19 Dec Does your child have poor behaviour, attention, and gut health?
Poor behaviour. Poor attention. Poor gut health. If your child ticks any of these boxes then you know how it can make the simplest day-to-day tasks difficult. The vagus nerve and it's effect on the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is often overlooked in the management of these symptoms, even thought it is a major key to a happy child and inevitably, a happy parent! Read on to find out more about how the vagus nerve helps your child's brain and some easy ways to help increase vagal tone.
Before we get into the fun stuff, here's a quick run down on the ANS and the vagus nerve. The ANS is responsible for maintaining and regulating brain and body functions through it's effect on heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. The ANS is made of 2 main systems:
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) - this is your body's fight or flight response. Imagine the feeling you would get if you were being chased by a lion; your heart starts racing, you start breathing heavier, your only thought is to get to safety! This is an example of your SNS kick into gear!
The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) - this is your body's rest and digest response. Basically the opposite to the SNS, this system slows down your heart rate and breathing, and allows blood to travel to the brain in order to take information in. It also stimulates digestion by increasing digestive fluids and relaxing gastrointestinal muscles.
Therefore, a child with poor PSNS function will often be anxious or emotional, sensitive to sounds/lights/motion, have issues with digestion, and be in a constant state of fight or flight. The reason why the vagus nerve is a major key is because it helps to stimulate the PSNS!
Now the moment you've all been waiting for, here are 5 simple exercises you can do at home to increase vagal tone and stimulate the PSNS!
- Belly breathing - or diaphragmatic breathing. Focus on filling your belly with air as you breathe in through your nose, and slowly breathe out your mouth as if you're breathing out of a straw. A fun way to do this with your child is to get them to blow bubbles!
- Cold - progress from drinking cold water, to washing you face with cold water, and eventually taking a cold shower.
- Humming or singing - get your child to hum or sing to their favourite song!
- Chewing - encourage your child to chew their food more.
- Tensing the stomach muscles (valsalva manoeuvre) - bearing down as if you are doing number 2 helps to stimulate the vagus nerve. Just make sure your child doesn't actually do a number 2!
If these tips have helped, and you'd like to learn more about how we can help improve vagal tone and stimulate the PSNS in clinic, Click here to contact us.