The link between your vagus nerve, gut health, mental wellbeing...and 'poop doping'
The Vagus Nerve has been one of the most talked-about discoveries in the human body over the last few years due to its ability to influence so many areas of human health.
The nerve originates in our brain stem and flows down to most of our vital organs, helping to regulate most of our autonomic functions (subconscious activities like digestion).
One of the main reasons the Vagus Nerve is vital is because of the role it plays in controlling inflammation. It is the body's primary inflammatory control system, and its influence far-reaching into health and disease. The VN is connected to our organs and plays a crucial link between our gut and our brain, which is vital for our mental health, as we will explain later.
The Vagus nerve influences multiple bodily functions
The reason our bodies create inflammation is to keep us safe from bacterial and viral invaders or anything that should not enter the body. When someone develops chronic inflammation, it can lead to several autoimmune diseases and other issues.
- Chrones disease
- Heart and cardiovascular disease
It is not well known that our mood is primarily affected by our gut health! There are many serotonin receptors located in the gut. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences our feeling of well being and happiness as well as regulating several other vital areas.
Roughly 95% of your serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don't just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.
The VN is the direct link between the brain and the gut microbiome, making it the most critical communication pathway regarding digestion, nutrient status, and the ever-changing population of bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites, and worms that live within the digestive tracts.
"When someone says that they have a gut feeling, that is due to the Vagus nerve."
If we can keep our gut healthy by getting the right bacteria, and creating the perfect conditions, then our Vagus nerve should be able to operate to its optimum level.
Which foods should we or shouldn't we eat?
A diet high in refined sugars and processed foods is harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body's regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.
Fortunately, the expanding field of nutritional psychiatry is finding there are many consequences and correlations between what you eat, how you feel, and how you ultimately behave, but also the kinds of bacteria that live in your gut.
Many different studies are happening concerning gut health, and there are predictions that the gut health supplement industry is expected to grow to £48 bn by 2023. One study using prebiotics, which are complex carbohydrates that humans are not able to digest, but are what the probiotic bacteria flourish on, showed that people were more likely to focus on something positive than negative if they had a choice between the two when taking a prebiotic supplement.
Another study showed that using prebiotics could help with sleep. At the start of this trial, a candidate called Mosley spent 21% of his time in bed awake – by the end, after using prebiotics that had it had shrunk to 8%. Of all the strategies Mosley tested to treat his insomnia, he found prebiotics the most effective. Shortly after this, Bimuno (the prebiotic supplement used in the study) promptly sold out.
So this isn't just another fad. However, we should be able to get most of what we need from a balanced and varied diet.
Right foods for gut health:
- Jerusalem artichoke
Have a Read of Our Article about CBD for IBS and Gut health
Here's where it gets a bit weird
Many athletes will do anything to improve their performance, and one lady believed so strongly that the bacteria found in the feces of professional cyclists would aid her performance that she doped herself with some of the donated feces, hence the name 'poop doping.'
Even though she couldn't prove it, she said it improved her performance on the bike drastically. However, we would not recommend trying this at home, or at all, for that matter, as your feces is home to more bacteria than there are people on his planet. A lot of it will be harmful bacteria. Plus, it's also a bit weird, and you may lose a few friends.
Applying what we have learned about the vagus nerve
Some individuals who suffer from depression may undergo vagal nerve stimulation in which the nerve is stimulated at regular intervals using electricity from a device similar to a pacemaker.
An international team of researchers from Amsterdam and the United States conducted a clinical trial, which demonstrates that stimulating the Vagus nerve with a small implanted device significantly reduced inflammation and improved outcomes for patients with rheumatoid arthritis by inhibiting cytokine production which are known to cause inflammation and if not properly regulated, can lead to autoimmune diseases.
For a lot of people, knowing that we have an area to target to improve our health and mood will be a considerable boost. Knowing there is an area we can focus through different exercises to improve our general Wellbeing is excellent, not only that, if someone is experiencing a moment of intense stress, they can target the VN to produce feelings of relaxation.