Are you unintentionally compromising the cardiovascular benefits of your training, elevating your blood pressure, weakening your immune system, and increasing the risk of heart disease all in the name of hygiene? If you’re using mouthwash or fluoride toothpaste, then the answer is yes. By doing so, you’re hindering your body’s production of nitric oxide—a crucial molecule that significantly impacts your health.
In this brief article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of nitric oxide, its roles in our body, the primary pathways of its production, and how it can be released. You’ll discover how to ensure you’re not obstructing any pathway and what steps to take to enhance production and release for optimal health benefits.
For those dealing with high blood pressure, the potential benefits might become apparent within as little as four days. Nitric oxide stands out as perhaps the most vital molecule for cardiovascular health.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide, commonly abbreviated as NO, is a gas produced in the human body primarily through two pathways. One involves the Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS) enzyme, which converts the amino acid L-arginine into nitric oxide. The other pathway operates with the assistance of oral bacteria, progressing from NO3 to NO2 and finally to NO.
As we age, the levels of nitric oxide in our body decline, averaging a 12% reduction per decade from our 20s. This decrease impacts our ability to combat diseases, low-grade inflammation, and more. The NOS enzyme, responsible for converting L-arginine, becomes less efficient, meaning that even increased L-arginine intake may not result in a substantial increase in NO levels. While L-arginine supplements (or its precursor, L-citrulline) were once considered the primary form of supplementation, their effectiveness diminishes as we age.
Nitric oxide serves several crucial functions in our body. Its most well-known role is as a vasodilator, relaxing the inner muscle layer of blood vessels and improving blood circulation. Enhanced circulation provides better oxygen delivery to all parts of the body and facilitates more efficient waste product removal.
Intense exercise triggers the release of NO, leading to a palpable improvement in blood flow and a sense of relaxation throughout the body. Additionally, nitric oxide plays a vital role in the immune system, as immune cells such as macrophages release it to combat invaders. Without nitric oxide, these cells become less potent in protecting the body from various diseases.
Furthermore, NO stimulates hormone release, including insulin and growth hormone, and aids in cellular communication, such as neurotransmission.
What is Essential to Produce Nitric Oxide?
To produce nitric oxide (NO), certain essential steps must be followed. First and foremost, you need nutrients that support the bacteria responsible for NO production. These nutrients are found in red beets and dark leafy greens like kale. Approximately 90 minutes after consuming these foods, your body may initiate the production of NO from them.
Equally crucial is avoiding obstacles to NO production. Two primary inhibitors are mouthwash and fluoride.
It is imperative not to use mouthwash. Most mouthwashes are antibacterial and can eliminate up to 99% of bacteria in the mouth, including those responsible for NO production. Using mouthwash disrupts the pathway from nitrate (NO3) to nitrite (NO2) to nitric oxide (NO), as the bacteria in the mouth are essential for converting NO3 to NO2. Mouthwash usage increases the risk of high blood pressure and negates cardiovascular benefits from exercise. While tongue scraping is acceptable, mouthwash should be avoided.
Refrain from using fluoride, commonly found in toothpaste and occasionally in drinking water.
Avoid antacids as they decrease the pH of stomach acid, hindering NO production from NO2 and preventing the absorption of essential nutrients like vitamin B12. Low stomach acidity may contribute to autoimmune diseases due to improper protein breakdown. Starting meals with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar can enhance digestion, provide nutrients, and lower the glycemic index of ingested food.
Check your medications, especially statins, NSAIDS, or proton-pump inhibitors, which can impede NO production along both discussed pathways. Consult your physician to explore alternative medications that won’t hinder NO synthesis.
Release Nitric Oxide
Intense exercise is a natural way to liberate NO throughout the body. Consider incorporating an intense exercise session, waiting at least two hours before the next session, to optimize NO release.
Additional strategies to boost NO include exposure to sunlight for approximately 15 minutes daily or using red light therapy. Red light can release NO bound to metals, while UV light can liberate NO bound to cysteine thiol groups.
Humming is another interesting method to liberate NO in the oral and nasal cavity, aiding in disinfection. An hour of daily humming has been recommended for those with chronic sinusitis and may assist in clearing pathogens, particularly after exposure to airport environments. However, these methods are contingent on following the essential steps mentioned above to ensure adequate nitric oxide levels in the body.
Can I Get Too Much Nitric Oxide?
Excessive nitric oxide can lead to a drop in blood pressure, causing it to become low. Artificially supplementing with extremely high doses, far beyond what is attainable from food sources, can oxidize the iron in red blood cells, rendering them incapable of carrying oxygen. This condition, known as methemoglobinemia, can manifest with blue lips.
In conclusion, understanding the intricate role of nitric oxide (NO) in our body unveils a pathway to enhanced cardiovascular health, immune function, and overall well-being. By prioritizing the intake of NO-supportive nutrients, such as those found in red beets and dark leafy greens, and steering clear of hindrances like mouthwash and fluoride, individuals can foster optimal NO production. Integrating intense exercise, exposure to sunlight, or engaging in practices like humming further aids in liberating NO. Striking a balance is key, as an excess of NO may lead to low blood pressure. With these insights and practices, individuals can empower themselves to harness the potential of nitric oxide for a healthier and more vibrant life.
Who would have thought that skipping in the sunshine while humming would result in such massive health benefits? Will your cardiologist suggest it?