In a recent article titled ‘Can oil pulling help heal leaky gut’, we put more pieces to the puzzle in place regarding the central role that oral health plays in the health of the whole being.
Thank you to everyone who echoed back to us that you would like to hear about other mouth related strategies that help heal leaky gut. Truly, hearing from you that you appreciate our insights and ponderings really helps us direct our study and focus toward subjects you find valuable.
Like we discussed in the first article on this subject, it can seem strange to consider a direct connection between the mouth and other seemingly unrelated areas and organ systems in the body. However, once we set aside our mechanistic, over-compartmentalizing view of the body, we can see how what seemed unrelated is actually very connected.
The good news is modern research in functional medicine is rapidly confirming what ancient medical traditions from China and India recognized literally thousands of years ago…
The body is one system
Yes, modern medicine is amazing at urgent care. However, going to a hospital is perhaps the last place on earth that a relatively healthy person would think of going to find tools and strategies to reach greater health/wellness.
Thankfully, the field of functional medicine is bringing the modern understanding of the many systems of the human body under one big umbrella point of view. Like our friend, Dr Brandon Brock, who is a functional neurologist, functional medical practitioners keep a very broad view and are constantly seeking the seemingly unrelated connections between the many systems of the body, all within the modern medical paradigm.
One of the fundamental points of focus of functional medicine is intestinal permeability, what is commonly called leaky gut.
Leaky gut isn’t a disease in the formal sense of the word. It’s a root cause for disease. Leaky gut occurs when the barrier between the inside of our bodies and the ‘outside world’ is consistently compromised, allowing foreign ‘stuff’ (that’s the technical word) to enter our bloodstream.
Having foreign matter like bacteria, fungi, parasites and incompletely digested food particles in the bloodstream puts the immune system on red alert. After all, none of this ‘stuff’ is supposed to be in the bloodstream so the immune system rings the alarm.
(To read more about a simple technique to help determine if a particular food causes your system to ring the immune alarm, check out our article ‘How to Find the Healthiest Diet for YOU’)
It’s all about communication…
In the first article, we detailed how one of the causes of leaky gut is a poor communication between the brain and the enteric nervous system (essentially a second brain in our bellies). These two brains are connected via a wandering pathway called the vagus nerve.
One of the strategies functional medicine uses to restore gut health and heal leaky gut is to stimulate the vagus nerve.
So the game becomes finding strategies how we can wake up the massive communication highway the vagus nerve is for the whole body.
Interestingly, this brings us to… the mouth.
How to stimulate the vagus nerve by activating the throat
One of the easiest ways to stimulate the vagus nerve is at the throat. Here are three actions we can take to wake up a sleepy vagus nerve and help heal leaky gut.
1. Oil pulling
Like our first article posed, oil pulling using the musculature of the throat, we can help stimulate and wake up a sleepy vagus nerve.
However, an important distinction needs to be made. If we’re lazy with our oil pulling and ‘just’ swish oil around our mouths, primarily through our front teeth, this action isn’t going to activate the vagus like we want. We have to swish the oil more vigorously and use the muscles of the throat to activate the vagus.
Dr Datis Kharrazian states in his amazing book, Why isn’t my brain working?, that gargling until we shed tears is the level of activation necessary to effectively stimulate the vagus nerve. So, get your workout clothes on and supercharge your oil pulling to support a healthier gut.
You know when you are cleaning your tongue and you go ‘just’ too far and feel like you are going to provoke a vomit response? Well, there’s a silver lining for this feeling… It stimulates the vagus nerve!
Yep, while vomiting regularly has its obvious very unhealthy results, researchers have found that just provoking the gag reflex stimulates and helps wake up a sleepy vagus nerve. Since we all clean our tongues 1-2 times each day, might as well ramp up your vagal connection and get the very back of your tongue clean too!
(P.S.: here’s the best strategy we have found to cure bad breath and clean the tongue)
Ok, this one definitely is more fun than the gagging option!
The game for singing to effectively stimulate the vagus nerve is you’ve got to sing LOUD!
Belt it out and vibrate your vocal chords! While this may be painful for others in your life, just let them know that it’s helping you heal your leaky gut and maintain optimal digestive health.
Better yet, make it a group activity and sing songs that feel good and have healthy/happy lyrics.
To help keep this on the positive side, here are some of the favorites around our home we use to exercise our vagal connection.
(For that matter, anything from India Arie is beautiful and feels SO good to sing. Her lyrics bring joy and love into the world and we encourage you to check out her amazing work.)
So there you go, 3 simple actions each of us can apply that help heal leaky gut. We hope these strategies not only help keep your belly healthy but also help bring more joy and love into your day.
Helpful, Related Resources:
Can oil pulling help heal leaky gut? [article]
What is oil pulling? [article]
The connection between gum disease, mercury and Alzheimer’s [expert interview]
How to find the Healthiest diet for YOU [article]
Why isn’t my brain working? [brain health book]
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath in 30 Seconds [article and video]
The most awesome songs! [India Arie playlist on youtube]