Nitric Oxide: Get Powerful Benefits and How to Boost Levels Naturally
For a long time, scientists mostly ignored nitric oxide. However, it began to gain popularity in the 90s as researchers unearthed some of its incredible health benefits. By 1992, it was named Molecule of the Year by Science magazine.
Since then, researchers have continued to discover how essential this molecule is for nearly every aspect of health. It works as a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes the blood vessels and helps them to widen. As a result, it increases blood circulation and improves blood pressure.
Benefits of Optimal Nitric Oxide Levels
What exactly can nitric oxide do for our health? It provides a number of benefits, including:
Improve Blood Pressure
Since then, researchers have learned more about nitric oxide and its effect on the heart and blood vessels. Now experts believe that those with high blood pressure are unable to use the nitric oxide in their bodies.
As a vasodilator, nitric oxide helps open up the blood vessels, so the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard. It results in better blood pressure.
Controlling blood pressure is a common modern problem. According to the CDC, nearly half of all Americans have hypertension, or high blood pressure. Even more concerning, only a quarter of them have their condition under control.
Nitric oxide could help. One 2019 study found that nitric oxide deficiency led to the development of both hypertension and kidney disease. A 2018 study found that even a modest increase in vegetables that boost nitric oxide production help maintain healthy blood pressure. It helped even counteract the adverse effects of a high-salt diet.
Resistant hypertension is when blood pressure doesn’t respond to even the most aggressive treatment. Doctors label hypertension resistant when it doesn’t lower with three medications and requires at least four. However, nitric oxide can help. A 2019 review found that chemicals that boost nitric oxide reduce blood pressure in patients with resistant hypertension.
Nitric oxide is so powerful that one study found that taking a nitric oxide supplement once helped decrease blood pressure. It also improved vascular compliance after one supplementation in patients with hypertension.
Enhance Bedroom Performance and Desire
Bedroom performance is a prevalent issue for men, especially as they age. Experts estimate that it affects up to a third of all men. Research shows that nitric oxide can provide valuable help.
Nitric oxide causes relaxation of the smooth muscles. This relaxation leads to an increase in blood flow, which is an essential element in bedroom performance. In fact, researchers have even linked high blood pressure with performance issues.
One study found that 40% of all men with performance issues also had hypertension. That is why many of the pharmaceutical drugs to treat performance issues work to improve nitric oxide synthase, also called NOS. NOS is an enzyme that causes L-arginine to produce nitric oxide.
However, nitric oxide is not only important for men.
There is also research that shows it can help improve female desire. Blood flow is a critical component and plays a crucial role in increasing desire.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study gave pre-and postmenopausal women a supplement to boost nitric oxide. Researchers found at the end that they had a significant improvement in desire, especially in postmenopausal women.
Another study on 77 women over the age of 21 also found that this same supplement improved both desire and sensation.
Supports Kidney Function
Kidney issues are a common occurrence in modern life. In fact, more than one in ten American adults have some level of chronic kidney disease. Not only is it serious on its own, but it can lead to significant cardiovascular issues.
Nitric oxide influences many of the acute and long-term control of the kidneys. Its ability to adapt to dietary salt intake and maintain normal blood pressure makes it vital to the kidneys. Researchers found that boosting nitric oxide with L-arginine and other supplements may reduce the chances of ischemic acute renal injury.
One issue with kidney disease is that it affects levels of nitric oxide in the body. However, nitric oxide deficiency contributes to the progression of the disease. It is also closely tied to cardiovascular disease because of the decreased production of the molecule.
Boost Athletic Performance
Nitric oxide’s ability to dilate blood vessels also affects athletic performance. Optimal levels enable the body to get more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. During exercise, this can be a valuable resource.
Nitric oxide supplements have become increasingly popular amongst professional athletes and exercise enthusiasts. They hope to harness nitric oxide’s ability to help boost their performance.
A scientific review of 42 studies sought to find the research on nitric oxide and exercise. Researchers found that it helped increase capacity for aerobic (like running) and anaerobic (like weightlifting) exercise.
However, this improvement is mostly for untrained and moderately trained subjects. When it came to highly trained athletes, the results were mixed. That means that nitric oxide is most useful for those of us trying to get into shape.
Decrease Muscle Soreness
To add to its ability to improve athletic performance, research shows nitric oxide can also improve muscle soreness. It is most effective against delayed-onset muscle soreness that comes after strenuous or unaccustomed exercise. This is the kind of muscle soreness that takes effect 24-72 hours after a workout.
In one randomized, placebo-controlled study, subjects took citrulline malate after exercise to increase nitric oxide. Those who took citrulline malate experienced 40% less muscle soreness after 24 and 48 hours.
Researchers believe that increased nitric oxide production leads to increased blood flow to affected muscles. The body can more effectively clear the waste that leads to muscle fatigue, such as lactate. It can also improve nutrient delivery to build strength again.
Nitric oxide’s effectiveness in fighting viruses has recently earned some publicity as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
While research is very new and limited, one review found that inhaled nitric oxide could help as a vasodilator for severe COVID. A study from May 2021 found it “significantly improved oxygenation” for moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) from COVID.
While inhaling nitric oxide is not possible—or necessary—for most of us, there is science into even more antiviral capabilities.
Many of the cells in our immune system use nitric oxide to function optimally. This means that it can help fight against infectious organisms, according to one review.
Helps Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can be a complex condition to treat. However, nitric oxide can help.
In one study, those who increased their nitric oxide through L-arginine supplementation had improved insulin sensitivity. This increase in sensitivity enables healthy blood sugar control.
Another study sought to find if supplementing with L-arginine, which converts to nitric oxide, reduces the chances of type 2 diabetes. While it didn’t stop the development of type 2 diabetes, it did help delay its progression and improved insulin sensitivity.
While more research needs to be done, there is some evidence that nitric oxide can help delay the progression of the disease.
Boosts Brain Health
Nitric oxide is often associated with heart and vein health, but it is also a critical player in brain health. It works as a vital messenger in the central nervous system, where it helps the brain communicate between cells.
One study by the University of Leicester demonstrated that nitric oxide could improve brain function. This discovery has implications for treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Another 2011 study found that it was important in the learning and memory processes in the brain. Another review showed that it has numerous effects on the brain. It improved conditions such as memory disorders, seizures, and brain ischemia.
However, it should be noted that too much nitric oxide does appear to have a detrimental effect on the brain. It’s another reason why it’s better to give the body what it needs instead of supplementing with the molecule directly. This way, it creates the right amount of nitric oxide.
Botanicals / Herbs to Boost Nitric Oxide
With how important nitric oxide is to so many functions in the body, boosting our bodies’ ability to create it is essential. Some of the most potent ingredients that can increase nitric oxide include:
Beetroot contains many compounds that help improve nitric oxide levels in the body.
Beets are particularly rich in nitrates and is often listed as one of the highest sources. While processed forms of nitrates (think: hot dogs, sausages, etc.) can cause heart problems, natural nitrates are heart-healthy. Our bodies use nitrates to convert to nitric oxide. In fact, researchers check nitrates in the blood to test nitric oxide levels.
A 2018 review noted that the newest evidence “strongly suggests” that natural sources of nitrate contribute to cardiovascular health. The reason for this is its ability to increase nitric oxide status in the blood.
In addition to nitrates, beets are also rich in L-citrulline. This compound also helps improve nitric oxide in the body.
As a result of its compounds, research shows that beetroot has many effects on nitric oxide.
In one study of 38 adults, their nitric oxide levels rose 21% after just 45 after taking a beetroot juice supplement.
A meta-analysis of 16 studies found that it significantly reduced blood pressure. It caused this improvement even without medication to keep hypertension in check.
It also has the exercise-boosting capabilities of nitric oxide. In a 2018 review of multiple studies, researchers found that it improved athletic performance and lowered muscular fatigue.
Whenever we need a boost of nitric oxide, beetroot can be a powerful aid.
A beautiful tropical flower, hibiscus can offer a wide range of benefits. Its unique structure makes it ideal for increasing nitric oxide levels in the body.
Hibiscus is a particularly rich source of antioxidants, which is important for raising nitric oxide levels. Because it is an unstable molecule, nitric oxide breaks down quickly in the bloodstream. Antioxidants fight the free radicals that break it down. As a result, antioxidants like those in hibiscus can help lengthen the lifespan of nitric oxide in the body.
Science has found that hibiscus boosts nitric oxide pathways in the body. That is why research shows that it can significantly improve blood pressure. One study wanted to see its effects on both patients with metabolic syndrome and hypertension rats. Researchers discovered that both groups had a reduction in blood pressure.
Another randomized, placebo-controlled 2019 study on 25 men with some level of cardiovascular disease took hibiscus tea at breakfast. After two weeks, they also saw a significant improvement in vascular function.
In another review, researchers found that it worked better than some medication in reducing blood pressure.
Garlic bulb is a rich source of L-citrulline. It is an amino acid that is a by-product of when L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide. L-citrulline then recycles itself back to L-arginine to increase the body’s production of nitric oxide.
In most cases, L-citrulline works even better than L-arginine for increasing nitric oxide levels. This is because much of L-arginine breaks down in the digestive tract before it reaches the bloodstream.
In addition, garlic activates nitric oxide synthase. It is an enzyme that also helps the amino acid L-arginine convert to nitric oxide.
Researchers have found garlic can have a positive effect on nitric oxide. In one study, animals that took aged garlic extract experienced up to a 40% increase in blood nitric oxide levels within an hour. Studies show that garlic reduces blood pressure by enhancing nitric oxide production. In fact, a different study found it was as effective as certain medications in lowering blood pressure.
Also known as “true” ginseng, as opposed to American ginseng, it positively impacts nitric oxide levels.
A 2018 study confirmed that taking ginseng extract helped improved nitric oxide levels. The authors of the study demonstrated that it would be helpful for people with blood circulation issues. Another study found that rats who supplemented with ginseng had increased nitric oxide as well as decreased systolic blood pressure.
Because of its ability to increase nitric oxide, it has many of the same benefits. One study found it increased bedroom performance because of its ability to improve nitric oxide activity. Another study points to its antioxidant and organ-protective actions due to its ability to boost nitric oxide production.
Ginger is also rich in antioxidants that protect nitric oxide and help the body make the most of it. One study found that a supplement that included ginger helped improve the reproductive performance in rats. While more research needs to be done, it does show that ginger can have a significant impact on bedroom performance.
Another 2019 review of over 35 studies also found that it helped boost nitric oxide production. This results in a number of benefits, including decreasing atherosclerosis formation and reducing the chances of the formation of neurodegenerative diseases.
Pine bark has been used around the world for its numerous health benefits. Part of the reason it might be so helpful for boosting wellness is its ability to increase nitric oxide production.
In a recent 2019 study, researchers conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on 53 patients with bedroom performance issues. Half of these patients also had type 2 diabetes. At the end of the study, it not only enhanced their performance but also improved their cholesterol and serum glucose.
Another study also found it helped improve blood flow by increasing nitric oxide in the body.
Life Hacks for Boosting Nitric Oxide
No matter how powerful a supplement is, it cannot replace a healthy lifestyle. Some ways to improve nitric oxide with lifestyle adjustments include:
- Get some sunshine. The sun can provide so many benefits to the body. This is another one to add to the list! Research shows exposure to sunlight lowers blood pressure. This is likely due to the fact it releases the production of nitric oxide on the skin.
- Limit mouthwash. Our microbiome affects the ability of our body to convert nitrate to nitric oxide. Mouthwash, in particular, kills off this beneficial bacteria for nearly 12 hours.
- Eat high-quality meat. Meat may get a bad rap, but it is beneficial for nitric oxide production. It contains COQ10, which experts believe helps preserve nitric oxide in the body. It also helps improve athletic performance and heart health. It also has high levels of L-arginine. A 2016 study shows that diets high in arginine are associated with increased nitric oxide production in the body.
- Get a wide variety of veggies. Likewise, a diet high in veggies is also essential for improving nitric oxide in the body. It is one of the best ways to get healthy nitrates: almost 80% come from eating vegetables. They are also high in antioxidants, so your body can make the most of the nitric oxide.
- Move around. Exercise improves the lining of the blood vessels, where nitric oxide is created. It can help keep the body healthy in a number of ways. Studies show that regular physical activity increases vasodilation in those with high blood pressure and healthy individuals.
The right lifestyle adjustments can help keep your circulation healthy and support an optimal level of nitric oxide.
Increase Nitric Oxide and Improve Your Health
Nitric oxide is a vital molecule that supports a wide number of processes in the body. Its ability to improve blood flow has numerous implications for health and wellbeing.
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