Chronic Inflammation? Depression? Digestive complaints?

What do these and so many more have in common?? Low Vagal tone.

Let me step back for minute and explain what that means. We have 2 parts to our nervous system.. our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight.. go go go) and our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). In order to function properly and at our optimum level these two must be balanced.

The vagus nerve, which determines vagal tone, is part of our parasympathetic nervous system. It is the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, travels down the from the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs.

The tone of the vagus nerve (vagal tone) is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when you breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress, and who doesn’t want that!?

High vagal tone improves the function of not just one but many body systems! Causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles the vagus nerve has is that it reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to control inflammation based on whether or not it detects good or bad organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation. Another way to support this gut microbiome for these benefits is through probiotic supplementation!

Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).

So how can we raise this vagal tone that seems to cause so many problems…

  • Get Adjusted! Adjustments help to balance out the nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic) and remove any interference that may be present in the pathway from the brain to the rest of the body.
  • Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
  • Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
  • Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
  • Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism her is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
  • Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
  • Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.
  • AND– I learned this past weekend at my ICPA Webster Technique seminar that looking into a babies eye and connecting with them can help repair and raise vagal tone.. how cool is that!!! 

This list is pretty doable to receive the benefits! Don’t have a family Chiropractor for your adjustments yet?? No problem 🙂 Call us here at YFC 515-278-YOST (9678) and make an appointment today 🙂

Pic2Dr. Nicole Davis

Dr. Nicole Davis graduated from Logan University with not only her Doctorate in Chiropractic but her Bachelors in Life Sciences. After working with hundreds of clients a week in a busy Ohio Chiropractic clinic, she decided to head home to Des Moines to be closer to her family.  She currently specializes in family wellness care with advanced training in pediatric and pregnancy care, working alongside 2 other doctors in the only Wellness Center in Iowa to offer Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Specialized Pediatric and Pregnancy Care as well as Functional Medicine.  She loves spending time with family, friends and her dog, Maci. She is here to serve her community with love, support and enthusiasm.


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