What are the benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Important Points:

  • Vagus nerve
  • Stimulation
  • Nervous system
  • Anxiety

What are the benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Feeling tense? Do you often find yourself stressed out with today’s hectic fast-paced lifestyle? If you are like most people then your answer is most likely yes.  Oddly enough, you need not look very far to find a solution to your problem. Our own body has a built-in way of handling stress and there is a secret to harnessing it.

Our bodies are wired in such a way that our nervous system is divided into two functional categories, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is the excitatory component which has the primary function of stimulating the body’s fight-or-flight response. An overactive sympathetic nervous system could leave you feeling restless and in a constant state of stress. To balance things out, the parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of recuperative functions of the body like resting and digesting. This is the system we need to tap into in order for us to relax.

The key lies in hijacking the powerful function of the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve shares its word origin with the word vague, both coming from the Latin root which means wandering. Why is that? It was named that way because the vagus nerve dominates a wide array of organs in the body. Think of it as the boss of the eyes, mouth, heart, lungs, stomach, and your gut in terms of letting loose and relaxing.  A second reason the vagus nerve is powerful is that it has a direct connection to our control center, the brain, using 80 percent of its nerve conduction to drive information from the body to the brain.

There are a number of ways of stimulating the vagus nerve. Deep breathing and yoga are known for its calming effect since stretching out the lungs and chest muscles stimulate the vagus nerve.  

Meditation is another method worth exploring. In the study published in the International Journal of Yoga, it was discovered that producing the sound “Om” in the form of chanting stimulates the vagus nerve. A novel way of stimulating the vagus nerve is to cultivate a healthy gut microbiota. The study from Arizona State University suggests that taking in a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei enhances vagal stimulation which improved mood in those who participated in the study.

If the vagus nerve is stimulated deliberately, it was found to have a profound therapeutic effect to our health.  Vagal stimulation can decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure, relaxes muscles, improve mood and even tone down inflammation. According to a study published in the journal Science, vagal stimulation results in suppression of inflammatory response originating from the spleen.

Since vagal stimulation causes a decrease in blood pressure and pulse rate, which are elevated in a state of anxiety, it has been used to treat anxiety disorders with significant success. In a study done by the Department of Psychiatry  of the Medical University of South Carolina, it was found that vagal stimulation not only produced acute improvement in the study participants with anxiety but also long term as well.

The effects of vagal stimulation are not limited to calming down an overactive nervous system. It has also found success in treating depression, a condition that manifests with symptoms of lack of motivation and excitement. The China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences was able to note significant improvement in participants who have depressive symptoms just by stimulating the vagus nerve.

So next time you feel burned out and could use some rest and relaxation, do not forget to give vagus stimulation a try.

Viva vagus: Wandering nerve could lead to range of therapies

Neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jan-Jun; 4(1): 3–6.

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). (2014, August 15). Do gut bacteria rule our minds? In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 10, 2016 from

Science. Acetylcholine-Synthesizing T Cells Relay Neural Signals in a Vagus Nerve Circuit

A pilot study of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) for treatment-resistant anxiety disorders.

Elsevier. (2016, February 4). New non-invasive form of vagus nerve stimulation works to treat depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 10, 2016 from


Can anxiety be caused by gut problems?

Table of Contents:

  • Anxiety
  • Mental Health
  • Gut Flora

Can anxiety be caused by gut problems?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting an estimated 18 percent of the American population. Given its wide distribution as a disease, the interest in figuring out the exact root cause of the problem is certainly high.

Over the years, there is a lot of progress in our understanding of how anxiety works and because of these discoveries, we are now able to treat anxiety in a much more therapeutic way than before. Despite these milestones, there is still many questions not yet answered.

One of these questions may now have a possible solution. In a study conducted by McMaster University, researchers found an explanation on why anxiety affects certain individuals while others are spared – a link between the occurrence of anxiety and the disruption of normal gut flora.  This shifts the common belief that anxiety is a problem with brain function into a more holistic concern.

To test this hypothesis researchers administered antibiotics known to disrupt the normal bacterial flora of the gut in mice and then observed their behavior. Surprisingly, the subjects given the medication manifested with signs of anxiety. When the drugs were discontinued, the behavior reverted to normal.

Researchers explained that in those mice given the antibiotic, the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF were significantly increased. This factor is known to be associated with depression and anxiety. This could explain why behavior changes are seen in the group given antibiotics.

The researchers involved in the study are optimistic that their work could possibly be a foundation for future treatments that explores the use of probiotic bacteria to safely treat anxiety disorders.

National Institute of Mental Health

Gut bacteria linked to behavior: That anxiety may be in your gut, not in your head.