Rest, Heal & Digest

I read an article recently that describes the experience of a woman who suffered from severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her eventual treatment with a device which minimized inflammation by simply stimulating the vagus nerve. What this means, is that by activating the vagus nerve which works through the parasympathetic nervous system, we can greatly influence inflammation and the immune system. The role of the brain on body inflammation can be profound. We are regularly told that our patients have improvement in their digestion, immune function, energy levels and of course, decreased levels of pain. The theory, for now at least until more research is done, is that chiropractic adjustments have a positive influence on the vagus nerve.

What is the vagus nerve?

First of all, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain as cranial nerve 10 (there are 12 cranial nerves), travels down from the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest, digest and heal’ part (opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight or flight’).

Vagal tone

The tone of the vagus nerve is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when your breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.

What is high vagal tone associated with?

High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome (collection of healthy bacteria) and initiates a response to control inflammation based on whether or not it detects good or bad organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.

 What is low vagal tone associated with?

Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).

How do we increase vagal tone?

In the article, vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. The good news is that you have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. To some degree, you are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Here are some ways to tone the vagus nerve:

1. Get adjusted! It’s not well understood what impact a chiropractic adjustment has on the vagus nerve, but for now we have to scientifically extrapolate. There appears to be fairly consistent improvement in its function through chiropractic adjustments, which is why we see so many areas of improved function that are not directly related to the musculoskeletal system.

2. Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.

3. Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or repeat the sound ‘OM’.

4. Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.

5. Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism here is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.

6. Meditation. Especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.

7. Balancing your gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.

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  • It’s very interesting going in for an appointment after having some pain and the doctor notices where the pain is without saying it. Dr. Neil knows his patients and they are very flexible with appointments.

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    ARNOLD R.
    8/22/2022
  • Sharing from my personal experience- I started a few months ago and I was having an annoying pain in my left shoulder and neck area prior starting, Dr. Neil helped me out a lot with that and I am really feeling relaxed and relieved from that annoying pain. My sleep schedule got improved. I highly recommend this place & Dr. Neil.

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    Bhrigu M.
    8/09/2022
  • Really impressed with the quality of care my children are receiving. They are comfortable coming here & their sleep issues have improved. I also have issues with my wrist and hands & they kindly looked at my issue and gave me a quick adjustment free of charge.

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    n/a w.
    5/15/2022
  • The team at Ancaster Family Chiropractic are amazing. I've been seeing Dr. Neil for quite a few years now and am so glad I have. Dr. Neil's treatment plan has not only given me greater mobility I very rarely even get sick. I would highly recommend Dr. Neil if you're looking for a way to improve your health. Give Deb a call and make an appointment, you won't regret it. If you want to feel healthier this is the place to go.

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    Kris C.
    4/29/2022
  • All my family (my wife, 3yr daughter and myself) have regularly treatments from Dr. Neil and his awesome team. Definitely a big improvement and highly recommend.

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    HK M.
    4/24/2022
  • After a few month treatment, my neck and shoulder feel much better and I can work in front of the computer much longer...Dr Neil is very knowledgeable and the staffs are very very friendly!

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    Amanda P.
    4/24/2022
  • Started going too the Ancaster family chiropractic about a month ago with neck and mid to lower back pain. Now I'm having less pain and stiffness through out the week.They also put together a personal plan for the problems I was going through and walk me through how they were going to solve them

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    colin p.
    4/24/2022
  • I've been in Dr Neil's care for a little over a year now. I was sent to him by a referral, a family that had been going to him for years, with nothing but good things to say and much success!I had a terrible fall, which caused me unbearable coccyx pain. Needless to say, once I had a few xrays, we found many problems with my spine. Dr Neil has tackled each of my issues with care, and in priority. I can't believe the difference over the year. I am continuing my journey for better spine/back health, with full confidence and trust in Dr. Neil!

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    Krista H.
    4/17/2022
  • I don't think I ever actually understood what a chiropractor was supposed to do before coming here. I've only just starting coming here, but I'm already noticing a difference! Their initial assessment was so incredibly informative, and every visit since then has only helped me understand my body better.

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    Felicia C.
    4/17/2022
  • Dr. Neil is caring and truly wants to help you get better. I have been completing adjustments for a few months now and have noticed considerable improvement to my posture. My back pain is starting to disappear and I know that the continued treatment will help me get back to normal. Thank you to you and your team :)

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    Vanessa M.
    4/10/2022
  • Honestly, this was the first chiropractor I've been to that insisted on xrays before treatment. And wow, I was glad I had them done, the proof was in the pudding, I myself could see my misalignment. Dr Neil is so absolutely friendly and patient, I walked in there in so much pain and I feel so much better. I referred my partner to the clinic as well, as they've gained my trust

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    Haley M.
    4/10/2022
  • I have been going to see Dr. Neil and his wonderful staff for a couple of months now and I'm starting to see an improvement in my back and neck pain. If you are in need of chiropractic services I would highly recommend Ancaster Family Chiropractic.

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    Mike M.
    4/10/2022
  • I've been attending chiropractic sessions by Dr. Niel and I should say they've been great. My posture hase been improved along with my balance. Dr.Niel has a very professional attitude and spends time with patients to find the root causeof the problemsvand resolving them in order to make a longstanding change. The other team members are also very friendly and helpful and it's been a pleasure dealing with them.

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    Matt E.
    4/10/2022
  • I've been seeing Dr Neil for the past 3 months and my physical rehabilitation has been amazing. My range of motion is 10 times better, I walk more upright now, sporadic pains in various areas of my body have substantially decreased. The clinic staff are super friendly, knowledgeable and professional. I'm very grateful to have found this place 🙂. Keep rocking those super cool dress shirts Neil! Butterfly one is my fav 👌

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    Tarus F.
    4/10/2022
  • I started the chiropractic here with severe pain in my neck and low back area at this center. Now after 4 months of doing weekly adjustments with Dr. Neil, I can observe the great improvement in my body posture and my neck movement. and best part is that I started my routine workout that last time I urged to stop due to my neck pain. I'm so thankful to get to know Dr. Neil and his great and helpful team.i will continue having my regular adjustments so that I will feel as healthy and fit as I can be for the rest of my life!thank you Ancaster Family!

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    Nillie A.
    4/10/2022
  • I have been committed to my treatment plans for just over a year now and I am pleased to say that I have made tremendous progress. Dr. Neil, Deb and Sue are passionate about what they do and it is apparent in their patient care. I am eternally grateful to my friend that referred me. If you are looking for a chiropractor look no further.

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    Malisa C.
    4/10/2022
  • This is my first experience with chiropractic medicine and it has been very, very positive. The now bimonthly adjustments keep me very mobile and comfortable.

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    Gina R.
    4/10/2022
  • Dr. Neil has helped our family from his care. From having daily migraines to no headaches at all!

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    Shane D.
    4/10/2022
  • I have been committed to my treatment plans for just over a year now and I am pleased to say that I have made tremendous progress. Dr. Neil, Deb and Sue are passionate about what they do and it is apparent in their patient care. I am eternally grateful to my friend that referred me. If you are looking for a chiropractor look no further.

    Malisa Chateram Avatar
    Malisa Chateram
    4/07/2022
  • I've been seeing Dr Neil for the past 3 months and my physical rehabilitation has been amazing. My range of motion is 10 times better, I walk more upright now, sporadic pains in various areas of my body have substantially decreased. The clinic staff are super friendly, knowledgeable and professional. I'm very grateful to have found this place 🙂. Keep rocking those super cool dress shirts Neil! Butterfly one is my fav 👌

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    Tarus Fatah
    4/07/2022

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