Nitric oxide is a small molecule with major importance to health. It’s produced by nearly every type of cell in your body, and it signals your arteries to dilate. That’s why it increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure. When an angina patient gets chest pain, it’s relieved immediately by a shot of nitroglycerin, which the body can process into nitric oxide. Springy arteries that can freely dilate are an important component of blood pressure control, and, in fact, of microcirculation everywhere in the body.
Can I measure my nitric oxide?
There are do-it-yourself saliva tests for nitric oxide levels. It’s a dip stick that you dip into your saliva and observe a color change. You can test yourself at home to assess your levels and gauge progress. However, there’s controversy as to how reliable these tests are and how strongly salivary nitric oxide is correlated to overall body nitric oxide. That’s why I don’t routinely recommend do-it-yourself testing. But you can still work to ensure that your levels are adequate.
How can I boost my nitric oxide?
There are three commonly proposed ways to increase nitric oxide levels. One way is through sun exposure. Most people know that we need sunlight to stimulate vitamin D production. But it’s not as widely known that sunshine also triggers the production of nitric oxide. Don’t overdo it, but that’s another reason you may want to rethink your use of sunscreen and your total time exposed to the sun.
A second key to high nitric oxide levels is to eat lots of high nitrate foods. The list of high nitrate foods is going to look almost identical to a list of dark green leafy vegetables. You should eat multiple servings of these each day….but you already knew that, didn’t you?
A third way to boost nitric oxide is deep breathing. Perhaps your self-care routine already incorporates breathing practices, but if it doesn’t you should work those in to your routine. One method I recommend is to use a device that offers graduated resistance to inspiration. Like any strength-training exercise, you start with a low level of resistance and gradually build up.
There are a number of gadgets like this on the market. One that I’ve used is PowerBreathe. Their research shows a wide range of positive benefits, including lowered blood pressure with regular use.