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Activate Your Vagus Nerve

These are notes I took from reading the book and in preparing for my podcast interview with Dr. Navaz Habib below (on Youtube, my podcast page, or any podcast player).

I. Science

What is the VN?

out of the 12 cranial nerves, the Vagus nerve stuck out. it is the only one that passes out of the head

Vagus nerve is the a nerve that begins in the brainstem and processes and regulates autonomic function of the body. vagus comes from the Latin word meaning wanderer.

80% Afferent - toward the brain - and 20% Efferent - brain to body.

Where is it?

brainstem stemming from 4 different nuclei. There is a R and L VN


The conductor of the human body

Sensing Skin of the 👂

Allowing Food to be Swallowed 👄

Managing airways and vocal chords 🧣

Controlling Breathing 🌬️

Heart Rate 💗

Maintaining Optimal Blood Pressure 🆎

Liver functions

Gall Bladder Emptying 💩

Managing Hunger and Satiety

Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels 🍬

Release of Digestive Enzymes from the Pancreas

Gut Motor Function

Immune System Activity

Managing Inflammation in the Gut

Relaying Information from the Microbiome

Allowing us to create memories

How it manages it all

for a neuron's signal to affect the intended cells:

  1. The neuron needs to send an electrically charged signal throughout its entire length

  2. It needs to release a protein called a neurotransmitter into the space between itself and the cell it wants to affect

  3. It must fit into a protein receptor on the surface of , and elicit activity within, the next cell.

II. What could go wrong?

In this section Dr. Habib compares the charging wire of a cell phone to the VN, which I find interesting especially since there are various comparisons to cell phones with meditation - can a damaged VN affect practicing meditation?

Going on this analogy, how do you help your clients - or how do you determine - if it is a physiological problem, the wire - like an unoptimal VN - or a software problem, the phone?

Dysfunctional Breathing 🌬️

hand on belly and chest - did tummy expand or did the shoulders rise to accommodate the expansion of the lungs

The correct way is: diaphragm must contract and the belly expands. Diaphragmatic breathing is the process of using this major muscle rather than accessory muscles for breathing.

because it is not attractive to expand our abdomen, we mistakenly learn to breathe with accessory muscles - back up muscles that are more important and useful during times of stress (p.67)

We are training the nerves to send signals to the bicep, not training the bicep

→ Epigenetics - reminds me of the studies with playing piano and lifting

where you send flow is where you send function is a great adaptation of where you place your attention is where you place your energy

Dysfunctional Airways 👃

associated with dysfunctional breathing = the nasal, the larynx, pharynx, and trachea

Dysfunctional Digestive Sequence

Counting the number of chews for each bite of food and how long you sit to eat

🚗 🚿 analogy deliberate and slow

16-20 hour digestive sequence

Science of chewing and digestion p. 77 small morsels activate taste buds 👅 and the taste sigals the brain to determine the amount of macros are present

I wonder if saying the bracha (hebrew for prayer) for certain foods sends a signal to the brain about which foods to break down

Dysfunctional Dietary choices

Real food, not too much, mostly green

Green, Clean, and Lean

the environment in which you eat determines the ability to train your VN to send these signals to your brain

Ch 7 Dysfunctional Microbiome

Ch 8 Chronic inflammation and immune activation

Autoimmune conditions

Chronic inflammation of the gut

Inflammation due to physical and emotional trauma

Ch 9 Dysfunctional Heart Rate

Ch 10 Dysfunctional Liver Function

Ch 11 Chronic Stress

it is not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it - Hans Selye

The strength of the brain is based on the strength of the nerves


Ch 12 Dysfunctional Sleep and Circadian Rhythm ⌚ 🛏️

Deep restorative sleep is the gym for the VN

If you don't train it, you drain it

III. Activating Your Vagus Nerve

Measuring VN Function:


the measurement of time, in milliseconds between successive pumps of the heart - time from the end of one lub-dup to the beginning of the next one

⬆️ Active VN ⬇️ the heart rate, and the more variable the time between pumps of the heart

Heart Rate ♥️

Breath Pattern 📈

Bowel Transit Time ⏲️

Exercises to activate the VN


Sleep Tape📼: when we breath through the mouth it is harder to practice diaphragmatic breathing, but through the 👃 it is natural

Sleeping on the R side promotes better sleep p 140

When lying on the back the airway is more likely to close as the 👅 can fall back due to gravity

Practices that support VN activation

❄️ Cold Exposure

Humming and Chanting

Gag reflex


☀️ exposure

Omega 3s

Yoga & Pilates

Mindfulness & Meditation

💊 Supplementation



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