Nitric Oxide: Nature's Youth Serum?
Nitric oxide is a chemical in our blood that relaxes the blood vessels and at the same time reduces the blood’s viscosity or stickiness, which lowers blood pressure, boosts athletic performance, and improves sexual performance. It is essential for the health of our heart and arteries; however, our ability to produce this chemical declines with age. This helps explain the increased risk for high blood pressure and other symptoms of heart disease as we get older. By the time we reach age 40, our body’s nitric oxide production drops by about 50%. And by the time we reach 60, it has dropped by about 85% percent! The discovery of nitric oxide’s function in the body is so significant that the three scientists who discovered its role received a Nobel prize in 1998.
Nitric oxide, in addition to being critical for heart health, offers the following benefits:
- Strengthens the immune system: Statistics suggest that people who eat a healthy plant-based diet, and therefore higher levels of nitric oxide intake, have a 9% lower risk of COVID-19 infection and a 41% lower risk of severe COVID-19.
- Boosts our athletic performance with more efficient blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles: Nitric oxide also enables faster recovery, reduced soreness, and a decreased demand on your heart and skeletal muscles during exercise.
- Enhances sexual performance by dilating the blood vessels in both men and women.
- Protects the brain from dementia as we age, which is often caused by hardening or damage to the arteries, disrupting the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
How Do We Get More Nitric Oxide?
Do we need to buy an expensive supplement to get these benefits? Absolutely not! Our bodies are the best nitric oxide producers; here’s how you can get more:
- Eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables with your meals: Kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, arugula, beets and beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cilantro, parsley, asparagus, and spirulina. Tip: If you cook these greens, just steam them for about 10 minutes to preserve maximum nutrients. However, I like eating most of them raw.
- Breathing deeply through our nose and not the mouth increases the supply of this vital chemical which also has a calming effect and lowers blood pressure.
- Sunshine also boosts production, which strengthens our immune system.
- Exercise 30-45 minutes three to five times a week. Combine that with three 4-minute aerobic mini-sessions throughout each day to increase production by breaking up extended periods of sitting. See the video by Dr. Zach Bush here.
- Don’t use anti-bacterial mouthwash, and avoid toothpaste with fluoride when possible. Certain helpful bacteria on our tongue trigger nitric oxide production when we chew, and mouthwash and fluoride destroy them. Since chewing is an important part of the process, eat and chew most of your greens rather than juicing them for optimum nitric oxide benefit.
- Antacids and antibiotics also disrupt bacteria essential to the body’s nitric oxide production. Use them only when necessary and according to directions.