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01Aug

Is this why you’re still not feeling your best?

A simple trick for BIG results...

There's something I've been dying to share.

Over the years, I've learned a lot about the key role that a healthy, ancestral diet plays in disease prevention and vibrant health. And while diet IS absolutely the cornerstone of a healthy life, there's also another important variable, called low vagal tone, that’s often implicated in things like:

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Food sensitivities
  • Brain fog
  • Inflammation
  • Reflux
  • Gut issues (IBS)

that I haven't talked nearly enough about.

Now before you completely tune me out because you think I'm about to get super sciency on you, just know I'm going to keep it simple. Pinky swear. Because you NEED to hear this. I'll also be sharing some little-known strategies you can implement today to transform your health.

So sit tight, because this information is life changing.

First things first...what the heck is vagal tone? Vagal tone refers to the functioning of an important nerve originating in your brain called your vagus nerve. It's known as the "wandering nerve" because it travels from your brain, down your neck and through many of your vital organs like your heart, spleen, lungs, digestive system and liver. Why is the vagus nerve a big deal?

Because its job is to calm your organs after a stress response. Basically the vagus nerve tells your brain,

“It is safe. You can relax.”

In other words, those with low vagal tone are more susceptible to chronic stress and those with higher vagal tone can roll with the punches. Given that our modern lives are inherently stressful and experts believe between 60-90% of doctor's visits are caused by unremitting stress this is EVERYTHING.

In fact, research has linked low vagal tone to poor health outcomes like:

  • Elevated blood sugar levels
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraines
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Tinnitus
  • Alcohol Addiction
  • Leaky Gut
  • Heart Disease
  • Inflammation
  • Mental health issues

Research has also shown those with high vagal tone are LESS likely to suffer from the conditions above and more likely to experience:

  • Closeness to others
  • Altruistic behavior
  • The FLOW state

The best part?

Even though vagal tone does have a genetic component, by stimulating the vagus nerve on a regular basis you can improve its function. Which means if you want to live a healthy, productive, connection-rich and uber fulfilling life use the following 13 strategies and improve your vagal tone today!

1. Breathe Deeply

Your head and neck contain neurons with receptors called baroreceptors that transmit messages about your blood pressure to your brain which travels through your vagus nerve and to your heart, to lower blood pressure and heart rate. The more sensitive they are, the more the more likely they'll be to set the “relaxation chain” in motion.

Deep breathing (in through the nose for a count of 5 and out through the mouth for a count of 5) keeps them sensitive. I've also noticed breathing solely through my nose (i.e. keeping my mouth closed) during workouts improves my vagal tone dramatically. Try it. It's tricky but oh so worth it.

2. Try Yoga

During my self-experimentation, I was SHOCKED by how profoundly yoga affects vagal tone. Even just a few minutes can have a dramatic impact, so rather than having an afternoon snack, find a quiet place and get your down dog on.

3. Leverage the power of COLD

When your body adjusts to cold temperature it activates the relaxation response. Splash your face with cold water, take a cold shower, try an ice bath or join the Polar Bear Club and experience the benefits instantly.

4. Meditate

Loving-kindness meditation has been shown to improve vagal tone. Search for it on YOUTube and you'll find tons of videos to follow. The only way to fail at meditation is to NOT do it. So do it!

5. Consume Probiotic-rich foods

The vagus nerve surveys the contents of the gut for pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, a healthy gut = healthy vagal tone. Make a tablespoon of raw sauerkraut or one of our 100% grass fed beef sticks a daily thing and eat your way to healthy vagal tone.

6. Get a massage.

Neck massages and foot massages have both been shown to improve HRV. Is there really anything else I need to say? It's for your HEALTH. smile

7. Gargle until your eyes water

The vagus nerve activates the muscles in the back of your throat when you gargle. So the next time you take a sip, gargle vigorously for 30 seconds. You might also try it after you brush your teeth. It's harder (and more beneficial) than you'd think!

8. Fast

Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve vagal tone. So if you're NOT underweight or suffering from amenorrhea or adrenal issues sequester your meals to an 8 hour window (say 9am-5pm) and fast the rest of the day. Do this a few days each week.

9. Sleep on your right side

Research has shown that lying on your right side increases vagal stimulation while lying on your back decreases it. So at the very least, start your night on the right side.

10. Eat your Seafood

The essential fatty acids found in fish lower heart rate and improve vagal tone. So add wild salmon, sardines, and shrimp to your diet a few times each week.

11. Consume Fiber

Fiber stimulates a hormone (GLP-1) that stimulates the vagus nerve and makes you feel full. Win. Win.

12. Poop and LAUGH

Tensing your stomach muscles stimulates the vagus nerve so do some sit-ups, have a good laugh and keep yourself regular.

13. Make some NOISE

Using your vocal chords improves vagal tone because they're attached to the vagus nerve. When you're on your way to work find your favorite song and belt it out like nobody's watching. Humming, laughing, talking and chanting will also do the trick.

So there you have it! 13 Simple ways to improve your vagal tone and take your health to the next level. And just in case you missed it, our 100% Grass Fed Beef Sticks are a great place to start as they contain 1 billion gut-friendly PROBIOTICS per stick! If you haven’t tried them yet NOW is the time. And if you have I personally challenge you to a cold shower tomorrow morning.

It’s really not as bad as you’d think and you’ll feel like you just had a STIFF cup of joe:)

For all my supergeeks:

You can actually measure your vagal tone at home, using something called Heart Rate Variability (HRV). It's a measure of the difference between your heart beat when you breathe in (which gets faster to speed the flow of oxygenated blood throughout your body) and when you breath out (which slows down). The bigger the difference in your heart rate, the higher your vagal tone.  

Now I know most people won't want to do this, but I think it's worth mention because if you're like me, sometimes it's not clear exactly what's stressing you, or just HOW stressed you are. I wore it for 24 hours for the first few days and was shocked by the fact that my work (which is one of the things I look forward to most in my day) was by FAR the most stressful part of my day. My time with my hubs and my son, was by far the LEAST stressful. Even during the terrible twos. Who knew? Not me.

Happy Paleo-ing!
Autumn Smith & The Paleovalley Team