Free US Shipping on all orders!




Every physiological system is supported by a strong vagal nerve that connects the brain with the organs.



Sleep and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

Healthy sleep patterns rely on our ability to get into the vagal/parasympathetic state.

Function (How it works)

Why do I need to be in a vagal/parasympathetic state to achieve a deep sleep?

The ability to achieve deep, restful, restorative sleep is dependent on the body’s ability to easily drop into the vagal/parasympathetic state as we wind down our day and lie down to sleep. Only in the vagal/parasympathetic state are we able to rest, repair, and regenerate our body’s tissues.

The vagal/parasympathetic state supports healthy sleep cycles by:

  • increasing levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone that is regulated by the body’s circadian rhythm and produced by the pineal gland in the brain from around sunset until just before sunrise, when it reaches the highest level
  • reducing levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol, which can over-stimulate the body at night when elevated
  • reducing heart rate and blood pressure to normal levels
  • returning the respiratory rate to a smooth, controlled, even level
  • relaxing the musculature so our structure can lie comfortably
  • improving assimilation of nutrients needed to repair body tissues
  • stimulating the liver’s detoxification channels to promote cleanup and recycling of the blood
  • stimulating the kidneys to increase blood filtration necessary for further detoxification and stimulating the bladder to increase urine retention so we won’t have to wake at night to urinate
  • helping the brain transition from wakefulness to the deeper states of sleep, such as REM sleep, in which our learning capabilities are improved while we rest

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

What happens to our sleep patterns if the vagal nerve response is weak?

When we don’t allow ourselves the chance to wind down from the sympathetic dominance of work routines and busy lifestyles, it can be difficult to shut off our brain and nervous system enough to allow sleep to come easily. The sympathetic state — triggered by evening habits such as watching television or looking at computer screens, eating late and going to bed with a full stomach, or engaging in stressful conversations in the hours before bed — prevent us from falling asleep easily or from staying asleep throughout the night.

Additionally, sympathetic dominance:

  • contributes to increased adrenal cortisol hormone output at night, waking us due to its stimulatory effect
  • interrupts the natural circadian rhythm regulated by the pineal gland; causes spikes in cortisol, which overrides melatonin hormone produced by the pineal gland and diminishes melatonin’s ability to support sleep, resulting in insomnia and insufficient REM sleep
  • stimulates the nerves that innervate our musculature, giving us “restless” legs and a general inability to lie still
  • inhibits bile production in the liver, which is a carrier for toxin removal from the body after a night’s rest-and-repair cycles
  • stimulates the kidneys to produce more urine and increase the frequency of urination at night, waking us when we should be sleeping
  • prevents our brains from going through the earlier brain wave stages necessary to achieve REM sleep. Your body cannot fully relax as the brain continues to race with thoughts. Without parasympathetic staging of the deeper sleep cycles, REM sleep cannot be achieved.
  • inhibits immune activities against infections and cancer, which are most vigorously waged during sleep


Creating a nightly routine of sleep-inducing habits supportive of the vagal/parasympathetic state is key to ensuring a good night’s sleep.

To achieve the vagal state, incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as:

  • reducing use of artificial light sources at night
  • eliminating electronics one to two hours prior to bedtime
  • turning off the wi-fi router before sleep
  • gently stretching to soothe tense muscles, and meditating to calm the brain before bed.
  • applying Vagal 2.0 prior to going to bed every night

Making these techniques consistent daily habits can reset the nervous system back into a vagal state conducive to sleep.

Each night before going to bed, the practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and beginning of the skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations to will help shift you into a vagal/parasympathetic state for a good night’s sleep.

Resolving Anxiety with the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

Strengthening the vagal/parasympathetic system is the key to reducing both acute and chronic anxiety.

Function (How it works)

Why is it so challenging to relieve anxiety?

Anxiety is a prolonged fear response. Some fear is necessary for survival, but when the fear becomes chronic, anxiety becomes a chronic and repetitive brain pathway. The physiological mechanisms for fear are hard wired into our nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is called the fight-or-flight system because it’s the first system to turn on when fear occurs.

How does the sympathetic nervous system drive the anxiety response?

Let’s look at all the body systems involved for supporting the experience of fear or anxiety. You’ll see the extraordinary demands on the body and the brain:

  1. The sympathetic system is activated—heart rate and blood pressure increases, breath quickens, muscles are ready to fire and tighten in anticipation, the brain locks down on the danger. These are all symptoms of fear and also anxiety.
  2. The sympathetic response also increases the adrenal output of cortisol and epinephrine, giving our organs and muscles the fuel needed to respond to the stress.
  3. Blood sugar rises with every fear and anxiety response to provide the fuel the body and brain will need in response to the danger.
  4. The brain increases production of the neurotransmitter glutamate, a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter that speeds up brain function and simultaneously reduces GABA levels, which has a sedative effect to balance the glutamate effect. It is this prolonged imbalance that can induce panic attacks.
  5. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the motor neurons (for fighting or fleeing) and inhibits the sensory motor system, effectively reducing pain and feeling>

How does the vagal response relieve anxiety?

Optimally, when the danger or perceived risk is no longer present, we then return to the vagal/parasympathetic state. The vagal response is necessary for the body’s systems to regroup and rebalance after a demanding physiological and psychological event.

Think of the vagal response as the brakes on the sympathetic response, which in turn puts the brakes on anxiety. The sympathetic system is employed in states of fear. The parasympathetic system is triggered by a sense of safety.

The vagal/parasympathetic system is of primary importance to a calm and steady psychological brain balance by:

  • impacting several neurotransmitters—GABA, which calms our panic response, and serotonin, which governs general mood, anger, aggression, and fear responses.
  • allowing us to perceive all facets of our environment through a softened but enhanced peripheral view of our surroundings; this expanded awareness keeps us calm and feeling safe.
  • the ability to recognize others’ facial gestures as open and caring toward us, allowing us to feel more sociable and accepted in community.
  • supporting the body’s detoxification systems to remove toxins that can trigger a sympathetic stress response, inducing anxious thoughts.
  • supporting healthy sleep cycles in which the body fully relaxes under the influence of melatonin hormone.
  • normalizing blood sugar levels; a chronic sympathetic response will increase blood sugar and insulin levels, creating spikes in the brain’s blood sugar levels which destabilizes brain function.
  • promoting a healthy digestive system full of a complementary host of microbes which recent scientific studies indicate are crucial for mental and emotional balance.
  • maintaining calm and regular heart and respiration rates, which are critical for feeling balanced and centered.

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

Why does being sympathetic dominant create a pattern of anxiety?

When we are stuck in a cycle of sympathetic dominance, our body’s alert mechanism for survival remains on high and we can become trapped in a perception that we are not safe. Our brain literally begins to build the circuitry for the pattern of being anxious. It is where neuroplasticity can work against us.

People, places, and situations become interpreted through the lens of fear and what can go wrong. We begin to yearn for predictability and control over our lives. The more control we seek, the more we feel out of control.

Sympathetic dominance, the chronic state of being in a fight-or-flight state, leads to acute and/or chronic anxiety by:

  • producing a hyper-cortisol state in which excessive cortisol, a stress hormone that signals your body it’s time to fight or flee, keeps our perception of stress amplified.
  • causing blood sugar imbalances, which lead to insulin resistance or hypo-glycemia. This then leads to a subsequent lack of fuel to the cells, which leaves the body with two choices: either accept the lack of energy to negotiate the stress, so we become immobilized and unable to rationalize our way out of an anxious thought; or, ask the adrenals to produce more epinephrine and cortisol. Each choice induces an extreme anxiety that has nothing to do with the fear that originally triggered the anxiety.
  • creating a negative neuroplastic pattern of anxiety. Remember, the fear response is already hardwired into our body. Repetitive negative thoughts of an anxious nature become our wiring. The more times we go down that pathway, the more likely we will go down it again and again.


Strengthening the vagal nerve pathway to achieve a vagal state is the first step in healing both acute and chronic anxiety. The parasympathetic/vagal response can only occur when one feels safe. Safety is not simply the absence of danger—it is based on our perception of the world. How does one enhance the feeling of safety? As much as anxiety is a psychological phenomenon, it is equally a physiological one too. Addressing both levels of being are necessary to change the anxiety response. In our clinical experience, it takes a multilevel approach to address the many underlying causes of anxiety.

Here’s your checklist of ways to reduce anxiety, including lifestyle habits that enhance the vagal/parasympathetic state:

  • Eliminate food allergens and heal leaky gut conditions
  • Eliminate sugar
  • Eliminate alcohol and drugs
  • Address toxicity in diet and living environment
  • Address underlying infections and improve immune function
  • Incorporate stress management and adrenal health support
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce screen time
  • Get daily movement and exercise
  • Be conscious of breath; our breathing pattern when anxious is an indicator of the state but also the primary tool for shifting out of it with controlled breathing exercises
  • Increase physical connection with friends and loved ones
  • Support psychological health
  • Observation of breathing patterns; anxiety promotes short constricted breaths. Change your breathing patterns and you will shift away from the anxiety response.
  • Build neuroplasticity to shift out of anxiety state by using Vagal 2.0 and Anxiety Resolve (coming soon) with three intentional inhalations and exhalations

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and beginning of the skull where the brain stem is located while taking three deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations before meals will support the tonifying of this vital neural circuitry. Apply Vagal 2.0 anytime an anxious thought pervades, in times of acute or chronic stress, and just prior to going to bed every night to make the vagal/parasympathetic state your body’s preferred way of being.

Cardiovascular Health and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

A chronic imbalance of the autonomic nervous system resulting from being predominantly in a sympathetic state is a prevalent and potent risk for cardiovascular disease.

Function (How it works)

If cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death, why is a strong vagal response a key to survival?

  • A balanced/active/enhanced vagal system increases vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), which improves blood pressure regulation and decreases demands on the heart.
  • A healthy vagal system is anti-inflammatory, which is an important element of cardiovascular health.
  • Vagal nerve stimulation slows the heart rate. The right side of the vagal nerve innervates the heart’s pacemaker (the sinoatrial node) as it puts on the “vagal brakes” when the heart no longer needs to maintain a high heart rate. Without this restraint provided by the vagal brakes, our hearts would beat fatally fast. By limiting the heart rate, one can return to calmness after a surge in heart rate.
  • The vagal nerve applies this heart-rate brake in a dynamic manner, slowing things down while we exhale, and allowing the heart to beat faster when we inhale. The strength of a person’s overall vagal circuitry can be determined by the difference in heart rate during inhalation (faster—less vagal brake) and exhalation (slower—more vagal brake). The relationship between the vagal nerve and the heart rate is essential to cardiac function.
  • The vagal nerve has an ability to detect safety (“neuroception”), which allows for the parasympathetic state. Safety is not just the absence of danger but also a feeling that promotes connection, ease, and creativity. All these states are important to heart health.

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

Why is being sympathetic dominant a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease?

In sympathetic states, here’s what happens:

  • Blood vessels constrict, increasing blood pressure.
  • Sodium is retained, causing fluid retention, which increases blood pressure.
  • The immune system is depressed, putting the heart at risk for arteriosclerosis from inflammation buildup.
  • The production of growth hormone is inhibited, which slows down regeneration of cardiac tissues.
  • The heart rate goes up, creating a bigger demand on the heart.
  • Systemic inflammation increases when multiple systems are under chronic sympathetic stress, and inflammation is a primary underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.

The vagal system’s importance is foundational to cardiovascular health.


Solutions to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease include:

  • reducing inflammation by improving gut health
  • reducing inflammation by exercise, hydration, sleep and removing food allergies
  • healing chronic infections, especially periodontal
  • increasing essential fatty acid, mineral and CoQ10 sufficiency
  • strengthening the vagal response to reduce systemic inflammation
  • creating safe connections in our hearts and in our lives
  • being predominantly in the parasympathetic state with the practice of using Vagal 2.0 with its signature breath

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and the beginning of skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations followed by slow, long exhalations can increase the body’s capacity to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

Digestion and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

Strengthening the vagal state is the first step in healing any digestive condition.

Function (How it works)

How does a strong vagal nerve response affect your digestion?

The brain speaks and listens to all the players in digestion (mouth, stomach, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and intestines) via the vagal nerve. Digestion begins when the brain communicates to the organs, and the feedback received from the organs back to the brain integrates the functions of the digestive process.

Every step in the digestion process depends on being in the vagal/parasympathetic state.

Digestive function is a cascade of sequential events to break down the food we eat into the nutrients we need to assimilate into our bodies. Nutrients are essential for building strong tissues, producing hormones, creating white blood cells, and supporting all the other metabolic needs of the body. Optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients relies on the optimal functioning of each digestive organ along this cascade of events.

The vagal nerve activates numerous digestive processes:

  • Saliva production to begin the breakdown of our macronutrients
  • Swallowing (people choke when eating in a sympathetic state)
  • Esophageal contractions and sphincter function
  • Production of stomach acid to break down proteins and fibers
  • Stomach churning with its four layers of muscles
  • Small intestine peristalsis and housekeeping wave
  • Pancreas production and secretion of digestive enzymes to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • Liver bile production and gall bladder function
  • Peristalsis of large intestine and control of rectal and anal sphincters
  • Communication to the brain on the status of the microbiome
  • Vitamin B-12 assimilation, caused by the vagal nerve freeing up intrinsic factor
  • Satiety when eating, which cannot be experienced without being in a vagal state
  • Interoception—sense of the internal state of the body–which enables you to experience hunger and satiety

Every digestive organ is wired to the vagal nerve.

None of these functions can occur without a signal from the brain transmitted through the vagal nerve. Every digestive activity depends on a high-quality vagal signal.

Building the habit of activating the vagal nerve while eating improves the health of your gut.

Building the neuroplasticity/neural pattern for accessing the vagal state while eating is the first step in healing any digestive condition. Weak brain/vagal circuitry, caused by stress and inattention to the act of eating, affects your digestive function and leads to any number of disruptive digestion disorders. When your vagal pathway is strong, digestion is coordinated and healthy.

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

What happens to digestion IF the vagal nerve response is weak?

IF the stomach depends on vagal nerve signals to begin the production of gastric acid, IF the pancreas depends on vagal nerve signals to make and release enzymes, and IF the gall bladder depends on vagal nerve signals to release bile for fat emulsification, imagine what happens to food when those actions are dormant—proteins putrefy, fats rancidify, and carbohydrates ferment. Eating even the highest-quality, healthiest foods then becomes a stressful experience.

Vagal nerve activation helps more than a dozen digestive disorders:

  • Acid reflux
  • Constipation
  • SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gall bladder bile sludge
  • Dysbiosis
  • Microbiome imbalance
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Bloating, gas, and belching
  • Leaky gut
  • Food allergies

Here are some examples related to the disorders above:

  • Belching, gas, and bloating are signs digestion is compromised due to low vagal output and a predominant sympathetic state (think stress!). These early warning signs can lead to a number of digestive disorders if not resolved.
  • If you have SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), the vagal signal for the housekeeping wave in the small intestine is not triggered and cleanup of the overgrowth is impaired.
  • If you are constipated, the first consideration is weak peristalsis (muscular contractions to move waste along the large intestine) due to a lack of brain/vagal activation.
  • Food sensitivities most often begin with leaky gut, a condition where the intestinal permeability is altered through stress, infection, and maldigestion. It has been scientifically demonstrated that a primary cause of leaky gut is low vagal strength.


Begin healing digestive conditions by eating well, eating relaxed, eating while present, and taking steps to strengthen the vagal nerve.

Strengthening the vagal nerve circuitry to achieve a vagal state is the first step in healing any digestive condition.

Strategies to restore blood sugar balance include:

  • choosing a well-balanced whole food diet from high quality sources
  • eliminating food sensitivities (especially determining allergies to gluten and dairy)
  • Maintaining hydration to support digestive functions
  • improving digestive health at each step along the digestive cascade and especially maintaining a healthy microbiome in the gut
  • being fully present during meals
  • eating in a vagal/parasympathetic state, enhanced by the use of Vagal 2.0 before each meal

Apply Vagal 2.0 before meals

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and beginning of the skull where the brain stem is located while taking deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations before meals will support the tonifying of this vital neural circuitry. This should occur before every meal. Like building strength in your body’s structure with regular and committed exercise, the effect becomes stronger with each day’s use.

Blood Sugar Regulation and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

The solution to blood sugar regulation is to strengthen the circuits of the parasympathetic/vagal system and to improve the diet.

Function (How it works)

Why does the autonomic nervous system have such a profound effect on blood sugar regulation?

  • The sympathetic response elevates both blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • The parasympathetic/vagal response decreases blood sugar and insulin levels.

Insulin is a hormone signaling cells to take in glucose (blood sugar) into the cell and out of the blood stream.

Glucose is the primary fuel cells use to generate energy. The entire blood stream only needs one teaspoon of glucose to fuel the body’s functions (a sandwich has three times that much sugar).

Blood sugar regulation is monitored and rebalanced by the vagal/parasympathetic system. Our nature is to be in this state for at least 80% of our day. After a sympathetic state has stimulated the adrenals and pancreas to increase blood sugar to meet a stressful challenge, the parasympathetic state then decreases the adrenal and pancreatic output to restore normal levels of blood sugar. If one has developed a pattern of being in a sympathetic state, blood sugar levels will be chronically elevated. It is imperative that the vagal system be supported to restore balance to the autonomic nervous system and blood sugar levels.

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

What happens to blood sugar regulation if the vagal nerve response is weak?

A primary cause of insulin resistance leading to diabetic conditions is a chronic imbalance of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). When we are in a dominant sympathetic state (think stress!) coupled with a low parasympathetic/vagal state, blood sugar imbalances are common.

Why does the sympathetic state raise our blood sugar levels?

When activated, the sympathetic nervous system sends signals to the adrenals and liver to increase glucose, generating increased insulin levels from the pancreas. Insulin’s role is to facilitate moving glucose from the blood into the cells for energy production. If insulin release is over-triggered by a chronic sympathetic pattern of stress, the cells begin to down-regulate insulin receptivity, which means it says NO to insulin’s request to let the glucose in. This increases blood sugar levels, and this is what leads to insulin resistance and diabetic conditions.

The missing piece for rebalancing a pathological blood sugar pattern is to improve the strength of the vagal system. Here is what we have observed as nutritional clinicians for the last 20 years:

  • Nutritionists in practice for many years often see clients who eat a low-glycemic diet yet who are still insulin resistant/hyperglycemic. This is primarily caused by an overdriven sympathetic nervous system. Diabetic conditions benefit from support of the vagal system and may be difficult to treat without addressing sympathetic dominance.
  • Conversely, the stress of having blood sugar out of balance will trigger the sympathetic state. Here is the vicious cycle:
    1. The sympathetic state triggers states of both excess and low blood sugar levels.
    2. The stress of dysregulated blood sugar levels (which the body considers an emergency) triggers the sympathetic nervous system.
    3. With this increased sympathetic response, blood sugar increases.
    4. This cycle goes round and round.

Blood sugar regulation is a foundation of health. When dysregulated, virtually every system of the body is adversely affected.


An important strategy to restoring blood sugar regulation is to strengthen the parasympathetic/vagal system and shift away from sympathetic dominance.

Strategies to restore blood sugar balance include:

  • choosing a low-carb diet (avoiding sugar)
  • giving up snacking
  • Intermittent fasting
  • committing to a regular sleep schedule
  • exercising
  • awareness of when one is in a sympathetic stressed state
  • strengthen vagal response

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and the beginning of skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations followed by slow, long exhalations can increase the body’s capacity to regulate blood sugar levels.

Detoxification and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

Every cell in our body has its own detoxification process/mechanism that begins with the vagal response.

Function (How it works)

Detoxification is one of the ways the body heals itself. It is an internal cleansing process that takes place continuously. In an increasingly toxic living environment in these modern times, it’s important for this cleansing process to continue so toxins don’t build up in body tissues where they can become disruptive. When toxins build up, our function is reduced.

Detoxification systems in our cells have evolved to allow us to come in contact with thousands of toxins every day. This biological alchemy (transforming substance to neutralize toxins that are a danger to us) is a mysterious process that takes place daily—in our sleep, while eating, and at work—in every cell.

Protecting ourselves from toxicity is a primary function of the body and brain. The capacity of the body to deal with toxins is a critical determinant of health and well-being. It’s not just the exposure to toxins that determines our toxicity. Just as important, it is a question of the strength of the detoxification mechanisms in the body.

What is the function of the vagal system in detoxification?

Detoxification is a parasympathetic event. That means for detoxification to be employed in the body, the vagal nerve sends signals to the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, intestines and lungs to detoxify toxins that the body has created or has absorbed from the environment.

Here is a foundational law of detoxification: It only happens when in a vagal state.

Why is the detoxification system of the body so crucial to our health?

Research has shown that our ability to detoxify our internal environments bears a direct relationship to our susceptibility to disease. So, if your daily detoxification mechanisms are weak or overwhelmed, you will be more prone to early aging, heart disease, cancer, and degenerative diseases. Each one of our cells and the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin with their innate detoxification systems protect the brain, nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system, bones, and muscles.

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

What happens to detoxification IF the vagal nerve response is weak?

When we are in a sympathetic state or a stressed state, detoxification mechanisms are turned off. If twins are both raised in a home with leaded paint, the child with the most stress will be most toxic with lead. When stress is on, detoxification is off.

Here are some examples of symptoms related to impaired detoxification:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate, commonly described as “brain fog”
  • Irrational or highly reactive thoughts when you experience anxiety or irritability
  • Slowed musculoskeletal responses, which can show up as reduced reaction time, foot drop or altered gait, poor eye-hand coordination, poor balance, being unable to find your words or finish a sentence
  • Reduced or incomplete immune responses to bacterial or viral infections, allowing the signs of the common cold, flu, or other illness to linger longer than it should
  • Overly strong-smelling concentrated urine
  • Chronic dry cough as the lungs attempt to expel toxins through the airways; chronic sinus congestion as the immune system attempts to trap toxins with mucus to protect tissues
  • Liver spots on the skin, a sign the body is holding onto toxins
  • Poor bile flow from the liver indicated by experiencing nausea when eating fats, and motion sickness, suggesting toxic backup
  • Digestive imbalances such as diarrhea (the body trying to quickly purge a body of toxins) and/or constipation (intestinal tissues overburdened with a buildup of toxins)
  • Recurring skin rashes such as eczema, psoriasis, cystic acne
  • Many more signs which mimic an immune reaction


  • Research the possible toxins in your daily environment (from food, bath, and body care products, home cleaning products, carpets/upholsteries, yard care and fertilizers) and work to eliminate as much toxin exposure as possible.
  • Building a strong vagal response will keep your detoxification mechanisms functioning every day to protect you from toxicity.
  • The practice of using Vagal 2.0 before meals and especially before bed (during sleep we do our predominant detoxification)
  • Detoxification is also a nutrient-dependent process. The liver cannot detoxify without glutathione, taurine, sulfur, folate, B1, B5, B6, B12. And healthy bile needs choline, salt, water, magnesium, and cholesterol. It also needs energy supplied by glucose and fats.

Apply Vagal 2.0 before bedtime

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and beginning of the skull where the brain stem is located while taking deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations befoe bedtime will support tonifying this neural circuitry vital to detoxification. This should occur every night because most of the body’s major detoxification mechanisms are predominately active during sleep. Like building strength in your body’s structure with regular and committed exercise, the effect becomes stronger with each night’s use.

Immune System and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

Our immune system can only work optimally in a vagal state.

Function (How it works)

How does the vagal/parasympathetic system affect our ability to have a strong immune defense from bacteria, fungus, viruses, parasites and cancer?

The immune system’s job is to do two things: surveillance and killing. It is our defense from invaders such as bacteria, fungus, viruses, parasites, toxins, and cancer.

  • The vagal nerve converts the body to a state that allows the immune system to do its work to protect us from pathogens and cancer.
  • A great deal of our immune activity is done during sleep or rest, a time when our body most easily taps into the vagal state. With less metabolic activity going on, there is more energy available to fight the invaders. Being in a vagal/parasympathetic state is also critical when trying to support the immune system in its fight against infections or cancer.
  • When the vagal nerve is stimulated, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which has a profound effect on the gut microbiome and the gut tissue itself. The immune system’s vitality is intricately tied to the gut’s lymphatic tissues and microbial balance, and therefore to the overall health of the gut.
  • Vagal activation reduces inflammation in all organs by releasing acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter which crosses the synapses of all the nerves in the vagal system). In the spleen the immune response becomes even more systemic with a release of additional white blood cells.

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

How does a sympathetic dominant state suppress our ability to have a healthy immune response to bacteria, fungus, viruses, parasites and cancer?

The sympathetic state (think stress!) increases cortisol levels, which depresses the immune system and with it our resistance and resiliency.

  • We have all experienced times when we went to work sick, and the symptoms lessened until we got home. In pushing ourselves to get through the day, we rely on the sympathetic nervous system, which turns off the immune system.
  • When we are sick, the symptoms we feel are not from the virus or bacteria; it is the immune system response that we feel—inflammation, fever, and fatigue.
  • As soon as we drop into our vagal state when we get home and collapse into bed, the immune system can begin doing its work, and then we feel exacerbated symptoms. We need to experience these symptoms to fight off the bugs.
  • When the sympathetic system turns off the immune system, there are no brakes to turn off the replication of the bugs. That is the danger of sympathetic dominance to our immune health.

How is sympathetic dominance associated with cancer?

The sympathetic nervous system inhibits all the immune mechanisms that can protect us from cancer. The average person produces at least 5,000 cancer cells daily. What happens if we spend the whole day in a sympathetic state that turns off our defense mechanisms? We put ourselves at risk.


Whether it is a chronic infection like Epstein-Barr virus, a bacterial sinus infection, or cancer, a foundational step for increasing the strength of the immune system to combat these conditions is building a strong vagal system.

When stress is on, the immune system is off. Critical to a strong immune system is a strong vagal nerve response.

Strategies to support a robust immune response include:

  • addressing our response to our stresses and being aware of when we are in a sympathetic state or vagal state (see Vagal Nerve Education)
  • getting adequate quality sleep
  • Maintaining balanced blood sugar balance to avoid glucose spikes which feed pathogens
  • Avoiding sugar in the diet
  • Eliminating food sensitivities (especially determining allergies to gluten and dairy)
  • improving digestive health and maintaining a healthy microbiome in the gut
  • Daily practices that support being in a parasympathetic state such as the use of Vagal 2.0

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and beginning of the skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations increases the time spent in a parasympathetic state, which greatly supports immune function. Use Vagal 2.0 multiple times a day to increase the neuroplasticity of being in a vagal/parasympathetic state, especially with efforts to combat chronic infections, seasonal viruses, and cancer.

Endocrine and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

The vagal/parasympathetic and sympathetic systems have an immediate and impactful effect on every function of the endocrine nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is always interacting with the endocrine system.

The endocrine system is a chemical messenger system that communicates via hormones (“hormone” is a Greek word for messenger) produced by the glands listed below. The hormones are released into the blood, sending messages to distant “target” cells and trigger specific functions. These are the primary endocrine glands and their functions:

  • Pineal gland makes melatonin which induces sleep.
  • Ovaries and testes are the glands that produce our sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
  • Adrenal glands make the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine as well as additional sex hormones
  • Thyroid gland makes the thyroid hormones T-4 and T-3. Every cell in our body listens to the message of T-3, which says “increase” the metabolism of the cell.
  • Parathyroid hormone tells the bones to free up calcium into the bloodstream and make it available for muscle contraction and nerve impulses as well as many other functions in the body.
  • Pancreas produces two hormones that increase or decrease the glucose levels in the blood. The pancreas helps modulate a balance of blood sugar in the blood.

The vagal/parasympathetic system and the sympathetic nervous system have an immediate and impactful effect on every function of the endocrine nervous system.


An autonomic nervous system imbalance, caused by sympathetic dominance, has negative consequences to endocrine balance.

Here are some important examples of how the vagal nerve supports balance in the endocrine nervous system:

Pineal Gland

Production and release of melatonin from the pineal gland can only happen in a vagal/parasympathetic state. For deep sleep, a “vagal state” is necessary.


Sympathetic nervous system dominance increases adrenal cortisol hormone output. Excess cortisol elevations at night override melatonin hormone from the pineal gland, diminishing melatonin’s sleep effects. The impacts include insomnia, insufficient REM sleep, and not feeling fully rested or awake in the morning.

Ovaries and Testes

Production of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone by the ovaries and testes is done primarily in a parasympathetic state.


Sympathetic dominance will especially diminish progesterone and testosterone production, potentially contributing to issues like premenstrual syndrome, low libido, erectile dysfunction, and fertility issues.

Adrenal Glands

The adrenals are stimulated in a sympathetic state and calmed when in a vagal/parasympathetic state. The adrenals increase blood sugar levels to supply the energy needed for the brain and the body to address the stressful event that triggered the sympathetic response. After that energy is provided, the body is designed to return to a vagal state.


The sympathetic state triggers an increase of adrenal cortisol and epinephrine and a reduction in the adrenal’s production of sex hormones. This is why stress can have such a devastating effect on sex hormone balance. When we are in a chronic state of stress, the adrenals will always devote its energy and materials on providing stress hormones rather than sex hormones.

Thyroid Gland

The thyroid receives signals from both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When in a sympathetic state, the thyroid increases secretion of thyroid hormone to support the need for increased metabolism. In a parasympathetic/vagal state, the thyroid devotes its energy to making Thyroxine (T-4), the inactive form of thyroid hormone. In the liver, T-4 is converted into T-3, the active form of thyroid hormone that sends messages to the cells.


The sympathetic response increases demand on the thyroid and can exhaust its resources. One of the signs of being in sympathetic state is sweating (palms, armpits, scalp), which is the thyroid in full response. Long-term sympathetic states can create hypothyroidism.

Parathyroid Gland

The sympathetic nervous system increases the production of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which sends a signal to the cells to break down bone to release calcium into the blood for muscle contractions and nerve impulses. Without this calcium supplied by the message from PTH, everything comes to grinding halt. The parasympathetic state slows down the parathyroid release of PTH and allows for bones to regenerate.


When we are sympathetic dominant, the prolonged release of PTH means the bones are chronically being degraded to meet the demands of muscles, nerves, and structures that need calcium. Regeneration of bones, facilitated by the parasympathetic/vagal state, falls behind, thereby weakening bones.


When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the pancreas increases the production and release of insulin. The role of insulin is to facilitate glucose entry into the cell for the energy needed to meet the current demands of the cell. It is important to understand that the sympathetic response is always to raise blood sugar.


Sympathetic dominance considerably increases the pancreas’ production of insulin to excessive levels, leading to insulin resistance, the condition that provokes Type 2 diabetes.

The best analogy for endocrine balance is to view the endocrine glands and their hormones like an orchestra. They need to play in a coordinated rhythm together to make music. When the brain and body are sympathetic dominant, the effect is discord, like the sound of an orchestra tuning up before a performance.


All the above endocrine system functions require an increase in vagal tone—a stronger vagal nerve connection—to support sleep, sex and fertility, stress management, metabolism, bone health and blood sugar regulation.


When the circadian rhythms established by melatonin are disrupted by excess cortisol created by sympathetic dominance, When the circadian rhythms promoted by melatonin from the pineal gland are disrupted by excess cortisol created by sympathetic dominance:

  • testosterone and progesterone are diminished
  • the thyroid and adrenal glands become exhausted
  • the bones and tissues of the body fall behind in regeneration
  • blood sugar dysregulates


Learning to recognize when we are in a sympathetic state (see Autonomic Nervous System) and using techniques to strengthen the vagal nerve system are the strategies for balancing the endocrine system.

The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and the beginning of skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations followed by slow, long exhalations can increase the body’s capacity to maintain a healthy balance of the sympathetic and vagal/parasympathetic systems, critical to keeping the endocrine system balanced.

Kidney and Bladder and the Vagal Response

Key Concept:

The vagal nerve and activation of the vagal/parasympathetic state is vital for optimal urinary elimination patterns.

Function (How it works)

How does a strong vagal response support kidney and bladder function?

Being in a parasympathetic state optimizes kidney filtration functions and supports healthy bladder control.

Vagal nerve activation:

  • reduces elevated glucose levels that can damage the kidneys in insulin resistance and diabetic conditions
  • encourages vasodilation, which increases blood flow and enhances blood filtration through the kidneys
  • helps the body to excrete sodium, which can help reduce hypertension
  • stimulates the bladder to promote urinary retention, which results in less frequent urination
  • Internal sphincter muscles of the bladder relax while the bladder wall muscles contract, allowing urination

Dysfunction (When it does not work)

One of the symptoms of being in a sympathetic state is the need to urinate more frequently.

To summarize, it’s the parasympathetic state which encourages urine filtration and also bladder retention – meaning we can produce urine but hold it longer. When we do urinate, the parasympathetic state signals contraction of the bladder muscles and relaxation of the sphincter (a ring of muscle serving to guard or close an opening or tube, such as the anus or bladder) so we may fully void the bladder. When the sympathetic state is dominant, bladder retention is diminished which causes more frequent urination of less volume.

Being in a sympathetic state slows down the kidney/bladder detoxification and specific excretion and secretion functions.

The sympathetic state:

  • increases glucose levels by increasing retention of glucose
  • increases blood pressure
  • Increases sodium retention
  • depletes calcium and magnesium
  • increases the need to urinate (and sometimes also makes it difficult to void fully)
  • disrupts electrolyte levels in the blood
  • decreases immune defense against bacteria and fungus in the kidney and bladder
  • increases dehydration
  • Solutions

    A strong vagal/parasympathetic response supports the kidneys and bladder for all of their functions.

    Hydration is the foremost consideration when thinking of kidney and bladder health. However, good vagal tone is vital for our ability to stay hydrated. Being in a sympathetic state slows down the kidney/bladder detoxification and specific excretion and secretion functions. The epidemic of kidney and bladder infections can be linked to sympathetic inhibition of the immune system. Strengthening the vagal system is crucial to kidney and bladder health.

    Strategies to support healthy kidney and bladder functions include:

    • drink pure clean water throughout the day
    • avoid sugar in the diet which puts additional stress on the kidneys and can promote urinary infections
    • avoid alcohol, excess caffeine, artificial sweeteners and NSAIDS
    • provide important kidney supporting nutrients in the diet such as Vit. A, folate, a balance of minerals
    • detoxification of heavy metals and other toxins from the body
    • consider reducing oxalates in the diet if necessary (dark leafy greens)
    • strengthen the vagal response by applying Vagal 2.0 daily

    The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and the beginning of skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations can support efforts to normalize blood pressure, improve kidney health, and increase bladder control. The use of Vagal 2.0 and the practice of shifting into a vagal/parasympathetic state supports the healing of urinary issues.

    Sex and Fertility and the Vagal Response

    Key Concept:

    An optimally healthy reproductive system relies on vagal nerve activation of the sex organs.

    Function (How it works)

    What does the vagal nerve have to do with sex and fertility?

    The ability to enjoy a healthy sex life and set the stage for optimal fertility requires a nervous system that is predominantly in the vagal/parasympathetic state.
    The vagal/parasympathetic state supports healthy sex and fertility by:

    • triggering sexual arousal. It is a parasympathetic event!
    • achieving orgasm requires parasympathetic/vagal activity to get the body stimulated and the sex organs prepared for orgasm (interestingly, orgasm is a sympathetic event)
    • reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety (think less stress!) to create relaxation and encouragement of a more active sex life— studies have shown that couples are 40 percent more likely to conceive while on vacation when both partners are predominantly in a vagal state
    • elevating oxytocin hormone, which plays a role in social bonding, reproduction, childbirth, and post-partum emotional health
    • supporting female sex organs, which require parasympathetic/vagal nerve activation to vasodilate/swell female genital tissues, leading to heightened arousal
    • supporting male sex organs, which require parasympathetic/vagal nerve activation for vasodilation of the penis, leading to heightened arousal and necessary for erection

    Dysfunction (When it does not work)

    What happens to our sex hormones if the vagal nerve response is weak?

    • The sympathetic state overstimulates the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones for fight or flight (cortisol and adrenaline), which is not conducive to having sex if your body feels like you have to flee the scene. Too much sympathetic activity (think stress!) inhibits social connectivity and sexual arousal.
    • The sympathetic state means men are unable to get an erection, and women won’t experience clitoral/vaginal swelling, both of which light up the nervous system and tell the brain “this feels good.” This lack of arousal makes it more difficult to get excited about sex.
    • An excess of stress hormones leads to a depletion in nutrients required to make sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), creating an imbalance in the hormones needed for a healthy sex life and for fertility. Decreased libido is a sure sign of imbalanced sex hormones.
    • Known as the pregnancy hormone, progesterone is an important hormone released at ovulation and throughout the second half of the menstrual cycle to prepare the uterine lining for a fertilized egg to implant. If there’s no implantation, menstruation occurs and the cycle starts over. In pregnancy, progesterone is secreted during the entire first trimester to support thickening the uterine lining to nourish the developing fetus. Low levels of progesterone as a result of sympathetic dominance are noted in cases of infertility and miscarriage.

    In a sympathetic state, When Stress Is On, Sex Is Off.


    Identifying and acknowledging life stressors and using stress-reduction techniques as a daily practice helps us fully activate the vagal state needed for an optimally healthy reproductive system.

    Strategies to support the vagal/parasympathetic state necessary for sex and fertility include:

    • getting adequate sleep
    • getting daily exercise
    • Improving circulation through movement
    • Incorporating support tools and techniques for adrenal health
    • ensuring sex hormone sufficiency
    • long slow breaths
    • applying Vagal 2.0 prior to intimacy to promote the vagal state

    The practice of applying Vagal 2.0 at the top of the neck and the beginning of the skull where the brain stem resides while taking three deep inhalations and slow, long exhalations can support healthy sex and fertility. Application immediately before physical intimacy combined with breathing together will enhance vasodilation of sexual organs, arousal, intimacy, and fertility.

    Make up your new mind by building new brain pathways