Gargle to Lower Blood Sugars?
Surely this sounds insane! Yet, if you are chronically stressed, your cortisol levels are going to be detrimentally high. And cortisol raises blood sugars. One of the most effective ways to re-train your body to recover quickly from stress and to remain in a restful state is to stimulate the vagus nerve. That’s where gargling comes in.
Here’s the background on why gargling works. Cortisol is a mobilization hormone. It takes you from a state of being to a state of doing. It is a messenger that tells the liver to convert protein stores to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis – literally the creation of new sugar from a non-carbohydrate source. Cortisol’s primary job is to make sure that quick energy (i.e. blood sugar) is available to the muscles (including heart and lungs) when action is necessary. Should you be startled and need to flee, cortisol insures that you have a fuel source to burn.
You don’t need a spike of cortisol to digest, sleep, or laugh with loved ones. These are performed in a para-sympathetic state – the place of being. But you do need cortisol to meet deadlines at work, handle that family crisis, save your child from a biting dog, and host the dinner party you forgot about. When demands are constant, cortisol never lets down. That means blood sugars remain dangerously high, putting you at risk for diabetes – not because of the pastries you ate but because you can’t relax!
Christopher Bergland wrote for Psychology Today that your vagus nerve is the commander-in-chief when it comes to having grace under pressure. While cortisol revs you up like the gas pedal in an automobile, the vagus nerve does the opposite. It slows you down like the brakes on your car, using neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and GABA to literally lower heart rate, blood pressure, and help your heart and organs slow down.
While there are dozens of ways to stimulate the vagus nerve that I teach, I like gargling because anyone can do it anywhere at anytime – though I don’t recommend right in the middle of staff meeting! If you are being conscientious about hydrating, you can gargle a bit every time you sip from your water bottle.
The muscles that contract the back of the throat are controlled by the vagus nerve. That’s why gargling stimulates it. The more it is stimulated, the greater your ability to stay collected during the storm. And the more stable your blood sugars will be as a result.