Search

Your Gut Is Connected to Your Ear (no, really)

People new to acupuncture often look askance at their treatment provider when they have come in complaining about back pain, for instance, and needles start going in places like the back of their knee, their ankle and the back of their hand. To make matters worse, they might even get a needle in their ear! Did the acupuncturist even listen?

I am here to tell you that I didn’t just make that up. It’s a viable acupuncture treatment protocol for low back pain. And one of the reasons it works is that your body is connected. Take, for instance, the Vagus Nerve, aka Cranial Nerve X. It is the longest cranial nerve in the body and affects the tongue, pharynx, heart, and gastrointestinal system. What’s more, the most superficial portion of this nerve is accessible in your ear. Yup, your gut is pretty directly connected to your ear.


The vagus nerve has numerous branches that perform various functions. For instance, one vagal branch controls your “rest and digest” functions, affecting parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. The vagus nerve is also responsible for the freeze when you respond to stress, “flight, fight, or freeze.” And yet another branch is involved with emotional expression, social communication, and self-soothing. Ever see someone tug on their ears when stressed? Makes me wonder. There is research suggesting it is involved in inflammatory processes and is a means to treat psychiatric and gastrointestinal disorders.

Who knew you could address all of that with a few needles in your ear?! Your acupuncturist.