Last week, we spoke about nitric oxide and what it is. You can read the original post here. If you have not done so, I encourage you to go back and read it so that you have the background on this fascinating molecule. This week, we will dive into the topic of how to increase your nitric oxide levels. Let’s dive in.
How is Nitric Oxide Produced?
This is the point I want to start with. Our bodies actually produce nitric oxide ourselves. We know that nitric oxide is produced and we know that it can “space itself out”. What do I mean by that? I mean that it is such an important molecule that can do so much good in all different places, so it needs to produce the right amount and not too much in certain situations as well.
As indicated in my previous post, nitric oxide is impossible to measure because it is so unstable and has such a short shelf life of only about 2 – 3 seconds. As soon as it is made in the body, as quickly it is gone. This is exactly what you want from an unstable molecule and means that it is doing its job perfectly well.
Nitric oxide is continuously produced in healthy arteries. However, symptomatically, we know that people who are leading an unhealthy lifestyle and lead a sedentary life have significantly less nitric oxide that gets produced in their bodies. The same appears to apply to people with hypertension.
How to Increase Your Nitric Oxide Levels?
Lucky for us, there are a few things we can do in order to increase our nitric oxide levels naturally.
This is something that comes up in so many instances. No matter what the scenario, diet is such an important factor for our life and healthiness of such life. Eat loads of colorful fruits and vegetables and avoid the sugar, starch, and processed foods. Why? Because the antioxidants in these fruits and vegetables destroy the free radicals that try to destroy nitric oxide in our bodies. This, in turn, means that antioxidants stabilize the nitric oxide molecule and allow it to do its job. The darker the fruits and veggies, usually the higher their antioxidant content (albeit all of them are great!). Think: Blueberries, blackberries, spinach, kale, sprouts, etc. Good quality fats are also important for energy, such as olive oil and avocado.
We now know that there is an enzyme, which makes the nitric oxide in the first place. This enzyme is called nitric oxide synthase. The precursor to make this enzyme is called “Arginine”. Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid which can be derived from both plant-based and animal protein sources. For example, almonds and walnuts contain a lot of arginine (as do all other nuts and seeds). You can also get arginine from dairy, e.g. milk, yogurt or cheese, meats, fish, and some whole grains (e.g. oats, corn, buckwheat, brown rice).
You can also take arginine as a supplement. More arginine should boost your nitric oxide production. It appears that the higher the amount of arginine in our bodies up-regulates the nitric oxide synthase, and thereby also up-regulates nitric oxide production. When weaning off of a supplement, nitric oxide production gradually comes down after 3 – 5 days.
Possibly one of the best things we can do for our bodies and our nitric oxide levels is exercising. Why? When you exercise, your cardiac output goes up and you increase blood through to your working skeletal muscles. Whenever there is an increase in blood flow, it creates a pressure against your blood wall lining, which activates nitric oxide production. This onset of rush in your blood stream is not only good for nitric oxide production, but also carries oxygen, nutrients, and eliminates lactic acid and pain-producing metabolites. Even if you are subjected to small amount of exercises, your nitric oxide production goes up.
Nitric oxide can be activated in the nasal pathways through breathing. If you breathe inside the nose, your nitric oxide cleans the air of any germs and microbes and allows for a deeper oxygen exchange within your lungs. Breathing slowly out through the mouth allows more nitric oxide to be built up in the nose, which then allows for an even greater oxygen exchange. You get the picture. Your nose is making continuous amounts of nitric oxide, but it is up to you and whether you are amping up the benefits inside the lung by breathing through your nose or not.
I hope you have found the topic of nitric oxide as fascinating as I did!! It is a truly remarkable molecule which can do so much good for us if we allow it. Let me know in the comments below the one thing that has fascinated you most about this post. Beautiful cover photo by Silas Baisch on Unsplash.