On Instagram @AndreaHardyRD, I discuss what the vagus nerve is and its role in gastric motility.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body. It connects your brain to many important organs throughout your body, including the gut! The vagus nerve can deliver gut information to the brain to elicit an appropriate response. One specific function of the vagus nerve is mediating gastric motility.
A few different studies have found that stimulation of the vagus nerve is often blunted in patients with IBS and IBD. Moreover, studies have found that in patients with functional dyspepsia, impaired activity of the vagus nerve contributed to impaired gastric motility.
What is functional dyspepsia?
Functional dyspepsia is a chronic disorder of sensation and movement in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Vagus nerve dysfunction has been suggested as the cause of impaired movement in the gut. As well as visceral hypersensitivity in patients with functional dyspepsia. A small-scale study looked at whether vagus nerve stimulation would improve meal-induced gastric motility in patients with functional dyspepsia.
The study found that stimulation of the vagus nerve by chewing of a sugar-containing gum greatly improved antral hypomotility in all functional dyspepsia patients included in the study!
How to stimulate the vagus nerve?
There are ways YOU can stimulate your vagus nerve to help with GI motility! Gum chewing is one way – however – chewing gum can often lead to bloating and additional tummy discomfort.
At Ignite, we prefer deep belly breathing! This activates your parasympathetic nervous system, or our ‘rest and digest’ mode.
How to do deep belly breathing?
TO DO IT:
Put one hand right above your belly button and one hand on your chest. Take 5 deep belly breaths feeling your stomach rise, with a 3-second inhale and a 6-second exhale. Try this daily to help stimulate your vagus nerve!