How This Helps

Nitric oxide is produced and released by the inner layer of cells present in the blood vessels. These are known as the endothelium. The release of nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels and keeps them flexible, enhancing their elasticity. This allows them to dilate easily, increases the blood flow through the blood vessels, and also helps in controlling blood pressure. Nitric oxide has many health benefits for the heart, immune system, sexual health, exercise performance, and diabetes. Learn how to get more nitric oxide boost naturally.

What is Nitric Oxide?

Nitric oxide (chemically NO) is an essential compound that is produced naturally by the body by every type of cell. Nitric oxide is a critical biological regulator in the body, and the body produces this compound to help the millions of cells communicate with each other.[1]

Nitric oxide, being a bioregulator,  helps protect the cardiovascular system against aging and damage. There are many nitric oxide benefits, with the main one being vasodilation, meaning the relaxation of the inner muscles of the blood vessels. This action causes the blood vessels to widen, thus boosting the circulation of blood throughout the body.[2] When nitric oxide increases blood flow, it helps lower blood pressure.[3] 

Nitric oxide is also responsible for stimulating the release of hormones, such as the human growth hormone and insulin. At the same time, nitric oxide also maintains the elasticity of the blood vessels, which is necessary for promoting heart health.

See: Best Foods For Diabetics & Shopping List

Nitric oxide health benefits

How does nitric oxide (NO) boost our health?

1. Heart health: Since nitric oxide boosts arterial elasticity, it enhances vasodilation, thus increasing the blood flow to all organs of the body. The production of nitric oxide also maintains healthy blood pressure levels. Nitric oxide is produced and released by the inner layer of cells present in the blood vessels. These are known as the endothelium.[4] The release of nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels and keeps them flexible, enhancing their elasticity. This allows them to dilate easily, increases the blood flow through the blood vessels, and also helps in controlling blood pressure. 

2. Anti-inflammatory: At the same time, nitric oxide is known to have potent anti-inflammatory effects. One of the many nitric oxide benefits is that it also helps prevents platelets and white blood cells from sticking to the lining of the blood vessels. This lowers the risk of plaque development, which is a significant risk factor in the development of heart disease.[5, 6]  However, as we continue to age, our cells start producing less nitric oxide. This causes our blood vessels to lose their flexibility over time, contributing to the development of inflammation in blood vessels, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels). All these factors are significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease.[7]  At the same time, as a vicious cycle, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and inflammation, in turn, cause disruption of nitric oxide production and also hampers the action of this very important compound in the body.[8]

3. Help Treat ED (Erectile Dysfunction)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the body's inability to get or maintain an erection rigid enough for intercourse. L-citrulline is an amino acid that might help treat erectile dysfunction by increasing the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is required for the muscles in the penis to relax. This relaxation allows chambers within the penis to fill with blood, so the penis becomes erect. In one study, L-citrulline was discovered to enhance erection hardness in 12 men with mild erectile dysfunction.

Researchers reasoned that L-citrulline was significantly less effective than prescription medication used to treat ED, such as Viagra. Nevertheless, L-citrulline was shown to be safe and well-tolerated. Two other nitric-oxide-boosting nutritional supplements have been proven to treat erectile dysfunction -- the L-arginine amino acid and Pycnogenol, an extract from the pine tree. In a number of studies, a combination of L-arginine and Pycnogenol significantly improved sexual function in men with ED.

4. May Decrease Muscle Soreness

A kind of L-citrulline called citrulline malate not only increases nitric oxide production but also decreases muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is an embarrassing experience that tends to occur after strenuous or unaccustomed exercise. This soreness is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness and generally feels the strongest 24--72 hours following exercise. In one study, 41 individuals were randomized to receive either 8 g of citrulline malate or a placebo one hour prior to performing as many repetitions as possible on a flat barbell bench press. Those who were given citrulline malate reported 40 percent less muscle soreness after the exercise vs. those who were given the placebo. Citrulline malate increases nitric oxide production that increases the blood flow to active muscles. Subsequently, citrulline malate is considered to increase nutrient shipping and clear waste products that are associated with muscle fatigue.

5. Reduce Blood Pressure

Individuals with high blood pressure are believed to have a diminished ability to use nitric oxide in their own bodies. High blood pressure is said to occur when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is always too high. Over time, high blood pressure may result in health issues like heart disease and kidney disease. Research has noted that a diet high in fruits and vegetables reduces blood pressure, and so reduces the risk of disease. This has led researchers to check the beneficial effects of specific substances found in vegetables and fruits on blood pressure levels.

6. Supports Brain Health

NO is also regarded as an integral participant in brain health. It's been proven to be an important messenger in various organ systems, but it is especially important to the central nervous system, in which it functions as an intermediary in mobile communication in the brain. Research conducted at the University of Leicester shows how NO can alter the "computational ability" of the mind, which points toward NO's ability to assist neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.

7. Boost Exercise Performance

Nitric oxide plays a key role in many cell processes, including the vasodilation or widening of the blood vessels. Wider blood vessels help boost the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles during the exercise, thereby enhancing exercise performance. This performance boost has made nitric oxide supplements popular among athletes and recreational gym-goers. These nutritional supplements often contain several ingredients that are thought to increase nitric oxide, such as the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. In many investigations, nitrate has been shown to improve exercise performance in runners, cyclists, and swimmers.

8. Manage Diabetes Type 2 

Nitric oxide production is lower in folks with type 2 diabetes. This contributes to inadequate blood vessel health, which may result in conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, and high blood pressure over time. Supplements that increase nitric oxide may have significant implications for diabetes therapy and prevention.

One research study found that people with type 2 diabetes who were given L-arginine, noticed an improvement in their nitric oxide production. This increase in nitric oxide also contributed to increased insulin sensitivity, allowing for better blood glucose control. Another study in 144 individuals looked at the consequences of L-arginine on preventing or delaying the development of type 2 diabetes ). While L-arginine did not stop individuals from developing diabetes, it did increase insulin sensitivity and enhance blood sugar control. But until more study is available, it's premature to advocate taking L-arginine nutritional supplements to treat diabetes.




See: Heart healthy diet plan to prevent heart disease

Boost nitric oxide levels naturally

How to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels in the Body?

Here are some tips on how to increase the levels of nitric oxide in the body.

1. Increase your Consumption of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that prevent damage caused by free radicals, which are also responsible for cutting down the lifespan of nitric oxide.[9]  Antioxidants can be found in many nitric oxide foods, primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds. 

Vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and polyphenols are some of the essential antioxidants that you should be getting in your daily diet. Perhaps the most important is glutathione, which is also known as the 'mother of all antioxidants.'[10]

Vegetables that are rich in nitrates are also known to be rich in antioxidants. This is why vegetables are highly effective at boosting and maintaining adequate levels of nitric oxide.[11]

2. Increase the Intake of Vegetables rich in Nitrates

Vegetables are great nitric oxide foods. Nitrate can be found in certain vegetables such as:[12]

·        Beets -  A study found that consuming beetroot juice can increase nitric oxide levels by over 20 percent within just 45 minutes.[13] Beets are rich in dietary nitrates and have several health benefits, including improving athletic prowess, lowering blood pressure, and improving cognitive function.[14, 15]

·         Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, cabbage, lettuce, celery, chervil, and arugula - A review found that regular consumption of leafy green vegetables can help maintain adequate levels of nitric oxide in the bloodstream and tissues.[16]

·        Garlic - An animal study found that garlic extract successfully raises nitric oxide levels in the bloodstream by 40 percent within one hour of consumption.[17] Many studies have found that regularly consuming nitrate-rich vegetables can help reduce blood pressure levels just as much as many medications for blood pressure.[18, 19, 20]

3. Exercise

Apart from nitric oxide foods, regular physical activity can also help you gain nitric oxide benefits. The benefits of regular exercise are many. Exercising will get your blood flowing, improving your endothelial function. Exercise also ensures that your endothelial cells remain healthy, thus increasing the body's natural ability to manufacture nitric oxide. 

Many studies have discovered that regular exercise helps increase endothelial vasodilation in people who have heart disease and high blood pressure, and also in people who are in good overall health.[21, 22]

Regular exercising can, therefore, significantly boost the body's production of nitric oxide. Experts recommend that a combination of aerobic exercises such as jogging or brisk walking, along with anaerobic exercises, such as resistance training, can provide the optimum results when you want to increase nitric oxide levels.

See: Immune boosting foods

Nitric oxide side effects

Side Effects

Nitric oxide supplements are usually safe when taken in appropriate quantities. But, there are some side effects to know about.

- Beetroot juice supplements may also turn your urine and feces into a dark reddish color. This is quite a common but harmless side effect.

- L-arginine in doses above 10 grams dosage can cause stomach discomfort and nausea.

Before taking any supplements to boost nitric oxide, ask your health care provider or dietitian.

See: Beets Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits & Side Effects

Summary

Nitric oxide is an important compound produced naturally by the body. It is required for maintaining your health and for keeping your blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. Nitric oxide functions as a natural vasodilator, which means that it allows your blood vessels to expand and relax, allowing more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to flow through them to each part of the body.  As we continue to age, the production of nitric oxide decreases. This is why it is essential to eat nitric oxide foods such as green leafy vegetables, to maintain the levels of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Regular exercise can also increase the levels of nitric oxide and also lower the risk of heart disease. Nowadays, some dietary supplements are marketed as nitric oxide boosters, but keep in mind that these supplements only contain the ingredients that help the body manufacture nitric oxide. These include L-arginine and L-citrulline. However, it is not recommended that you start having these supplements without consulting your doctor.

See: How to increase libido naturally

References

1. Merritt, W.T., 1993, April. Nitric oxide: an important bioregulator. In Transplantation proceedings (Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 2014-2016).

2. Frostell, C., Fratacci, M.D., Wain, J.C., Jones, R., and Zapol, W.M., 1991. Inhaled nitric oxide. A selective pulmonary vasodilator reversing hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. Circulation, 83(6), pp.2038-2047.

3. Togashi, H., Sakuma, I., Yoshioka, M., Kobayashi, T., Yasuda, H., Kitabatake, A., Saito, H., Gross, S.S., and Levi, R., 1992. A central nervous system action of nitric oxide in blood pressure regulation. Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, 262(1), pp.343-347.

4. Bauer, V., and Sotníková, R., 2010. Nitric oxide—the endothelium-derived relaxing factor and its role in endothelial functions. General physiology and biophysics, 29(4), p.319.

5. Riccioni, G., De Santis, A., Cerasa, V., Menna, V., Di Ilio, C., Schiavone, C., Ballone, E., and D'Orazio, N., 2003. Atherosclerotic plaque formation and risk factors. International Journal of immunopathology and pharmacology, 16(1), pp.25-31.

6. Insull Jr, W., 2009. The pathology of atherosclerosis: plaque development & plaque responses to medical treatment. The American Journal of Medicine, 122(1), pp.S3-S14.

7. Napoli, C. and Ignarro, L.J., 2001. Nitric oxide and atherosclerosis. Nitric oxide, 5(2), pp.88-97.

8. Kawashima, S. and Yokoyama, M., 2004. Dysfunction of endothelial nitric oxide synthase & atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 24(6), pp.998-1005.

9. Lubos, E., Handy, D.E. and Loscalzo, J., 2008. Role of oxidative stress & nitric oxide in atherothrombosis. Frontiers in bioscience: a journal and virtual library, 13, p.5323.

10. Hogg, N., Singh, R.J. and Kalyanaraman, B., 1996. The role of glutathione in the transport & catabolism of nitric oxide. FEBS Letters, 382(3), pp.223-228.

11. Borgi, L., Muraki, I., Satija, A., Willett, W.C., Rimm, E.B. and Forman, J.P., 2016. Fruit and vegetable consumption & the incidence of hypertension in three prospective cohort studies. Hypertension, 67(2), pp.288-293.

12. Hord, N.G., Tang, Y. and Bryan, N.S., 2009. Food sources of nitrates & nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. The American Journal of clinical nutrition, 90(1), pp.1-10.

13. Kroll, J.L., Werchan, C.A., Rosenfield, D. and Ritz, T., 2018. Acute ingestion of beetroot juice increases exhaled nitric oxide in healthy individuals. PloS one, 13(1).

14. Muggeridge, D.J., Howe, C.C., Spendiff, O., Pedlar, C., James, P.E. and Easton, C., 2014. A single dose of beetroot juice enhances cycling performance in simulated altitude. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(1), pp.143-150.

15. Webb, A.J., Patel, N., Loukogeorgakis, S., Okorie, M., Aboud, Z., Misra, S., Rashid, R., Miall, P., Deanfield, J., Benjamin, N. and MacAllister, R., 2008. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension, 51(3), pp.784-790.

16. Milkowski, A., Garg, H.K., Coughlin, J.R. and Bryan, N.S., 2010. Nutritional epidemiology in the context of nitric oxide biology: A risk-benefit evaluation for dietary nitrite and nitrate. Nitric oxide, 22(2), pp.110-119.

17. Morihara, N., Sumioka, I., Moriguchi, T., Uda, N. and Kyo, E., 2002. Aged garlic extract enhances production of nitric oxide. Life Sciences, 71(5), pp.509-517.

18. Lara, J., Ashor, A.W., Oggioni, C., Ahluwalia, A., Mathers, J.C. and Siervo, M., 2016. Effects of inorganic nitrate and beetroot supplementation on endothelial function: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(2), pp.451-459.

19. Siervo, M., Lara, J., Ogbonmwan, I. and Mathers, J.C., 2013. Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of nutrition, 143(6), pp.818-826.

20. Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., Kabir, A., Azizi, F. and Ghasemi, A., 2017. The nitrate-independent blood pressure-lowering effect of beetroot juice: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Advances in Nutrition, 8(6), pp.830-838.

21. Goto, C., Nishioka, K., Umemura, T., Jitsuiki, D., Sakagutchi, A., Kawamura, M., Chayama, K., Yoshizumi, M. and Higashi, Y., 2007. Acute moderate-intensity exercise induces vasodilation through an increase in nitric oxide bioavailability in humans. American Journal of hypertension, 20(8), pp.825-830.

22. Hambrecht, R., Wolf, A., Gielen, S., Linke, A., Hofer, J., Erbs, S., Schoene, N., and Schuler, G., 2000. Effect of exercise on coronary endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 342(7), pp.454-460.

23. Tripathi P. Nitric oxide and immune response. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2007;44(5):310–319.

24. University of Leicester. "Nitric Oxide Can Alter Brain Function." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2008. .

See: Is Your Food Making You Sick?

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