- by Nils Osmar. July 21, 2023
- This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice.
- See full Medical Disclaimer
Nitric oxide (NO) is a crucial molecule that plays a significant role in a number of physiological functions. It’s a vasodilator playing an important role in the dilation of blood vessels throughout the body. It also has roles in neurotransmission and immune system regulation.
Nitric oxide and aging
As we age, our levels of NO decrease. Restoring it to youthful levels can have several possible health benefits.
It’s even possible that the decrease in nitric oxide may be responsible for age-related cognitive decline. According to an article called Scientists May Have Found Mechanism Behind Cognitive Decline in Aging, “Normal aging reduces the amount of nitric oxide in the body. That in turn reduces nitrosylation which decreases memory and learning ability.” See related study.
Nitric oxide and sex
In men, nitric oxide plays a key role in facilitating erections by relaxing the vascular muscle that supplies your penis with blood when you’re sexually aroused. This increase in blood vessel diameter and blood flow is what allows your penis to stay firm and erect while you’re having sex.
In women, higher levels of NO increase blood flow to the genitals, enhancing clitoral and vaginal sensitivity and promoting sexual arousal.
In both sexes, the decline of NO is associated with a decrease in sexual function and interest in sex.
How to boost our levels
There are several ways to boost nitric oxide levels. They include:
- Eating foods rich in nitrates, which the body can convert into nitric oxide. Examples include:
- Leafy green vegetables such as kale, arugula, and lettuce
- Beets and beet juice
- Taking arginine supplements – or eating foods rich in arginine. L-arginine is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to nitric oxide. Foods rich in arginine include:
- Almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds
- Lentils and chick peas
- Red meat, turkey, chicken, and pork
- Salmon, shrimp and other seafood
- Taking L-citrulline supplements – or eating foods rich in the amino acid. Foods rich in L-citrulline include:
- Eating foods rich in antioxidants: Antioxidants help to maintain the bioavailability of nitric oxide, preventing it from breaking down too quickly. Antioxidant-rich foods include
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
- Oranges, lemons and grapefruit
Humming also increases nitric oxide
Humming increases NO levels in both the airways and ourblood. Humming leads to a 15 to 20-fold increase in NO levels helping to open up airways and kill pathogens. See study: Strong humming for one hour daily to terminate chronic rhinosinusitis in four days: a case report and hypothesis for action by stimulation of endogenous nasal nitric oxide production
More about humming
Antiseptic mouthwashes are associated with a decrease in nitric oxide and several related health issues. From this study:
Meta-analyses and several large cohort studies have demonstrated that antiseptic mouthwashes are associated with mortality in hospitalized patients. A clear pathogenic mechanism is lacking, leading to controversy and a reluctance to abandon or limit the use of antiseptic mouthwashes.
Here, we generate the hypothesis that a disturbance in nitric oxide homeostasis by antiseptic mouthwashes may be responsible for the observed increase in mortality risk. Nitric oxide is essential in multiple physiological processes, and a reduction in nitric oxide bioavailability is associated with the occurrence or worsening of pathologies, such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and sepsis.
Oral facultative anaerobic bacteria are essential for the enterosalivary nitrate–nitrite–nitric oxide pathway due to their capacity to reduce nitrate to nitrite. Nitrate originates from dietary sources or from the active uptake by salivary glands of circulating nitrate, which is then excreted in the saliva.
Because antiseptic mouthwashes eradicate the oral bacterial flora, this nitric oxide-generating pathway is abolished, which may result in nitric oxide-deficient conditions potentially leading to life-threatening complications such as ischaemic heart events or sepsis.
Not medical advice
This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component. See full Medical Disclaimer
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