune system responds to foods, bacteria, viruses, and even our own selves (think auto-immune conditions).
What’s best for your gut is best for you, so find ways to eat in a relaxed environment, eat good healthy food that promote good gut bacteria, listen to your naturopathic doctor, and when all else fails, book an appointment with your friendly neighbourhood manual osteopath for work on your neck as well as visceral treatment to reset the nerves controlling digestion. You’ll find you have more energy, better immunity, and over time less reactivity to foods you may have had an intolerance to!