City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Vagus Nerve: Body Wellness Connection

Michael Husmillo creates transformational healing through the vagus nerve

You’ve heard that the gut is your second brain – but have you ever considered how your head and body connect, or better still, how your gut impacts your quality of life? 

So many conditions – POTS, dysautonomia, vertigo, fibromyalgia, migraines, chronic fatigue, long-hauler’s syndrome, even ADD/ADHD – are linked to your vagus nerve.

It’s wild to think about. We go through life with thoughts racing through our brain and butterflies in our belly, without ever contemplating what’s going on. And yet this life on autopilot might be derailing our ambitions – and in need of a reboot. 

That’s where Michael Husmillo comes in. He’s a Troy functional medicine doctor and the clinical director of Optimum Chiropractic Neurology Center ( – trained in the chiropractic field with a specialty in functional neurology.

I have to admit, I’ve never been to a chiropractor; I’m afraid to crack my knuckles, let alone have my back tuned. But when Husmillo and I got talking about the vagus nerve, I felt my skin tingling. He might be the best-kept secret to great health, and I’m here for it. 

The vagus nerve is the key to linking your brain and gut. It connects everything – brain, heart, lungs, stomach, intestines. What that means is, when this nerve is functioning well, it can improve your brain health, cardiovascular system and gut health. 

I don’t know about you, but this would eliminate a lot of supplements in my medicine cabinet (not to mention co-pays at the pharmacy) and I would love the boost of energy.

The obvious first question is, “The vagus what?” 

Imagine a string running from the top of your head to the root of your abdomen. 'Vagus' is the Latin word for wandering, and the vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, running from the brain to the large intestine. It literally wanders up and down your body, regulating all your internal organ functions – such as heart rate, respiratory rate and reflexes like coughing and swallowing. 

We all know what it feels like when these systems aren’t functioning right. The good news is that there are ways to stimulate the vagus nerve to help treat a variety of disorders that impact our most important organs.

“I recall a particular child who was nonverbal,” says Dr. Husmillo. “The day the mother heard her six-year-old child say, ‘I love you’ was very rewarding.” 

He’s worked with patients who have Parkinson’s to slow down their tremors and helped people with cognitive decline improve their recall.

Dr. Husmillo works with people of all ages and is passionate about preventive care to address degeneration later in life. 

“The future is now,” he says. “As people live longer, they experience constant decline. There is a lot we can do today to treat disease before it progresses.” 

I think at this point, we all wish more doctors were experts in this area – especially if it means treating serious ailments without invasive procedures. Dr. Husmillo works to improve the nervous system with a natural and holistic approach. Yet he is often a patient’s last call, after they’ve seen their primary physician and specialists – and they feel like they’ve run out of options. 

People find their calling in a variety of ways. For Husmillo, it was a mentor early in his education. As an undergrad, he worked with Dr. Marian Diamond, a pioneer in neuroplasticity. Diamond showed him research she’d conducted with mice that proved if you gave the right stimulation, the brain could change. And then she challenged him to find a field to apply her research – and continue it – to see how it could work with people.

Twenty years later, our community is benefiting richly. Dr. Husmillo took what he learned to another level and has found a way to treat vertigo, ADHD, concussions, young children with developmental disabilities and even stroke patients in recovery.

“I look at why the brain isn’t functioning well,” he says. “People have different conditions; my job is to find out where the challenge is and then work with them to fix it.” 

Dr. Husmillo starts with an in-depth examination to fully understand a patient’s current situation. That includes tests for food allergies and organic acids, a comprehensive hormone analysis, a 24-hour neurotransmitter test, an adrenal stress index, and a comprehensive stool analysis.

But Dr. Husmillo's exam goes much further. For example, just from the way your eyes move, Dr. Husmillo can tell what part of your brain is fatigued. “I look for subtleties,” he says.

Treatment might include eye exercises to improve spinal and brain health, balance exercises and, importantly, nutrition. 

“People rely too much on doctors and don’t question anything. You can get stronger. You can stimulate your mind, change what you put in your body and improve your quality of life.”

One fascinating application for Dr. Husmillo’s specialty is with long COVID-19. Because of the way COVID attacks the vagus nerve, it can lead to swelling, mental health issues and heart complications. Dr. Husmillo has seen patients have a chance at a better life through treatment and exercises targeting the nerve.

“We don’t give you meds,” he says.  “We get your nerve happy.” His office's Vagus Nerve Recovery Program, a comprehensive lifestyle, nutrition and brain connection program, is designed to optimize vagus nerve functioning.

The best news is, there are things we all can do to keep our vagus nerve healthy. Get outside in nature – it helps slow the mind down. Turn off electronics and be present.

One of the most surprising—you may likely experience it as shocking if you try it—methods to stimulate the vagus nerve is a cold plunge. When your body's exposed to cold water, it triggers the 'mammalian diving response,' an inborn physiological response that activates your vagus nerve, slows down your heart rate, and calms you down. While engaging in cold exposure may not be the most comfortable, research shows it's an effective way to improve heart rate variability and vagal tone.

Making vibrating sounds has been shown to be effective as well. The vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords, and to all those muscles at the back of your throat, and it passes through your inner ear. So if you like to hum or sing—or even gargle—you can feel extra good about doing it, because you're exercising your vagus nerve. 

“I call it a vagus nerve lifestyle. It helps with your heart rate, blood pressure and mental state,” says Dr. Husmillo. “My mentor always said that movement is life; that was her phrase. It’s so connected to how we live. If you move more, you’re healthier. And with movement, we can slow down the effects of aging and have more power in our health.

“I want people to know we’re here,” he says. “There are so many ways to understand health, your brain and your nervous system. You can improve your overall well-being.”

“I recall a particular child who was nonverbal…the day the mother heard her six-year-old child say, ‘I love you’ was very rewarding.” 

Michael Husmillo, D.C, D.A.C.N.B, F.A.C.F.N., is a graduate of UC Berkeley, the Carrick Institute, and Life Chiropractic College West. He is a fellow of the American College of Functional Neurology.