Vagus Nerve Balance for Your PTSD, Trauma and Chronic Pain Symptoms Regulation. First things first.

Vagus Nerve Balance for Your PTSD, Trauma and Chronic Pain Symptoms Regulation. First things first.

The vagus nerve forms a bi-directional “super-highway” between your brain and the majority of your internal organs. Unless your vagus nerve is in good shape and activates readily when it is supposed to, the brain-body as well as the body-brain communication will be disrupted.

Many people in this modern world overstimulate their nervous systems and become desensitized to chronic stress. Over time, this can lead to low vagal tone, which has been linked to a variety of mental and physical health issues, including chronic inflammation, neurodegeneration, poor gut function, autoimmunity and cancer.

And we know this to be true: you cannot FULLY heal leaky gut, microbiome function or brain issues WITHOUT optimizing your vagus function…

In Trauma and Polyvagal Informed Practice you will be able to:

  • Understand the vagus nerve’s complexity  
  • Know the importance of high vagal tone 
  • Understand what can go wrong with the vagus nerve
  • Measure your vagal tone 
  • Recognize symptoms and root causes of vagus nerve dysfunction
  • Optimize gut-brain communication 
  • Address emotional trauma and chronic stress 
  • Improve your relationships to increase vagal tone 
  • Strengthen vagus function with physical approaches
  • Release the state of constant threat and alertness
  • Engage with a state of safety inside of the body, in relation with others and with the world around you.

During non-stressful situations, if we are emotionally healthy, our bodies stay in a social engagement state, or a happy, normal, relaxed state. In this state we are capable of connecting with another human being.

The sympathetic nervous system is our immediate reaction to stress that affects nearly every organ in the body. The resulting fight-or-flight state is designed to keep us alive. In fight-or-flight at some level we believe we can still survive the threat we are facing in that moment.

But when our sympathetic nervous system has kicked into overdrive and we still can’t escape, the dorsal vagal parasympathetic nervous system takes control. It causes freezing or shutdown, as a form of self-preservation, e.g. someone who passes out under extreme stress, or somebody who freezes on stage and cannot get their words out. The issue is our nervous system can perceive danger where there isn’t any real threat (as a result of early life exposure to stress and conditioning).

Basically, we have evolved to live predominantly in a relaxed state, activate the fight-or-flight response when we face danger, then re-activate the relaxation response after the danger has passed. Unfortunately, most people spend most of their days in that constant stress state due to chronic fears, anxieties, guilt, shame, frustration, poor self-worth, negative beliefs, etc. Not to mention experiencing stress relating to everyday problems, such as finances, relationships, illness, traffic, and so on. Most people spend the majority of their waking moments dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. All that activates the sympathetic nervous system. And this sympathetic dominance causes the weakening of the parasympathetic rest-digest-detoxify-heal response, which many people are unable to activate effectively enough when they need to.

In addition, chronic disease states are associated with either the fight-or-flight response or the parasympathetic freeze (or shutdown) response. Many people with chronic fatigue for example will relate to feeling more like they are in a shutdown mode. Neither of those states are conducive to healing.

Polyvagal Theory

Dr. Stephen Porges was the one who developed the Polyvagal Theory, which explains our nervous system’s response to stress or danger. It describes a three part hierarchical system: ventral vagus activation (relaxation and social engagement), sympathetic activation (fight-or-flight) and dorsal vagus activation (immobilization or freeze).


vagus nerve regulation therapist

Vagus Nerve, Chronic Pain and the Immune System

Did you know that chronic inflammation is the most common sign of poor vagus nerve function? Vagus nerve is a conduit between the brain and the immune system. The well-functioning vagus nerve sends signals to shut down inflammation via the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.

Chronic inflammation is associated with pretty much every chronic illness in existence. Research shows that those with inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. often have decreased heart rate variability, which is a marker of reduced vagal tone. This is associated with high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity and stress hormones, which contributes to systemic inflammation.


Low Vagal Tone Has Been Linked To:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrom
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression / anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  •  Heart disease
  •  Diabetes
  • Migraine / cluster headaches
  • PTSD
  • Autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, etc.
  •  Obesity
  •  Cancer
  •  ADHD
  • Chronic inflammatory states
  •  IBS / IBD / SIBO / leaky gut
  •  Asthma

Some Strategies To Increase Vagal Tone


  • Somatic Experiencing Therapy
  • Polyvagal Informed Therapy
  •  Deep breathing
  •  Singing/chanting
  •  Yoga/ta ichi/qigong
  •  Gargling
  • Cold showers
  •  Fasting
  •  Probiotics / EFAs



  • Meditation
  •  Havening Techniques / EFT / EMDR
  • Positive social connection
  •  Expressing gratitude
  • Craniosacral Therapy
  •  Biofeedback
  •  Laughter
  •  Prayer

Resources: Dr. Steven Porges, Dr. Eva Detko, Deb Dana Polyvagal Theory Faculty

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