5 Ways to Increase Nitric Oxide Naturally
Its most important function is vasodilation, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase circulation.
Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently.
In fact, a limited capacity to produce nitric oxide is associated with heart disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction.
Fortunately, there are many ways to maintain optimal levels of nitric oxide in your body.
Here are the top 5 ways to increase nitric oxide naturally.
Share on Pinterest
Nitrate, a compound found in certain vegetables, is one of the many reasons vegetables are healthy for you.
Vegetables high in nitrate include (1Trusted Source):
When these foods are consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which confers a wide range of health benefits related to heart health and exercise performance.
In fact, several analyses have shown that eating nitrate-rich vegetables can lower blood pressure as much as some blood pressure medications (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
Despite the effects that nitrates have on nitric oxide production in your body, some people avoid them for fear they are harmful and contribute to cancer.
This is likely because sodium nitrates are commonly used as a preservative and color fixative in bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs.
Nitrates can form N-nitroso compounds, such as nitrosamine, which are capable of causing cancer.
However, vegetables, which account for more than 80 percent of nitrate intake, contain antioxidants like vitamin C, which help prevent the formation of N-nitroso compounds (12Trusted Source).
Nitric oxide is an unstable molecule that degrades quickly in the bloodstream, so it must be constantly replenished (14).
One way to increase its stability and limit its breakdown is by consuming antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals, which contribute to the short life of nitric oxide (15Trusted Source).
These antioxidants are found in all foods but primarily those of plant origin, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
A few important antioxidants include:
- Vitamin C: This antioxidant helps your body form connective tissues, including skin, bones, tendons and cartilage. It also produces brain chemicals that help nerve cells communicate (16Trusted Source).
- Vitamin E: This antioxidant protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which are thought to contribute to aging and disease. It also plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
- Polyphenols: This category of antioxidants is associated with several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease (19Trusted Source).
- Glutathione: Coined “the mother of all antioxidants,” glutathione is the master antioxidant and detoxifier of every cell in your body.
Several studies have found that ingesting nitric oxide precursors, such as nitrate or citrulline, with antioxidants maintains greater levels of nitric oxide in your body by helping reduce its breakdown (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
Vegetables that are high in nitrate are also inherently high in antioxidants, which is likely why vegetables are so effective at increasing and maintaining optimal levels of
Several dietary supplements are marketed as “nitric oxide boosters.”
These supplements don’t contain nitric oxide itself, but they include ingredients that help form nitric oxide in your body.
The most commonly used ingredients are L-arginine
L-arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning it only has to be consumed in the diet under certain conditions, while healthy adults can make all they need (24Trusted Source).
It directly produces nitric oxide through a process called the L-arginine-NO pathway.
Several studies support the use of L-arginine for increasing blood flow, but only in certain populations.
However, evidence on the ability of L-arginine to improve blood flow or exercise performance in healthy individuals remains mixed (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
The amino acids L-arginine is used to produce nitric oxide in your body. They are available as supplements and have beneficial effects on vascular health and blood flow.
Mouthwash destroys bacteria in your mouth that can contribute to the growth of cavities and other dental diseases.
Unfortunately, mouthwash kills all types of bacteria, including the beneficial ones that help produce nitric oxide.
Special bacteria in the mouth convert nitrate to nitric oxide. In fact, humans cannot produce nitric oxide from nitrate without these bacteria (41Trusted Source).
The detrimental effects of mouthwash on nitric oxide production may even contribute to the development of diabetes, which is characterized by malfunctions in insulin production or action.
This is because nitric oxide also regulates insulin, which helps cells utilize the energy obtained from food after it’s digested. Without nitric oxide, insulin cannot work properly.
One study found that people who used mouthwash at least twice daily were 65% more likely to develop diabetes than those who never used mouthwash (46Trusted Source).
Therefore, to maintain adequate nitric oxide production, it’s best to use mouthwash sparingly.
Mouthwash kills many types of bacteria in the mouth, including the ones that help produce nitric oxide. This limits your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide, which can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.
Exercise really does get your blood pumping, largely because it improves endothelial function.
Endothelium refers to the thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels. These cells produce nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels healthy.
Insufficient nitric oxide production results in endothelium dysfunction, which can contribute to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease (47Trusted Source).
Exercise keeps your endothelial cells and blood vessels healthy by increasing your body’s natural ability to produce nitric oxide.
Several studies have shown that regular physical activity increases endothelial vasodilation in people who have high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as in healthy individuals (48, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source).
For optimal results, combine aerobic training, such as walking or jogging, with anaerobic training, such as resistance training. The types of exercise you choose should be things you enjoy and can do long term.
Finally, speak with your doctor to determine any limitations you may have in regards to exercise.
Nitric oxide is an essential molecule required for overall health. As a vasodilator, nitric oxide signals the blood vessels to relax, allowing them to expand.
This effect allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to flow freely to every part of your body. But when nitric oxide production is decreased, your health can become compromised.
Therefore, it’s important to achieve and maintain optimal levels of nitric oxide in your body.
A diet high in nitrate-rich vegetables and antioxidants or the use of supplement, such as L-arginine are beneficial ways to boost your body’s natural production of nitric oxide. Other proven strategies include limiting mouthwash and exercising regularly.
For optimal nitric oxide production, increase your intake of nitrate-rich vegetables and exercise at least 30 minutes per day.
Top of Form
5 Ways Nitric Oxide Supplements Boost Your Health and Performance
Nitric oxide is produced by nearly every type of cell in the human body and one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health.
It’s a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, causing the vessels to widen. In this way, nitric oxide increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
Supplements that increase nitric oxide in the body make up one of the most popular supplement categories today.
These supplements don’t contain nitric oxide itself. However, they contain compounds that your body can use to make nitric oxide and have been shown to provide many benefits for health and performance.
Here are 5 health and performance benefits of taking nitric oxide supplements.
- Help Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sex (1Trusted Source).
Nitric oxide is needed for the muscles in the penis to relax. This relaxation allows chambers inside the penis to fill with blood so the penis becomes erect (3Trusted Source).
In one study, L-citrulline was found to improve erection hardness in 12 men with mild erectile dysfunction (4Trusted Source).
Researchers concluded that L-citrulline was less effective than prescription drugs used to treat ED, such as Viagra. Nevertheless, L-citrulline proved to be safe and well tolerated.
Two other nitric-oxide-boosting supplements have been shown to treat erectile dysfunction — the amino acid L-arginine and French maritime pine bark extract.
In several studies, a combination of L-arginine and French maritime pine bark extract significantly improved sexual function in men with ED (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
When taken together, L-arginine and French maritime pine bark extract also appear safe (9Trusted Source).
Summary Nitric oxide plays an important role in erectile function. Several supplements, including L-arginine have been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide in men with erectile dysfunction (ED).
- May Decrease Muscle Soreness
L-citrulline not only increases nitric oxide production, but also decreases muscle soreness.
Muscle soreness is an uncomfortable experience that tends to occur after strenuous or unaccustomed exercise (10Trusted Source).
This soreness is referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness and usually feels the strongest 24–72 hours after exercise.
In one study, 41 people were randomized to receive either 8 grams of citrulline malate or a placebo one hour before performing as many repetitions as possible on a flat barbell bench press (11Trusted Source).
Those given citrulline malate reported 40% less muscle soreness at 24 and 48 hours after the exercise, compared to those who took the placebo.
L Arginie increases nitric oxide production, which increases blood flow to active muscles. In turn, citrulline malate is thought to increase nutrient delivery and clear waste products that are related to muscle fatigue, such as lactate and ammonia (12Trusted Source).
However, a later study on the effects of citrulline after leg exercises did not find citrulline malate helpful for the treatment of muscle soreness (13Trusted Source).
One explanation for this difference in findings is that the people in the leg exercise study were given 6 grams of citrulline malate, which is 2 grams less than the previous study.
Therefore, the ability of citrulline malate to decrease muscle soreness may depend on the dose and exercise. However, more research on this is needed.
- Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure occurs when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is consistently too high.
Over time, high blood pressure can lead to health issues such as heart disease and kidney disease.
This has led researchers to test the beneficial effects of certain compounds found in fruits and vegetables on blood pressure levels.
Nitrate is a compound found in beetroot and dark leafy greens like spinach and arugula.
When you consume nitrate, your body converts it to nitric oxide, which in turn causes blood vessels to relax and dilate, lowering blood pressure.
One review analyzed the effects of taking nitrate supplements on blood pressure in adults (21Trusted Source).
Of the 13 studies analyzed, six found significant reductions in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure when participants took nitrate supplements (22Trusted Source).
What’s more, another review of 43 studies found participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressures decreased by an average of 3.55 and 1.32 mm Hg, respectively, after they took nitrate supplements (23Trusted Source).
Flavonoids have powerful antioxidant effects and are found in almost all fruits and vegetables (27Trusted Source).
Scientists believe flavonoids not only increase production of nitric oxide but also decrease its breakdown, promoting higher levels overall.
However, nitrates have more research supporting their blood-pressure-lowering effects than flavonoids do.
Summary Vegetables and fruits contain several compounds, such as nitrate and flavonoids, that may help keep blood pressure under control by increasing nitric oxide levels.
- Boost Exercise Performance
Nitric oxide is involved in many cell processes, including the widening of the blood vessels, or vasodilation. Wider blood vessels help increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise, thus enhancing exercise performance.
This has made nitric oxide supplements popular among athletes and recreational gym-goers.
These supplements often contain several ingredients that are said to increase nitric oxide, such as nitrate or the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline.
This is likely because most of the L-arginine that is ingested is metabolized or broken down before it gets a chance to reach the bloodstream, whereas L-citrulline is not (34Trusted Source).
For this reason, L-citrulline is more effective than L-arginine at increasing nitric oxide and therefore exercise performance (35Trusted Source).
- May Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Nitric oxide production is impaired in people with type 2 diabetes (36Trusted Source).
This leads to poor blood vessel health, which can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, kidney disease and heart disease over time.
Therefore, supplements that increase nitric oxide may have important implications for diabetes treatment and disease prevention.
One study found that when people with type 2 diabetes took L-arginine, their nitric oxide production increased .
This increase in nitric oxide also led to increased insulin sensitivity, allowing for better blood sugar control.
Another study in 144 people looked at the effects of L-arginine on preventing or delaying the progression of type 2 diabetes (38Trusted Source).
While L-arginine did not prevent people from developing diabetes, it did increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar control.
But until more research is available, it is premature to recommend taking L-arginine supplements to treat diabetes.
Summary People with diabetes have impaired nitric oxide production, which can lead to harmful health effects. L-arginine has been shown to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes, but more research is needed before it can be recommended.