Vagus Nerve Hack | Gastroesophageal Release

Do you suffer from acid reflux, and you’re trying to figure out how to manage your condition? Many factors go into this, but today’s focus is on a visceral release for your gastroesophageal junction that may, in fact, help relieve your symptoms.

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It’s important to remember that when we are in a stressed state, we have blood flow that’s moving away from the digestive tract. To be able to digest optimally, we have to be in a parasympathetic state, i.e., rest and digest.

Stimulating the vagus nerve via the digestive tract by performing visceral releases can be a great way to manage and treat your condition. 

The gastroesophageal junction connects the esophagus to the stomach. The esophagus, stomach, and the rest of the digestive tract are innervated by the vagus nerve. This junction itself regulates the food and fluid that is moving from the esophagus to the stomach. This is a very important function because this is one of the things that can contribute to acid reflux. From an anatomical perspective, the esophagus passes right through the diaphragm. As you’re performing the exercise, diaphragmatic breathing is very important before, during, and after to be able to calm the nervous system down and optimize esophageal mobility. If the diaphragm is restricted, then that means it could compress the esophagus as well. 

To perform this technique:

  1. To find the location, move down the sternum and under the xiphoid process. Perform this exercise lying down and while you gently press into the tissue. You might already feel some tenderness, which is quite common and normal. 
  2. Once you’ve assessed the tissue, then traction the tissue down and to your left towards the stomach. Once you’re there, perform your diaphragmatic breathing. As you inhale, you’re creating resistance against the tissue. As you exhale, move down and out while tractioning the tissue more. Perform this until you feel a release or until the tissue begins to feel more relaxed. You might also have another response in your nervous system, such as a sigh, swallow, or yawn. However, you will feel the tissue relax and feel not as tender. Those are all positive signs that you’re performing the technique properly. 
  3. Perform this in-between meals. You don’t want to do it immediately before or after a meal. You can perform this exercise right before bed or in the morning. 

Make sure you speak to a medical provider if you are dealing with a chronic condition to make sure this is an appropriate technique for you. Always be gentle and intentional, and never aggressive. 

Please make sure to check out all of our other vagus nerve hacks that can help you optimize your health and longevity. Make sure to give this a share and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement.

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Vagus nerve hack | Diaphragmatic and Lymphatic Release

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Vagus nerve hack | Diaphragmatic and Lymphatic Release

Did you know that the lymphatic system is one of the most powerful yet neglected systems in the body and it’s critical for our immune health?

As we know, nearly 90% of all chronic diseases and chronic health conditions are associated with excessive or persistent inflammation. How do we get rid of inflammation and detoxify our bodies? We do this primarily through the lymphatic system and our detoxification organs.

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Our liver is one of the most important detoxification organs, but we also want to factor in our lungs, kidneys, skin, and even our tongue.

How does this relate to the vagus nerve?

Although the vagus nerve does not innervate the lymphoid organs directly, it does play a huge role in the neuroimmune axis. There’s information coming into the brain via the vagus nerve and from the brain via the vagus nerve. Our diaphragm is one of our main respiratory pumps for the lymphoid system. If you are having any gut issues and if you suspect that your lymphatic system is congested, which it is for many people, this is a great technique to release the diaphragm to optimize your respiratory pump. The vagus nerve passes right through the diaphragm, so when you are stimulating the diaphragm, you are also stimulating the vagus nerve. 

How do you perform the technique? 

You can do this lying down or standing up. Use a scooping technique right underneath the ribcage on the left side. The diaphragm is attaching to the inside of the ribs. Push down towards the opposite hip with your hands gently to release the spleen, stomach, and pancreas. Perform this about 10 times.

Then, switch to the other side where we will release the liver and gallbladder. Perform 10 times.

Lastly, come into the center of the abdomen between the sternum and belly button. You will incorporate this with your breath. Inhale and relax the hands, exhale push in with your hands with a pumping motion. This will help pump the lymphatic system. This should not be aggressive at all, just intentional. Perform this for another 10 reps.

Make sure you check out all of my other vagus nerve hacks, but if this was helpful, make sure to give it a share. Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel. The Movement Paradigm for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement.

If you are interested in making a consult for yourself, please make sure to reach out. You can check us out at themovementparadigm.com, we would love the opportunity to help you.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Pyloric valve release | visceral release

Vagus Nerve Hack | Ileocecal Valve Release | Visceral Release

Vagus Nerve Hack | Pyloric valve release | visceral release

If you’re experiencing any gut issues or stress, then this vagus nerve hack, the pyloric valve release, may be very powerful for you.

The pyloric valve connects the stomach to the small intestine. If you have increased stress, blood flows away from your digestive tract. Additionally, low fiber intake, decreased pancreatic enzyme efficiency, or low stomach acid can contribute to pyloric valve dysfunction.

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Essentially, when food is not broken down well, then the bacteria are passed downstream to the small intestine. That can cause a whole host of issues from dysbiosis and SIBO — small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

The interesting thing about the pyloric valve is that it is innervated with parasympathetic fibers as well as sympathetic fibers. The sympathetic fibers act on noradrenaline, which will increase the contraction of that sphincter. The parasympathetic fibers contribute to the relaxation of that sphincter. And that’s where the vagus nerve comes into play.

How do you perform this release? 

First, you want to locate the pyloric valve by lying on your back. You start from your umbilicus, or belly button, and come up about two inches. Everyone’s torso is going to be a little bit different, so the location of the pyloric valve will be different for every person.

Once you come up about two inches, then you should be able to feel the sphincter. It will feel like a little circle. You’ll be able to work your way into the tissue.

Once you’ve located it, you can begin to do a very gentle soft release here using a small circular motion. Then, when you do the actual pyloric valve release, move your hands over to the left, towards the stomach. Use both hands to gently pull the tissue in towards the pyloric valve. Once you gently pull the tissue over, you will hold that for one to two minutes to allow everything to relax. 

Whenever you’re doing these types of releases, think intentional, not aggressive. You want to let the tissue relax and soften. You may feel tenderness at first which is normal. It should release, however, as you continue. You do not want to perform this right after you eat.

Try doing this before bed to help down-regulate the nervous system. It’s a great way to calm the nervous system. You could also do this before you eat to bring yourself to a parasympathetic state to optimize your digestion. Enjoy! 

If you are interested in making a consult for yourself, please make sure to reach out. You can check us out at themovementparadigm.com, we would love the opportunity to help you.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Ileocecal Valve Release | Visceral Release

Vagus Nerve Hack | Ileocecal Valve Release | Visceral Release

If you are experiencing any kind of gut issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, SIBO, leaky gut, or even upper GI issues like GERD then you should give this vagus nerve hack a try, the ileocecal valve release.

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What is the ileocecal valve?

The ileocecal valve connects the small intestine to the large intestine and prevents any backflow of nutrients and undigested food into the small intestine. The large intestine is where we have most of our beneficial bacteria. So, we don’t want to have a backflow of toxic material moving into the small intestine where it is not supposed to be. This can cause a whole host of issues such as SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The small intestine is where we’re supposed to be absorbing the nutrients from our food. Issues around this ileocecal valve can typically cause a lot of tenderness around the area.

How does the vagus nerve fit into this?

The vagus nerve modulates digestion through the migrating motor complex. This migrating motor complex is located in our small intestine and helps to move things through towards the large intestine. It can also affect the ileocecal valve. In essence, the vagus nerve influences our small intestine and ileocecal valve. 

How do you perform the release? 

While lying down, find your hip bone. Then, orient yourself to your belly button. From those hip bones, move 1/3 of the way up towards your belly button and that is called McBurney’s point. When you get to that area, sink your fingers nice and easily into the tissue. First, assess to see if it is tender? Does it feel restrictive? Once you’ve assessed the tissue on your bare skin, gently compress the tissue inward and then traction the tissue up towards the belly button. Try to hold gently anywhere from two to four minutes. You may feel a decrease in tenderness and/or some motility. Sounds are common and normal. This is a great technique to do right before bed. Try to perform on a daily basis for eight weeks. 

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Vagus nerve hack: visceral sympathetic release | celiac plexus, superior/inferior mesenteric plexus

Did you know that stress can inhibit the vagus nerve? When we are stressed, we are activating our sympathetic nervous system, our “fight or flight” system.

We can access the sympathetic nervous system through our viscera. We can do specific visceral techniques on ourselves that can down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system so that we can upregulate the vagus nerve, which is the cornerstone of our parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest and digest” system.

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How stress affects our viscera

Stress can affect us in so many ways, but let’s specifically speak to how it affects our viscera.

Stress inhibits or turns down the vagus nerve, which is what innervates our entire digestive tract. If we are stressed, blood flow moves away from the digestive system. If we’re in a sympathetic state, we are not able to digest, assimilate, and even eliminate our food as well as we should.

Additionally, if we have a high vagal tone, then we will have good protective epithelial or gut barrier function. If we are in a constant fight or flight system, then, unfortunately, we don’t have that protective barrier that can contribute to things like leaky gut, IBS, and even inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

So what can you do about it?

The visceral sympathetic release technique is something you can do on yourself that can downregulate your sympathetic nervous system. You can target the celiac plexus, the superior mesenteric plexus, and the inferior mesenteric plexus, which are all nerve bundles part of this system

While you’re lying down, you want to assess each of these three areas. 

  1. You will start about an inch under the xiphoid process, which is the bone right under your sternum. That is your celiac plexus. 
  2. Then, move down to halfway between your xiphoid process (bottom of your sternum) and your belly button to your superior mesenteric plexus. 
  3. About one inch above your belly button is your inferior mesenteric plexus. 

Assess for a temperature, edema, or tenderness in each of these areas. Wherever you notice any kind of restriction, decreased elasticity, swelling, or soreness, then that’s the area you want to address. As with any type of release, you want to have a very gentle approach, especially with the viscera. You are manipulating fascia, which does not need to be aggressive. You want to be very intentional about your technique and your pressure.

This is a great opportunity for you to tune in to your own body and viscera. As you move through the technique, you’ll find the key areas that you want to release and proceed to hold each spot. You can use both fingers, one on top of the other, to sink into the tissue until you feel one of those shifts in what you’re assessing.

Is there a decrease in tenderness? Does it feel like there’s less swelling around the area or is it more elastic?

You can assess for any change in the tissue or does it feel like a sense of relaxation?  That could feel like a sigh, swallow, yawn, or just a sense of calmness in your body. 

After you perform the technique, reassess to see how that tissue feels. You can reinforce that with diaphragmatic breathing to up-regulate your parasympathetic nervous system even more. This can be a great technique to do before you go to bed or before you eat, especially if you have gut issues. 

If this was helpful, make sure you give it a share. Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel The Movement Paradigm for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Trapezius Twist

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Trapezius Twist

Do you have forward head posture or know someone who does? Or maybe you are sitting at your desk all day and you are constantly feeling restricted? Well, if so, this vagus nerve hack is for you. We have Stanley Rosenberg to thank for the ever so simple, trapezius twist.

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Why do you have forward head posture?

Let’s talk about the neurology and physiology of why you might have forward head posture. Here are three key things that can contribute to it.

1. Airway Dysfunction

The decreased tone of the trapezius muscle and increased tone in the SCM muscle is often related to some type of airway dysfunction. This could be just from poor awareness of diaphragmatic breathing throughout the day or it can be related to structural abnormalities. This could be things like a deviated septum, small nasal valves, TMJ or other jaw issues, enlarged tonsils, and more. It can also have inflammation in the airway preventing you to be able to breathe optimally.

2. State of the Nervous System

Posture is your story. It is how you present yourself to the world. It is ultimately a reflection of your past experiences, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and activities of daily living. There are so many things that affect it. If you are in a constant fight/flight or freeze state, that will be reflected in your posture.

For example, if you are in a fight or flight state, you might feel a constant tension in your neck muscles. This means that you are over-breathing in that state and using a lot of your neck muscles to do so. Conversely, if you think of the frozen state where we are shut down, hopeless, and numb, this might lead to more of a rounded posture.

3. Scars

No matter where your scars are in your body, they can directly impact the function of your cranial nerves, autonomic nervous system, emotions, and stabilizing muscles in your neck. Scars can have profound effects even far from where the actual scar is.

In healthy tissue, collagen fibers are normally parallel, but when scar tissue forms the collagen fibers are now perpendicular. The tissue is stronger, but it is not as elastic so it will impede the surrounding or distant muscles.

When To Do Trapezius Twist

Now for the fun part. The trapezius twist is a fantastic exercise to do right after you are sitting for a period of time. If you feel like your head is just leaning forward or you are having a hard time holding your posture, the trapezius twist will activate the trapezius muscles. It is a neural activation that is waking muscles up. You can check your forward head before and after you perform the exercise to see the difference.

How To Perform The Exercise

To perform the exercise, grasp your elbows and twist side to side at waist level for about five seconds. Then move to the chest line for five seconds. Lastly, move above the shoulders for five seconds. Recheck your forward head posture after you finish.

If you found this vagus nerve hack to be helpful, make sure to give it a share. Also, check out all our other vagus nerve hacks and make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. If you are interested in setting up a virtual or in-person consultation, please reach out to themovementparadigm.com. We would love to help.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Sphinx

The sphinx, another powerful vagus nerve hack, can improve your cervical range of motion, thereby increasing blood flow to the brainstem and stimulating the vagus nerve. Let’s briefly review the anatomy, how to perform the exercise, and the implications that it will have for you. Please make sure to check out some of our other vagus nerve hack videos on YouTube so you can explore what works best for you.

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Anatomy

In the meantime, let’s review the vagus nerve. Remember, it is the 10th cranial nerve and it is a paired nerve. It originates from the brainstem, exits anteriorly, and innervates muscles of the throat, heart, digestive tract, and is involved in all of our autonomic functions.

If we have forward head posture and limited cervical range of motion, our cranial nerves are going to be impacted since they exit from the brainstem. We need optimal cranial nerve function so that we can be in a state of social engagement. This means that we are connected, joyful, mindful, and/or grounded. It involves muscles of the face or facial expressions. Again, if our range of motion is limited, then that can impact the functionality of these nerves and thereby how we interact with the world.

Before you begin the exercise I would recommend checking your range of motion. You can start by keeping your head in a stacked position over your body and look all the way to the right and left. How does it feel? Is there pain and/or restriction?

You should be able to get your nose over towards your shoulder while keeping your eyes level, so make sure not to side bend when you perform this.

How To Perform

To perform this exercise, start by lying on your stomach and then prop yourself up to your elbows. From here starting with your head centered, lift your pubic bone off the ground, lift your head gently, and then slowly rotate to the left, holding that position for 30 seconds. Next, come back to the center, and then move to the right and hold that for 30 seconds.

Now that you’ve performed the exercise, you can reassess your range of motion to see how that feels. If it feels better, then that exercise was meant to relax or stimulate cranial nerve XI, the accessory nerve. This will relax your SCM muscle as well as your trapezius muscles. If it didn’t, then that means that there is another problem in another one of the cranial nerves. Just know that there are other exercises that may be more appropriate for you.

This is a developmental position, something we did as babies. When we prop up onto our forearms, it ignites a postural reflex. It is also optimal for reflexive stability. This is a great position, movement, and posture to work from, and even exercise from. If you have a stiff neck, or you experience migraines on a regular basis, then this is a powerful exercise to perform. Make sure to do it as often as you need to help with your symptoms.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Breathing Before Eating

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Breathing Before Eating

If you are experiencing acid reflux, bloating, constipation, or poor digestion, then this vagus nerve hack is definitely for you.

In order to have optimal digestion, we need a lot of blood flow to our digestive tract. When we are in a fight or flight state, or a stressed state, the blood is moving away from our digestive system which will slow gastric motility.

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Why perform diaphragmatic breathing?

Performing diaphragmatic breathing before you eat will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby improving your digestion.

We breathe 20,000 to 25,000 times a day. So, when we are breathing from our neck and shoulder muscles and not allowing our ribcage to expand with each breath, our diaphragm becomes restricted. Since the esophagus passes through the diaphragm, it will become restricted as well, which can cause symptoms such as acid reflux.

We want to optimize the bi-directional communication between our gut and brain since 80% of that afferent information is coming from the gut up to the brain. We do this by diaphragmatically breathing.

This means when you inhale, you have a full 360 degrees of pressure through the abdomen, and when you exhale your belly button goes toward your spine. This will help to calm the nervous system down prior to eating by stimulating the vagus nerve and releasing acetylcholine to create a sense of calmness.

Simply taking 3-10 diaphragmatic breaths before you eat will help with your digestion tremendously.

It is important to calm the nervous system before eating so that we can truly rest and digest.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Pelvic Floor Relaxation

Another great vagus nerve hack that you can do is pelvic floor release and relaxation.

The vagus nerve is integrated with a sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) almost everywhere in the body, but especially the gut and the pelvis. What’s interesting about the pelvic floor is that we tend to hold so much tension here. This is where we tend to hold our emotions, too.

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Let’s dive into the anatomy. The posterior vagus nerve actually integrates with a network of sympathetic plexus with a network of nerves:

  1. celiac plexus
  2. superior and inferior mesenteric plexi
  3. superior and inferior hypogastric plexi

This plexi actually forms an integrated circuit that moves blood flow in and out of the pelvis, and this is exactly what the autonomic nervous system is all about—moving blood. This network of nerves is where the vagus nerve brings blood to the heart and brain. Lastly, urination, defecation, sexual orgasm all require this complex integration of all of these nerves and blood flow from the pelvis to the rest of the body. In order to do all of those things, we have to feel safe in the bedroom as well as in the bathroom. Safety is the cornerstone of our state of social engagement of the ventral vagal nerve. Check out the video HERE to see how to perform:

1.   Pelvic Floor Release

Sitting on a ball and addressing the pelvic floor musculature is a great way to create this efficient relaxation response. The placement of the ball is behind the pubic bone to address the front of the pelvic floor and then right inside of the buttocks to address the back of the pelvic floor. Sit on the ball and breathe diaphragmatically until you feel a release or relaxation response.

2.   Happy Baby

This is a great relaxation exercise where there are lots of variations. However, you just need to get to a position where you feel very comfortable, and you’re able to inhale into the pelvic floor. When you are inhaling, that’s when the pelvic floor is relaxing and you are opening the pelvic outlet.

3.   Rock on Forearms

Resting on the forearms and knees wide, inhale as you rock back and exhale as you rock slightly forward. Once again, you’re opening up the pelvic outlet, inhaling into the base of the pelvic floor to create that relaxation response.

The pelvic floor is one of the most fascinating connections with the vagus nerve, so it’s a really great way to address this from a chakra standpoint. It tends to be an area for clenching and guarding, and especially for holding emotions.

You can see this intimate relationship with your nervous system and how it could affect you.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Valsalva Maneuver

Let’s discuss another vagus nerve hack that you can incorporate into your day to decrease your heart rate and regulate your nervous system. This one is a little unique; it’s different than our standard slow, deep breathing. The Valsalva maneuver is great for anyone that’s experiencing super ventricular tachycardia (SVT), which is an increase in your heart rate. In essence, it will slow the heart rate down and create a relaxation response.

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Anatomy

Now let’s talk a little bit about anatomy. The vagus nerve is leaving the brainstem and branches off to innervate muscles of the face, ears, throat, heart, digestive tract, and elimination tract. As it relates to the heart, specifically for this maneuver, the vagus nerve innervates the SA node of the heart. So, by creating pressure in the chest, it signals the SA node to signal the AV node to decrease the heart rate. In essence, the Valsalva will slow the signaling down in the lower chamber of the heart, which decreases the heart rate.

Precautions

Before we get into how you’re going to perform the technique, I do want to remind you who should not perform this technique. Anyone that has a known heart condition, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, or heart disease, should not perform this, and/or check with your medical doctor. There is a temporary increase in blood pressure so it can place you at higher risk. If you do not fall into one of those categories, please feel free to give this a try.

How to Perform the Technique:

  • Inhale normally, pinch your nostrils, and begin to exhale.
  • Hold it for 10 seconds. You’re exhaling through the nose while you are pinching your nasal valves, thereby creating pressure in your chest.

Initially evaluate how you feel, and then you could repeat this several times. It should have a slowing of the heartbeat and relaxation response. A great thing to do is to take your pulse before and after the maneuver to see if it has lowered your heart rate. You can use your radial or carotid pulse, whatever is easiest for you. Just make sure not to use your thumb when taking your pulse. The Valsalva maneuver can be a great addition to your life and your health.

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