Written by Karen Bruno, PT
We think of digestive processes as all happening in the stomach and intestines. However, the
tenth cranial nerve, also known as the vagus nerve, plays a critical role in assisting with
digestion. The enteric nervous system – the so-called “second brain” or “gut brain” – controls the
activity of the gastrointestinal tract. It features a complex network of neural connections that link
the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to the digestive system, which is what
allows for communication between these two bodily systems. This means that signals are
constantly being sent from the brain to the gut and vice versa. At JAG PT, our pelvic health
PT specialists use their expertise on the vagus nerve and other health conditions to help you
work towards your optimal digestive health.
The following exercise uses gateways, or touch points, to stimulate the vagus nerve, thereby
strengthening the digestive system-nervous system connection for improved digestive health.
First take one hand, cross it over your throat, and tuck it in the hollow space behind your ear.
Take the middle finger of your other hand and place it in your navel. You should only be pressing
very lightly with both hands. Breathe in through your nose and out through the back of your
throat for at least 3 to 5 breaths – if you are able, try to complete more than one set of breaths.
Then, switch your hands so that the hand you had on your stomach goes behind the opposite
ear, and the other hand moves to your navel. You can now finish the exercise by performing the
same type of breathing as before.
You can do this exercise sitting, standing, or laying down, and it can be performed any time
during the day – for example, before and after meals, before bed, right after waking up, or any
other convenient time. Contact us to learn more about how you can use vagus nerve exercises
with the skilled guidance of a pelvic floor therapist to improve your digestive function, or
schedule your appointment at a JAG PT location near you today