Are you looking for ways to improve your mental and digestive health?
This episode of me&my health-up hones in on a new area of science that can significantly improve your mental and digestive health. Our guest Samuel Minkin is an expert in vagus nerve therapy and shares his knowledge and experience on this relatively new innovative approach. Sam provides insights on what you can do at home to help manage anxiety, digestive disorders - constipation, diarrhea, IBS, bloating, reflux. He shares some of his client success stories on chronic pain management, and sleep disorders.
About Samuel Minkin
Samuel's passion began as an exercise specialist in 2012 moving into sports medicine where he worked with a large variety of elite sporting athletes. Years of clinical experience treating countless conditions has given him the ability to fully address his patient’s issues. He has been running his practice specializing in Musculoskeletal Therapy for a number of years and takes a holistic approach to assessing and treating every presenting issue thoroughly and effectively. Recently Samuel has returned from the World Table Tennis Championship where he was the Myotherapist for the World's best athletes, working with an array of different Olympians. Currently he has a Commonwealth Games swimmer and the Singapore Women's doubles table tennis team. A lot of the time when people present with issues and there is no direct mechanism of injury it can be brought back to the spine and its interaction on neurovascular and neuromuscular structures.
Musculoskeletal Therapy is a comprehensive field of assessment and treatment which is more concerned with root causes to presenting issues. Samuel is also one of very few practitioners who uses non-invasive transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation, a modern medicine technique which sees him commonly treating depression, anxiety, neuroplasticity, inflammatory disorders, irregular heartbeats, memory, PTSD, reflux and much more.
Connect with Samuel Minkin
About me&my Health Up & Host
me&my Health Up seeks to enhance and enlighten the wellbeing of others. Host Anthony Hartcher is the CEO of me&my wellness which provides holistic health solutions using food is medicine, combined with a holistic, balanced, lifestyle approach. Anthony holds three bachelor's degrees in Complementary Medicine; Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine; and Chemical Engineering.
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Any information, advice, opinions or statements within it do not constitute medical, health care or other professional advice, and are provided for general information purposes only. All care is taken in the preparation of the information in this Podcast. [Connected Wellness Pty Ltd] operating under the brand of “me&my health up”..click here for more
Welcome back to another insightful episode of me and my health up. I'm your host Anthony Hartcher. I'm a clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialist. The purpose of this podcast is to enhance and enlighten your well being. And today back on the show, we have Samuel Minkin. So Samuel has been on two prior episodes, which was on the vagus nerve for digestive and mental health. And then subsequently, he was on with the photo bio modulation, also known as light therapy or laser therapy. And we spoke about the benefits of using that and when you should use it. And today, we have Sam back for the trilogy to talk about Vagus Nerve Stimulation part two. And this is a pragmatic episode, it is essentially teaching you all about the vagus nerve, how you can look after it, what you can do around exercises for it, and how you can support it on a daily basis. It's exciting. There's lots of tips and tricks. So if you're looking to improve that digestive health or improve your mental health, and this is the episode for you. Now a little bit about Sam, Sam is one of the few very few practitioners who uses a non evasive Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation. That is a mouthful. It is a modern medicine technique which sees him commonly treating depression, anxiety, neuroplasticity, inflammatory disorders, irregular heartbeats, memory, PTSD, reflux, and much more. Sam is one of the few very few experts in the field to be trained in photo bio modulation. This is an exciting field of modern medicine to which can regenerate tissue. This laser can also be used on the brain to treat various moods and traumatic brain injuries. Laser has a profound impact on pain and recovery time. And it's also been utilized by the US a Lymphic team. So who else is better to talk about vagus nerve support other than Samuel Minkin? So welcome back on the show, Samuel Minkin.SAMUEL MINKIN:
Yeah, really good. Good to be back on the show. Again, really excited for today's talk.Anthony Hartcher:
Yeah, the trilogy. So we did a prior talk on the vagus nerve, which was essentially part one, obviously, you've got lots to share in terms of the update since that episode, because for memory, it was probably the beginning of last year, it was quite some time ago, we did that episode. So obviously, a lot transpired in terms of, you know, new research coming out, you're keeping up to date with new research. So really keen for you to share that with the listeners today and get you know, the latest insight in terms of the vagus nerve and the importance it has in terms of our Physiological Behavior and our well being, and also keen, you know, for the listeners that may have missed that episode a months ago for you to share how you've arrived at your profession as a muscular skeletal therapist.SAMUEL MINKIN:
All right, well, so I first arrived at becoming a muscular scope therapists while I was working in sports medicine, working with different sporting teams attending to different injuries. And a friend of mine actually hurt his back. And I noticed a rapid decline in his mental health as well from when he hurt his back, he become quite isolated, he didn't want to leave the house and it was outside the pain as well. It completely changed his personality. And when I started the degree, we learned about, you know, the physical issues with pain and all the musculoskeletal stuff. But the degree went more in depth and talked about how pain particularly chronic pain can develop into depression. And that depression actually increases the person's pain than that person's pain increases their depression, and it's quite a nasty spiral. And the way we were taught how this affects it is the brain that there's morphological changes that occur in the brain. When people are going through chronic pain. And those different changes in the brain. Usually it's involving the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain that's actually there in the brain that processes pain as well. And it gets larger, it gets bigger due to the chronic pain, vagus nerve stimulation is something that we can use to directly target things like the amygdala in different regions of the brain. So for instance, if someone's kind of either chronic pain and they've got depression, have got to help with their depression as well. It's no longer simple task of some acute injury or acute pain. The brain has changed the way to perceiving the pain. It's got different triggers, and vagus nerve stimulation is one of the best ways to address that. And it's not invasive. So that's sort of how I came into this face nerve realm. In regards to musculoskeletal therapy. It just made sense.Anthony Hartcher:
And in terms of the vagus nerve, some of the listeners as you know that missed the earlier episode wouldn't be really familiar with what is the vagus nerve? What role does it play within our physiological well being? And yeah, if you could just share that insight to bring them up to speed, that'd be great.SAMUEL MINKIN:
All right, well, so the vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve, and it actually comes off the brainstem. And you've got two vagus nerves, a left vagus nerve and a right vagus nerve. And they're coming up the brainstem and the coming all the way down. And they're supplying areas involved in speech. They're supplying, you know, the heart setting, the rhythm of the heart is fine. The stomach is setting, or regulating stomach acid regulation, and supply things like gallbladder, the intestines, it pretty much supplies nearly all of your organs, and it links your organs to your brain. So your brain knows what's going on down here. But funnily enough, it also informs the brain on different levels of neurotransmitters, which is something that's sort of come about in the last few years. And that has a huge role to play in regards to improving brain regions to improve hormone regulation. So all this vagus nerve is is it's a nerve that's linking your brain to all your organs and back, and it it gets turned off by stress. It really is the parasympathetic nervous system, and things like stress really suppress it. Other things can be like a gut infection, things like food poisoning, but some of the more recent things I'm starting to see is issues with neck instability. So people having neck instability, or maybe they've got a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which basically means that they've got hypermobile joints throughout their body. And this neck instability in this head forward posture, it compresses the vagus nerve physically, and a lot of these people with these vagus nerve problems, now they're coming in, and they're saying I've got reflux, or maybe they've got issues with they've got leaky gut, you know, the vagus nerve actually regulate gut permeability. It also regulates the biodiversity of the microbiome in the gut. So it's sensory 89%, of the vagus, and has sensory sensing things like how much stomach acid do I have? Do I need to pass a stool or have I passed to me still today, it really sets the rhythm of peristalsis. And it's really important. And if you think of all the symptoms of stress, they're literally dysfunctions of the vagus nerve. Now, I suppose to list off some symptoms of stress, I'd say anxiety, I would say people get reflux when they're stressed, I'd say if some people, they get like constipated, and they're stressed, they get diarrhea, like irregular heart rhythms, you know, their difficulty with their working memory, you know, they can be quite flustered. They're sort of like, you know, they're looking for something or they walk into a room and they forget why they've been walked into the room, they've got this, this issue, and they start to think like, oh, wait, what's going on, they sort of some of these people feel like they're quite literally falling apart. You know, they, they can't perform tasks, the more they've got quite a substantial amount of brain fog. You know, brain fog is sort of feeling quite things are quite challenging, simple tasks, you feel like you're sort of behind this hazy mirror, and you're unable to like think clearly. And we know that that comes back to brain inflammation or neuro inflammation. But again, all these symptoms, they're all regulated and roles of the vagus nerve, and all stress is is vagus nerve inhibition. Well, all the symptoms of stress are directly correlated to the vagus nerve. So I think it's really important because there's a lot of people who know that different stress stresses in their life, financial stresses, relationship stresses. And because we're so busy in the way we are, we can often forget that these things are happening. And we've had all these, you know, maybe we've had a bit of bloating and had some reflux for a few months. In the next it's a year and we don't even know how we got to this end stage, where we're in a bit of a crisis that we really need to seek professional help.Anthony Hartcher:
And like, obviously, you mentioned some key symptoms and signs for people to watch out for, you know, in terms of, maybe they have some vagal tone down regulation or not as active vagal tone. Is there a specific test that you can actually do to test the vagus nerve tone or its ability to operate as it should?SAMUEL MINKIN:
Yeah. So there are a few key roles of the vagus nerve that are things that you can test. And I wouldn't use them in isolation. I'll probably use a couple of them together just so you get a bit of a clearer picture. For instance, the gag reflex so the gag reflex is controlled by the vagus nerve. So people they may have a low gag reflex, they may not even have a gag reflex. And you've got to test both sides of the throat because you've been left vague similar right vagus nerve, you might find that when you get like a tongue depressor. Or maybe you don't have that you just got a pen, just touching the back of your throat, you may go like, Oh, that's, that's quite gaggy. And then you touch the other side, and you go, yes, that's not as responsive. And ideally, there should be equal. Now if you're identifying that one sides, you know, a bit more guarded than the other, or, you know, or vice versa, that can be relevant. Now, other issues pertained to the UV lights, the dangly thing in your throat. So when you go, ah, and it's lifting up, I can't see that the moment that when you look in the mirror, you'll see you got this little dangly thing in your throat called the uvula. And when you go, Ah, it should lift up. Now, some people that doesn't lift up. And what a lot of people will find is if my mind lifts up, but it should lift up quite high, you know, I'd be saying that at least an inch and a half the evolution with lifting up and it should be able to stay up. Now, what people might find is they go, ah, and it drops down while they're like, ah, shaking that's relevant other issues that relate a little bit more to sort of physical overload of the vagus nerve, or even some compression is if you're palpating, just to hear, you know, and I wouldn't say I'm pushing hard, and it's sort of at the angle of the jaw, you've got this new kind of go up into here. And if it feels bruised with that pressure, it shouldn't feel bruised. But people facing problems, particularly ones, where they've got a bit of neck instability, they've been physical compression, or maybe they've had a motor vehicle accident, and it's, you know, the traction didn't traumatize the nerve, it's quite sore. So physical tenderness is a really good indicator, having the lack of a gag reflex, and also poor uvula elevation is a really good one. And those are sort of the simple ones, we don't have to get too complicated. There's new ways of testing vagus nerve and its relationship to pain and its relationship to like a regular heart rhythms. And that's using heart rate monitor, you can just get like a little one like a little one just here. And it's this little thing here, you put it on your finger, and it says your heart rate. Now what I've been doing recently is I've been ascertaining their heart rate, and then getting them to just move into the painful movement. And your heart rate shouldn't go up by much, you know, if you're going into a painful move, and your heart rate goes up by 1520 beats quite fast. That indicates that the vagus nerve not really stepping in to put the brake on the sympathetic nervous system, it means that people's low vagal tone is increasing their pain, it's increasing their brains, perception of the pain. And this all goes into the picture of trying to treat the person holistically and get the best result.Anthony Hartcher:
And so how is it like so this, this patient's come to you? They've saying, I've got digestive issues, I've you know, not moving my bowels, I'm feeling a bit of acid reflux coming up every now and then I'm, you know, really stressed out, you start, you know, you've run them through the tests that you've just shared with this. What's the next step in terms of working with that client? How do you then help them support them holistically?SAMUEL MINKIN:
Well, what's really important is just ascertaining whether there is an issue with the neck. So because of the vagus nerves and the running just in front of the bones in the neck, or the vertebrae, if we're just doing vagus nerve stimulation, and this is the vagus nerve device I use. If they're just doing vagus nerve stimulation, then we'll probably find that, yeah, they're gonna get improvement, they're gonna get less less reflux, your heart rhythm problems going to be improved. But we're still missing a key compression on treatment of the nerves. So I just rule that out. And that's pretty easy to rule out because a lot of the time you take their heart rate, you decompress their neck, or you support their neck, and it changes their heart rate, their heart rate goes up by 20 beats a minute, which isn't normal. So once I've ruled that out, get them on vagus nerve stimulation, and we just do some electrical stimulation through the ears. Now, since I saw you last, we used to use two clicks on the ear. It's a lot simpler now. So really good for people trying to do vagus nerve stimulation from home is you've got this one clip, and it just goes on air up here. And it's it sits in this little nook. And once you've got both the clips on or do some stimulation, depending on what we're treating, all different. There's all different protocols that treat completely separate things. And it's important that you get the frequencies correct. You know, if you can't just put the motion on the ears and expect that you're going to get it right now the difference in the research from doing like one hurt compared to two hurts in headache research or two hurts I've had a 30% greater improvement than the one hurt. And it's such as my new change. So it is really important that the protocols done right. A lot of vagus nerve, I'd say assessment and treatment, a big role of it. Is the health history really getting a big picture of when did it start? What are all the symptoms like people with vagus nerve problems don't just have one symptom? That's the thing. It's not like, oh, well, if I've got reflux, I've got a vagus nerve problem. People have vagus nerve problems have multiple symptoms, you know, it could be reflux, and they've got bloating, and they've got diarrhea, they've got fatigue, you know, it could just be issues with poor inflammatory regulation, they just very inflamed. They're lethargic, they've got brain fog. Difficulty swallowing is something I see quite a lot. People just think like, oh, yeah, I've had difficulty swallowing for years. They don't know it's irrelevant. So it's really important to ask a whole bunch of questions, and work out to what extent that they had surgery, no cervical surgery, thyroid surgery, really common. There's a lot of instance, where there's been titanium clips put onto the vagus nerve by accident, you know, because it's such a small nerve, and it's quite delicate, this area. So it's all health history, and then assessing for neck instability. So we haven't missed something. And I've been a nerve mobilization, like you can actually palpate, your vagus nerve just through here. And what it will feel like because you've got quite a few nerves through there, feel like a whole bunch of clunky things. So you're not going to be able to isolate the vagus nerve, but you've got the vagus nerve, you've got like accessory nerve, you've got a whole bunch of nerves sitting there quite close together, it's usually a bit medial to the pulse. So new, you find the carotid artery, yeah, I got that pulse, you just go a little bit more medial and towards the spine, and you go side to side, and you'll feel like you're sort of clunking over something. And you don't need to push hard, you just need to go okay, there's something there, side to side, working side to side, just freeing it up. That's one of the manual techniques. There's other techniques like flossing, the vagus nerve. So because the nerve comes from the neck, goes into the thorax and supplying all these organs, you can do some flossing, and it's sort of you might flex in, like, I'll show you on the camera can do some stuff where you actually closing down like this. And then you're really extending looking up saying closing down again, and really extending and that and manual way of proving the vagal sort of nerve mobility, a lot of these issues of because you know there's been been head forward posture, had some poor postures, a bit of CLI forces, and we've been in this slumped position, we haven't been upright. So nerves in general blanket statement like mobility to like mobility, the like blood flow, and yet they need the movement. So if you don't have good movement of a nerve, it's not going to function right? It's going to be annoyed you're going to notice that a weakness in muscles or altered sensation in skin.Anthony Hartcher:
And so how do the listeners get that good movement? I mean, your shape just showed us the demonstrated that exercise assume that to a good movement for the vagus nerve tone. What else can the listeners do to help support their vagus nerve?SAMUEL MINKIN:
Well, dietary things like choline quite important. Choline is in the like the yolk of eggs. If people aren't eating eggs, then I'd say maybe supplementing the choline. Or just looking into the diet, you know, are we missing vital things that the nervous system and the nerve itself needs general movement movements important, particularly extension movements for vagus nerve. So a lot of movements we do whether we're sitting at a laptop or a computer, this will close down the very rarely upright, so even getting a foam roll, you know, putting a foam roll on the ground, laying across your back, not down the back and spend some time extending over it. And even using the using the head like that and a bit of flossing, you know, 20 each side and some people when people who have got vagus nerve immobility, they can feel it. So as they do it, they're feeling a pull into their chest. They're like, Oh, I can Yeah, I can feel like a tension really like deep in my chest. I do that. And that just got poor bags and mobility. So manually mobilizing it, flossing it like that, yoga like that. They say in yoga that the Upward Facing Dog is the best yoga position for digestion. And it makes sense because it's a neuro dynamic for the vagus nerve. So that's that's how it's doing that.Anthony Hartcher:
And in terms of like your top three tips, in terms of you know, are they sort of the top three that you, you'd summarize as to how someone would support the vagus nerve,SAMUEL MINKIN:
I'd say definitely movement. So you want to do some nerve flossing, you want to kind of get your fingers eat again, you're not pushing hard, you're not trying to wreck this thing, you're just trying to give it a bit of movement make the nerve of it noodley, some side to side movement through there. Another really good one that's quite powerful is a mammalian dive is very flex, so just a bowl of your bowl ice water, and you can put your face in it, and 22nd to 22nd with the face, in ice water, you come out of arrest, do that another four to six times, and you're gonna do it three times a day. Now, some people don't like the bowl of ice water, you can get an ice pack, and you need to be applied code pressure around this region. So really pushing in that region. And that's another really good exercise, I get all my patients to do this. When I first began doing vagus nerve stimulation, I was just doing the stimulation, and getting the doobie to gargling and stuff. But it's quite evident that there's quite a significant improvement when they're doing those exercises as well. So it is quite an important part in managing stress. If there's things you can avoid, or there's things you can manage, maybe it's setting aside a bit of time in your day to do some mindfulness or some meditation, implementing some things that help you manage and deal with your stress.Anthony Hartcher:
And given that we've been through the pandemic and the people's worlds have been shifted around. And now we're faced with floods here in Queensland, New South Wales, and, you know, seems to be one after another. Have you noticed that increased cases of you know, this vagus nerve dysregulation or you know, like a tone with your clients?SAMUEL MINKIN:
I have. Yeah, particularly in nurses. So through the pandemic, towards end of the pandemic, just the amount of work that they had to do a lot of the hospitals were short staffed, I suppose because a lot of nurses walked off the job. And that put a lot of load on other nurses. And, yeah, I've had quite a few nurses have nervous breakdowns. They don't really know about the vagus nerve is that they haven't. They don't know that this is a vagus nerve problem. They just think like, I need a break from work. And they do need a break from work. But for something that is significant stress in your life, doing these practices are really important. And getting into a clinic, try and get some base and see Mason's really important. Yeah, it's, I think we're so busy trying to do the best we can. And we often put our personal sort of management or things that we need aside. And I think, at the end of the pad, direct, to answer your question, I think a lot of people put that stuff aside, they will just try to get everything they needed done. And particularly flooding and stuff like when your house is flooding, and you've got to pack things up, and you've got to go and you can't get everything, you know, the last thing you're going to do is stop and do some, some Breathworks and stuff like that. But it's important to identify when you're getting a bit overloaded when you're feeling a bit like I don't know, I'm feeling overwhelmed. And working on a couple when today, can I do it? 3pm? Okay, well, I've got a time there least if you spend 10-15 minutes, or 10 minutes is great. 20 minutes is even better, you know, put some frequency music on. And if you don't know how to meditate and listen to some guided meditations, like when I first started learning to meditate, I had no idea how to meditate. That's sort of what stopped me. Because I was like, Well, I don't know if I'm doing it right. But just for the listeners out there, meditation isn't the absence of, you know, thoughts is the practice. It's a meditation practice of identifying when you've lost your train of thought. And then just bring it back. Now you can bring it back to your breath, you can bring it back to a feeling now when you first start meditating, you're gonna lose your train of thought, again, you're getting, you're gonna go on thinking of the shopping list, that's fine. Identify that you lost your train of thought, and bring it back and just keep bringing it back and keep bringing it back. And the more you do that practice, the longer durations of time you'll have without losing your train of thought. And if you did a meditation practice and you sat there for 30 minutes, didn't have any thoughts and didn't get distracted. Well, that's not a practice. You didn't learn anything there and it's not challenging. So meditation, you know, I didn't know this so that was what put me off. But now I know that you know if I lose my train of thought I'm just bring it back and bring it back. And then before you know it, you're like, ah, yeah, I can feel that sense of ease. I can feel that I'm resting better moldings meditating.Anthony Hartcher:
And so meditations obviously part of your daily routine. What else do you do that you find that really works for you and where you fit it into your day around what we've discussed around this vagus nerve support?SAMUEL MINKIN:
Greenroom therapy. So I get out into nature, I've just moved to a really nice place in Chrome and valley, and really close to the Cago cascades. So getting out there at least least twice a week, whether I get up in the morning and just go for a walk. We don't have some of the flowing water over my feet, you don't even need the water just being in nature. So spend about 20 minutes of nature, a research shows that's really good for anxiety and depression just being in nature. Now this separate research where people are now doing some some grounding or earthing so and you're taking your shoes off being barefoot on the ground. Maybe you can combine both of those, maybe you can go barefoot, walk through a park, walk through some nature, those things are quiet and they're free. They're free. And then there's blue room therapy that's just getting to large bodies of water over the ocean, spend some time at the beach, if you're able to know it all adds up. You know, if you're doing five lots of 20 minutes a day, you've accumulated this is it's yeah, just getting out and doing it.Anthony Hartcher:
Fantastic. I really appreciate everything you've shared. You know, I love the insight around the exercises, the flossing and the stretching and I get this that flexing and crouching for it. I forget that what that was called, but the ice bath and Mulaney Melaine memo.SAMUEL MINKIN:
Balian mammalian dive reflexAnthony Hartcher:
That's it. That's it. That's the Balian mammalian dive reflex. So that iceberg hit in the ice bath for 20 seconds and doing about four reps of that set to that it's been really insightful. So how can the listeners connect with you in terms of reaching out and getting further support?SAMUEL MINKIN:
The best way is either going to my website, which is just www.recuperatehealthandwellbeing.com or I've got Instagram recuperate underscore health. I get quite a lot of people just messaging me questions and stuff. I'm really keen to give you some insight. You know, I want to help you get the best therapy you can if you're not in Queensland, why where I am, I frequently go down to Melbourne and Sydney and see patients. I've got patients in South Australia I'm doing through telehealth people in the United States. But I think there's no harm in asking for advice or asking like what do you think? I think? Yeah, so feel free to send me a message I really love to help you.Anthony Hartcher:
Fantastic Sam. And I'll include those links in the show notes and really appreciate your coming on for the trilogy. So we've done two episodes on the vagus nerve. So very insightful. And the last one on laser light therapy. So it's great to tap into your knowledge, a wealth of knowledge and you walk the top which I really admire. So you're certainly out there putting it all into practice and keeping up to date with the latest and emerging research so your clients get the best care and treatment and don't forget to follow Samuel on Tiktok, he's also a TikToker so he's got some great tips on Tiktok there. So I'll include these Tiktok handle as well for those on Tiktok and for the listeners. Thanks for tuning in for another insightful episode of me and my health up. If you heard of any of those symptoms that you know that are present with your family or friends, please share this episode with them. It may be of help and assistance so please get it out there to friends and family that may need some support around their vagus time. Or if you know a nurse this episode is for them. So thanks, listeners and thank you Samuel.SAMUEL MINKIN:
Thank you very much