Scientific Explanation to Why We're Hangry: What Is The Vagus Nerve & How To Stimulate It

This piece of information changed my life. The Vagus nerve in fact regulates our facial expressions, which indicate how we feel, as well as our tone of voice. This also really makes sense because when someone is hungry they tend to be angry and you can even tell this over the phone.

The vagus nerve also regulates heart rate variability (hrv). The higher your hrv the healthier you are.

When we're relaxed there is some variation in our heart rate, unlike when we're stressed, which sounds more like a marching army than a melodic flow.

The Vagus nerve also affects our microbiome.

What Is The Vagus Nerve?

Our internal mechanism for generating the healing response is the vagus nerve, which is the major nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. It's also the longest cranial nerve, carrying messages from the midbrain to the heart, lungs, stomach, and intestines, as well as other main organs and physiological systems.

The vagus nerve is bi-directional, meaning it transmits information from the brain to the body as well as the other way around. In fact, more information travels from the brain to the body than from the body to the brain.

The vagus nerve controls a number of vital activities and body systems, including:

Variability in heart rate, heart rate, and blood pressure

  • Breathing

  • Digestion

  • Mood

  • Reaction to relaxation

  • Our Immune System

  • Tone of voice and facial expressions

The parasympathetic nervous system, which governs the rest-and-digest response, also known as the relaxation response, is activated when the vagus nerve is stimulated. We feel more relaxed and tranquil when this reaction is triggered, and our bodies participate in self-regulation and healing.

How Do We Stimulate The Vagus Nerve?

Yoga and pranayama practices override the sympathetic nervous system. In fact, pranayama is the deliberate breathing action of extending or expanding the life-force energy in our body.

Pranayama activates the vagus nerve, the body's most essential healing nerve.

This content was captured during a live Chopra event. It is intended to help you understand the content better and will not be included in your final test.

Deepak explains the healing power of the vagus nerve, which is the key component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls a wide range of vital body functions including as mood, immunological response, digestion, and heart rhythm.

Electromagnetic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve have been created in the field of bioelectric medicine, with advantages including reduced inflammation and improvements in asthma, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. I am not saying we should get electrical implants, as that is very invasive and could have other potential side effects.

That's because we don't need medical technology to activate the vagus nerve, we can use the power of our own breath to do so and change from a state of fight-flight-freeze to one of rest and relaxation.

Slow, rhythmic breathing can help to stimulate the vagus nerve, which can assist to improve our physical and mental health by activating the body's natural healing response.

Simple coherence breathing allows us to fully expand our lungs, helping us stimulate the vagus nerve that then sends signals to the brain for us to relax. It is a simple breathing method where ideally both the inhalation and exhale last roughly six seconds (perhaps longer if you have a longer torso).

Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) will also help us stimulate all parts of our brain, not just the vagus nerve. The following are some of the advantages of nadi shodhana:

  • Removes emotional toxins and obstructions.

  • Provides consistent energy and oxygen to the mind-body system.

  • It relaxes the nervous system and promotes a calm, attentive mind, making it an excellent practise to utilise before meditation.

  • It aids in the integration of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Ida Nadi (left nostril) is connect to the right hemisphere of the brian and it corresponds to:

  • The left nervous system

  • Moon channel

  • Left hand

  • Quality of emotional activity

  • The feminine side ( intuition )

Pingala (right nostril) is connect to the left hemisphere of the brian and it corresponds to:

  • The right nervous system

  • Sun channel

  • Left hand

  • Quality of physical and mental activity

  • The masculine side ( logic )

You can also learn more about which breathing techniques work best to balance your body type (Dosha) by reading this blog.

Story Time

In my Ayurveda course, Deepak Chopra made a very funny comment about the fact that pharmaceutical companies will often have ads with family members playing sport outside or a couple making love, but in the background, they list the potential side effects... they paint the picture of happiness and pleasure but caption it death and sexual impotence.

I have to point out that I'm not anti-modern medicine I think there is a place in our world for pharmaceuticals. Especially in acute situations or accidents. However, a lot of the drugs are we take are not necessary and should be avoided because of the serious side effects that they come with. For example, if we get a headache instead of reaching for paracetamol (which might just put a plaster over the headache for a bit but then nonetheless cause serious side effects to your liver and overall health in the long run) perhaps we should eat some ginger or take a nap, maybe even meditate.

If you need my help healing your physical, mental, or spiritual body and achieving balance in your life, perhaps even the ability to thrive in this world of endless possibilities, please feel free to join my waiting list here.

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