Vagus nerve and ADHD: VNS, the daith piercing and more

In our community, more and more questions arise about Vagus Nerve Stimulation (NVS) and the Daith Piercing as an (alternative) treatment for ADHD and high sensitivity. 

Here you will find everything about the vagus nerve: What is the vagus nerve, where can you find this nerve, and how does it affect our health? What is the connection between the vagus nerve and ADHD and HSP, and what treatments are available? Is a Daith Piercing safe and effective? 

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest of our 12 cranial nerves in our body; it runs all the way from the brain stem to part of the colon. This nerve is responsible for several internal organ functions, including digestion, our heartbeat, our breathing, cardiovascular activity, and reflex actions such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting. The vagus nerve – when it does its job – calms our nervous system, among other things. Not only does this nerve help lower our resting heart rate, but it also allows food to move through our intestinal tract. In addition, the vagus nerve has a lot of other functions in the body. If this nerve is not working properly, problems arise (Healhline , 2022).

Book tip: Activate your vagus nerve

In Activate your vagus nerve, written by Navaz Habib, you can read all about how you can exercise your vagus nerve to take control over your health. You'll learn simple yet powerful techniques to address a variety of health challenges such as inflammation, gut sensitivity and brain fog, something that occurs regularly in people with ADHD or the HSP. Author Dr. Navaz Habib lays out easy-to-follow daily and weekly routines to help on the path to healing.

Stress: the vagus nerve calms our nervous system

Everyone experiences stress from time to time and when this happens, our stress system is activated so that we are ready to fight or flight. When the ‘instigator of our stress', or the (apparent) danger has disappeared, we can relax again. The vagus nerve is responsible for calming our stress system, says Kelly Jutting-Schleenstein.

Kelly is co-founder of the NVS clinic in the Netherlands and is treating people with ADHD or HSP. She explains how the vagus nerve affects our body when it comes to stress. She herself came into contact with vagus nerve stimulation when she ended up at a clinic in London with severe migraines.

When the vagus nerve is not functioning properly, our body is more often active than at rest. This has many consequences for our health. Many syndromes, physical and mental disorders, are the result of this or are exacerbated if the vagus nerve is not active enough.

– Kelly Jutting-Schleenstein

Problems with the vagus nerve

If you have suffered damage to the vagus nerve, several symptoms can occur in addition to stress. Think of:

  • Difficulty speaking and swallowing
  • loss or change of voice
  • low blood pressure
  • high sensitivity
  • chronic inflammation
  • slow heart rate
  • nausea or vomiting
  • changes in the digestive process
  • stomach ache
  • headache
  • depression and anxiety (Healthline).

Some of these symptoms have a close relation to ADHD and High Sensitivity.

Video about the vagus nerve

Watch this short video about the vagus nerve. This shows that stress, anxiety, alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise and sleep and a lack of the right nutrition can cause this nerve to not work properly. If the vagus nerve is not working properly, we are prone to a list of conditions including depression, anxiety, hypersensitivity, chronic inflammation, kidney dysfunction and infertility, as is said in the video.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation) is a treatment to relieve symptoms of various disorders, such as migraine, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, ADHD and hypersensitivity. This stimulation is possible in various ways: via a device in the body that uses electrical impulses to stimulate the nerve, but recently also via a piercing; the daith piercing.

In the Netherlands, vagus nerve stimulation is mainly used to treat epilepsy, for example at the UMC Utrecht.

With vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), we place an electrode around the left vagus nerve. If we artificially stimulate the vagus nerve with an electrical current, signals travel through this nerve to the brain. These signals suppress the seizures in the brain.

UMC Utrecht

But abroad, several studies have been done on Vagus Nerve Stimulation in children and adults with ADHD. In recent decades, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve using implanted devices (VNS) has been developed in America, leading to FDA approval for the treatment of epilepsy and depression.

daith piercing adhd vagus nerve

Daith piercing to stimulate the vagus nerve

A new and perhaps innovative treatment to stimulate the vagus nerve is the Daith Piercing. In this method, the vagus nerve is stimulated by means of a piercing on a specific place on the ear.

This method was accidentally discovered in piercing practices, but more and more people are experiencing the benefits of this form of vagus nerve stimulation. Often the obvious association is made with acupuncture, but the Daith Piercing providers indicate that stimulation of the vagus nerve specifically provides the health improvements (VNS Daith Piercing). Is this a new way to manage ADHD symptoms?

Daith piercing: quackery or promising method?

The effectiveness of this method in people with ADHD or HSP has not yet been demonstrated, there is only anecdotal evidence of positive effects in migraine. The Dutch Association against Quackery wrote an article about this, in which they indicate that no research has been done into this method. “By the way, such an intervention is not completely risk-free, there is a certain chance of infections.” and “Evidence is lacking”, writes Broer Scholtens (Association against the Qualification, 2021).

I myself always find it interesting how such a new, alternative method is approached: ‘it has not yet been proven, so it is quackery', is the reasoning. Indeed, no (large-scale) research has been done into this method yet, but this topic was discussed in the Wandering Minds Community and a number of members (with ADD, ADHD or HSP) described positive results. This may be due to the placebo effect, but there is also a chance that it is an effective method. I always find it important to remain open to new, surprising methods and insights. That's why I'm always curious about people's experiences. Science is very valuable, but there are also many methods, insights and techniques that have not (yet) been scientifically proven, but are very valuable for many people.

adhd and vagus nerve VNS

The Dutch NVS clinic I was in contact with indicated that they did not want to write a guest article with a link for Wandering Minds. They are fully booked for the next 6 months, through word of mouth, and they don't like to disappoint people. Placebo or not; the method seems to be doing something positive with so many requests that only come from word of mouth.

It would of course be fantastic if such a relatively ‘simple' intervention would have such a special effect on children and adults with high sensitivity and AD(H)D. The risks seem small, you can also get an infection with a ‘normal' piercing. We are therefore curious about any further research. The question is, who would want to implement and/or finance this.

Experiences with the Daith Piercing and Vagus Nerve Stimulation

We're genuinely intrigued by the stories of those who've undergone a Daith Piercing or have had experience with Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Did it make a difference for you? Did it bring relief or transformation?

We invite you to share your experiences with us, right here in the comments section beneath this article. However, if you'd prefer to keep your story private, please don't hesitate to reach out to us through our contact form. We can post your experience anonymously. Your insights could be a source of inspiration for others seeking answers and solutions.

Natural Ways to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

If you want to balance your vagus nerve, to manage symptoms of ADHD or HSP, the Daith Piercing is not the only option. We can also stimulate the vagus nerve in other ways. Several simple activities can activate the vagus nerve, Art of Living states, namely:

  • breathing exercises, pranayama, meditation
  • sport and movement
  • yoga
  • omega-3
  • a diet rich in probiotics
  • sing, chant
  • cold water
  • laugh
  • cuddle
  • massages (Art of Living).

Natural and simple ways to stimulate the vagus nerve

A 2017 study of natural ways to stimulate the vagus nerve found that there are three main categories within which you can positively influence the nerve: diet, stress reduction and exercise (Yuen & Sander, 2017). The Wim Hof ​​Method (WHM) is also based on natural stimulation of the vagus nerve, by means of cold, deep breathing, meditation and singing (Wim Hof). In the book Activate your vagus nerve, you can read all about the role of the vagus nerve in stress and anxiety, and what you can do to stimulate the NV.

This information all indicates how important lifestyle is for our (mental and physical) health.

Experiences with Vagus Nerve Stimulation

The experience below was shared in the Dutch Wandering Minds Community.

My daughter, age 15, has ADD. She had a lot of anxiety in her head. I myself came into contact with the NVS clinic in Eindhoven because of my migraine. Especially for migraine patients, they put medical piercings in the cartilage in the ear through your Vagus nerve; a nerve ending. This nerve controls so much in your body that it applies to various complaints. This is determined very precisely and to the mm. I heard it can help for ADD/ADHD too. So my daughter goes there too. They work for the correct determination with an acupuncture needle. The moment they placed the needle on the right, she immediately experienced an enormous peace. Then she went to test the left. So the moment the right left again, she immediately indicated; CHAOS! She has had the piercing for about 3 weeks now, and we see how she has calmed down, how she regains her focus at school, how she gets enough. I am so grateful that this came our way that I wanted to share the story. Even if I only help 1 person.

We are very curious about the experiences of others. Sharing = caring: please share your experience in the comments below.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Studies

At the time of writing, only small-scale studies have been conducted on vagus nerve stimulation and other forms of neurostimulation such as stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. More research is needed, but several methods have been approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) because the treatments are safe and the benefits outweigh the harms. Read more:

Or watch this doctor's video on Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (also very interesting):

Summary: more research into vagus nerve stimulation necessary

VNS is a relatively new method that is mainly used (worldwide) for migraine, epilepsy and depression. But there seems to be increasing evidence that the vagus nerve may play a role in ADHD, ADD and high sensitivity. You can stimulate your vagus nerve with a healthy lifestyle, or with a treatment. We like to stay informed of developments and we are very curious about your experience; sharing is allowed under this article.

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