Nitric Oxide – What is it? Why do we need it and How to Optimize Production

Nitric oxide (NO), not to be confused with the dental-favorite laughing gas, nitrous oxide, is a vital molecule produced in the body. NO is a vasodilator which helps promote a healthy blood flow/circulation and is necessary for increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the body, which triggers the release of oxygen (O2) from the bloodstream into the tissues and organs of the body.

The benefits of optimizing nitric oxide production include improved cardio-vascular health, better brain function, improved oxygenation in organs and tissues where needed, increased energy and endurance, reduced inflammation, erectile dysfunction (Viagra enhances nitric oxide sensitivity) and helps manage type 2 diabetes (more nitric oxide increases insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control). In addition, NO is also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. It is also anti-aging.

The destruction of good bacteria in the body by over using fluoride mouth washes, antibiotics, hand washes, hand sanitizers and other factors including lack of exercise, taking antacids and smoking, which all inhibit the synthesis of Nitric Oxide. Insufficient nitric oxide production can result in endothelium (blood vessels) dysfunction, which can contribute to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for heart disease. Memory loss, chronic fatigue, insomnia and sleep issues, depression and reduced stamina and endurance are also signs of a NO insufficiency.

So how do we optimize our production of NO? A diet focused on nitrate-rich foods (i.e., beets, leafy greens, citrus fruits, pomegranate, garlic, nuts and seeds, meat and dark chocolate) and avoiding excess salt, sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, smoking and alcohol, which negatively affect our ability to produce NO. Regular exercise keeps the endothelial cells and blood vessels healthy by increasing your body’s natural ability to produce nitric oxide. There are also supplements that we can take to increase NO production, but PLEASE do your research before diving into supplements.

But, why am I really here? Because the way you breath determines the amount of NO that your body produces. Nasal breathing is the major key involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide. When you breath through your mouth, you produce none. And before you say (I hear it all the time) “I always breath through my nose…”, do yourself a favor and pay attention for the next 24 hours and notice how many times you catch yourself breathing through your mouth, or probably even holding your breath. If you talk a lot for work (or otherwise) you’re breathing through your mouth more than you think. And if you’ve ever been told you snore….mouth-breather. And the fix? Be mindful of your breath and take a couple minutes during your day to breath in a comfortable rhythm in and out through your nose. And the snoring? Unless you have an actual deformity of your airways or some medical condition that would prohibit, tape you mouth shut while you sleep. You will be amazed at the benefits and how much better you sleep and feel in the morning.

Breathing through your nose is essential and the increase is due to the rapid gas exchange happening in the paranasal sinuses. The addition of humming or chanting OHM increases nitric oxide production by 15% over nasal breathing alone and is also an effective tool for dropping you almost immediately into a relaxed state by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. And one last helpful tool I use when trying to fall asleep – breathe in for 4 counts and hum out for 8….an use the hum at a vibration that is soothing to you and hum yourself to sleep. You’re welcome.

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