In most cases, stress is caused by psychological triggers such as recurring family issues, financial difficulties, struggling with meeting deadlines, fear of not doing well at work, and so on. Surroundings are also an influential factor when it comes to anxiety. Your environment can trigger anxiety-like trying to get work done as quickly as possible or trying to write an assignment in a noisy room.

Regardless of the cause of stress, high levels of anxiety trigger the production of stress hormones, which causes physiological changes such as racing heart, tight muscles, rapid breathing, and increased sweating. The fight or flight response refers to all of these stress responses collectively. To help you stay calm, it is a smart move to know how to stimulate the vagus nerve. It also aids in extending long-term sobriety by reducing the desire to use addictive substances. This article will discuss the numerous health benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve and how to do it.

What Is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is also referred to as cranial nerve X or the pneumogastric nerve. Among the 12 pairs of cranial nerves originating from the brain, the vagus nerve is the longest and most complex. It receives and transmits information from the surface of the brain to the tissues and organs in the entire body. The vagus nerve, which connects the brainstem to the rest of the body, is made up of two clumps of sensory nerve cell bodies. It allows the brain to monitor and receive data on a wide range of bodily activities.

The vagus nerve and its branches are involved in many nervous system activities. The vagus nerve assists the autonomic nervous system, which comprises both the parasympathetic and sympathetic parts. This nerve is in charge of some sensory processes as well as motor information for movement throughout the body. It is part of a circuit that links the brain to the neck, heart, lungs, and stomach.

Stimulating this nerve has been proven to bring numerous health benefits like improved immunity, better mental health, better control of stress, reducing risks of cardiac arrest, and many more. Hence, it is recommended by many health experts to opt for vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) by using a tVNS Stimulator or getting a minor surgery that involves the implantation of a tiny stimulator. The whole process of vagus nerve stimulation will be discussed later in this article.

What Are the Different Effects of Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve has various functions. It is present in sensory organs like the throat, lungs, heart, and stomach. It is also involved in providing the taste sensation behind the tongue. It regulates the movement of the neck muscles that control swallowing and speech.

The vagus nerve is an integral part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It regulates the digestive tract, respiration, and heart rate.

Balance of the nervous system is one of the main functions of the vagus nerve. There are two sorts of nerve systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Energy, alertness, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate are all increased by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The sympathetic nervous system gets triggered when the person encounters a threat or undergoes a stressful situation.

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), on the other hand, lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. It makes the body calm down after the danger or stressful situation subsides. The vagus nerve has a significant impact on the parasympathetic side. This nerve promotes healthy bowel movement, as a result, it aids in excretion, urination, and sexual arousal.

The vagus nerve also has the following functions:

  1. Communication between brain and gut

The vagus nerve links the brain with the gut. It carries signals from the brain to the gut and vice versa.

  1. Relaxation by breathing deeply

During relaxation and deep breathing, the vagus nerve connects with the diaphragm. Taking deep breaths makes a person feel more at ease and calm.

  1. Decreases inflammation

The vagus nerve diminishes any inflammation by sending an anti-inflammatory signal to the necessary parts of the body.

  1. Manages fear

The vagus nerve, which transmits impulses from the stomach to the brain, is linked to anxiety, stress, and dread, which is why the word “gut feeling” exists. These signals contribute to a person’s recovery from stressful and terrifying experiences.

What Happens When the Vagus Nerve is Damaged?

Any injury or impairment of the vagus nerve can cause a variety of symptoms as the nerve is quite long and can affect numerous areas throughout the body. Two significant conditions arise due to severe vagus nerve damage. They are gastroparesis and vasovagal syncope.


Gastroparesis impacts the involuntary contractions of the digestive system. This obstructs the normal process of the stomach emptying its contents. The following symptoms indicate the onset of this condition.

  1. Vomiting of undigested food, hours after eating
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Abdominal pain
  4. Acid reflux
  5. Blood sugar fluctuations
  6. Weight loss

In a study published in 2020, researchers looked into the effects of vagal nerve stimulation in individuals who had mild to severe gastroparesis with no identified reason. Participants’ symptoms, particularly their ability to empty their bowels, improved after four weeks, indicating that this might be a viable therapy for patients suffering from this issue.

Vasovagal Syncope

The vagus nerve helps to slow the heart rate by stimulating particular muscles in the heart. It can cause an abrupt reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to fainting, when it overreacts. Vasovagal syncope is the medical term for this. Besides fainting, the person can experience warmth, excessive sweating, tunnel vision, nausea, ringing in the ears, irregular or slow heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

What is Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a procedure used to treat a variety of diseases. It can be done manually or by the use of electrical pulses. Clinical trials and studies have been carried out to assess the efficacy of this procedure. Eventually, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has approved its use to mainly treat two particular disorders: mental illnesses and epilepsy.

Using VNS to Treat Mental Disorders

The FDA has authorized the use of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) for treating depression. It has also been discovered to help in the treatment of the following ailments:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Rapid cycling bipolar disorder
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Using VNS to Treat Epilepsy

In 1997, the FDA authorized vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for refractory epilepsy. The operation entails implanting a small electrical device in the chest of the patient, similar to a pacemaker. A tiny cable called a lead connects the device to the vagus nerve. The equipment is surgically implanted into the body under a general anesthetic. It then sends electrical impulses to the brain via the vagus nerve at regular intervals throughout the day to reduce the intensity of the seizures or even halt them completely.

Ways to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

There are numerous benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve. It helps you get some relief from stress, improve your mental health, boosts your immunity, ameliorates your digestive system, and much more. You do not necessarily need surgery to stimulate the vagus nerve. You can follow some of these steps to enjoy the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation.

Slow and Deep Breathing

By breathing deeply and slowly, you can activate your vagus nerve. By stimulating the vagus nerve, it has been demonstrated to alleviate anxiety and boost the parasympathetic nervous system. The average person takes 10 to 14 breaths each minute. It is a good idea to take roughly six deep breaths within a minute to relieve stress. It is highly recommended to breathe in deeply from the diaphragm for maximum effect. Your stomach should extend outward when you do this. Your exhalation should be slow and long. This is crucial for stimulating the vagus nerve and alleviating some tension.

This form of diaphragmatic breathing is also referred to as belly breathing. When doing this breathing exercise, place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Feel your stomach expand when you inhale and go back down when you exhale. This breathwork will lower your blood pressure and heart rate, enabling you to relax.

Try Taking Probiotics Regularly

Researchers are discovering more evidence that gut microbes boost brain function by influencing the vagus nerve. In one study, it was discovered that mice fed with the probiotic Lactobacillus Rhamnosus experienced a reduction in stress hormones, positive alterations to their GABA receptors in the brain, and a decrease in anxiety and sadness.

The vagus nerve enabled these favorable adjustments between the stomach and the brain, according to the researchers. The addition of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus to the digestive tracts of other mice after the vagus nerve was destroyed failed to reduce anxiety, stress, or enhance mood. Hence, it is best to have some yogurt or cheese or a probiotic beverage every day.

Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly has numerous benefits. Among them is stimulating the vagus nerve, which in turn improves your mood and overall well-being. Choose a sport or exercise routine that you will enjoy so that you can commit to it properly. It can be yoga, pilates, jogging, or bicycling. It can also be a regular sport like basketball, baseball, and soccer.


The vagus nerve plays a key role in your overall well-being. For proper stress relief, better mood, and improved mental health, stimulate your vagus nerve. You can adopt a healthy exercise routine or do breathing exercises regularly for effective VNS.