- Dr. Kate Henry
Polyvagal Theory & Natural Medicine
Updated: Jun 14, 2022
For my clients with chronic illness, PTSD, mood issues, fatigue and more, we focus on vagus-strengthening exercises as part of their plan. Here's a quick review of what we normally talk about when it comes to the vagus and healing.
Your vagus nerve (or cranial nerve 10) controls most of your parasympathetic nervous system activity. You can strengthen / weaken it depending on your lifestyle, stressors, diet and more.
The vagus nerve matters in healing because it allows you to stay in rest-and-digest mode, or parasympathetic dominance, more of the time. This gives your body more time to repair organs and absorb nutrients, both of which are key parts of reversing chronic and mental illnesses.
It also helps you to keep a wide "window of tolerance" so that every day stressors don't tax your physiology or send you into fight or flight. This allows you to optimize digestion and reduce nervous system stress and be more in control of your gastrointestinal health, overall health, and mood long-term.
We can assess the strength of the vagus nerve by measuring heart rate variability, which we often do during our biofeedback sessions in the office or by using HRV monitors at home. If you want to strengthen your vagus nerve or improve your HRV, here are some of the most effective ways to do it.