What is nitric oxide?

Although nitric oxide production occurs naturally in the body, you can boost your levels by eating certain foods. Nitric oxide relaxes blood flow, improves blood flow, and supplies oxygen to tissues.
Although nitric oxide production occurs naturally in the body, you can boost your levels by eating certain foods. Nitric oxide relaxes blood flow, improves blood flow, and supplies oxygen to tissues.

Nitric oxide, abbreviated as NO, is a chemical compound that plays a key role in cell metabolism. It is also crucial in coordinating tissue energy demand with supply.

The body naturally produces nitric oxide as a free radical. It is the end product of a conversion process of dietary nitrates and vitamin C. One of nitric oxide’s prominent functions is to relax your blood vessels, which improves blood flow and oxygen supply to your tissues. This widening of the blood vessels is also vital in lowering blood pressure.

How to increase nitric oxide in your body?

Although Nitric Oxide production occurs naturally in the body, you can boost your levels by eating certain foods. Some of the foods that can increase nitric oxide levels in your body include:

Beets. Beets contain high levels of nitrates which can boost the production of nitric oxide in your body.

Poultry. Poultry is a great source of a coenzyme that is important in the preservation of nitric oxide in your body.

Garlic. Garlic increases the levels of enzymes involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide.

Leafy greens. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale are loaded with nitrates that are converted to nitric oxide.

Citrus fruits. This category of fruits, including lemons and oranges, plays an important role in nitric oxide production. They contain high levels of vitamin C, which increases levels of enzymes crucial to nitric oxide formation.

Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are rich in amino acids, which play a part in the production of nitric oxide.

Cocoa. Cocoa contains flavanols which are compounds that significantly boost nitric oxide levels in your body.

Health benefits of nitric oxide

Nitric oxide is responsible for various significant body processes, some of which include:

Lowers blood pressure. Nitric oxide helps in vasodilation, which is the expansion of blood vessels. This improves blood circulation and lowers blood pressure.

Improved wound healing. Nitric oxide is crucial in the regulation of various wound healing processes such as inflammatory response, cell proliferation, collagen formation, and antimicrobial action.

Better exercise performance. Nitric oxide may help in improvement during physical performance. Athletes who consume a nitrate-rich diet appear to tire slightly more slowly than those who do not.

Boosts reproduction. Nitric oxide boosts different areas of reproduction. In the female reproductive system, nitric oxide influences successive reproductive processes, such as ovulation, fertilization, embryo implantation, pregnancy maintenance, and delivery regulation. In the male reproductive system, nitric oxide affects progressive reproductive processes such as sperm maturation.

Improved brain function. Lack of adequate blood flow to supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain and remove cellular waste can affect brain performance. Increased production of nitric oxide can improve blood flow to the brain and possibly decrease inflammation. This greatly improves cognitive ability.

Symptoms of low nitric oxide

Deficiency of nitric oxide is common, especially in advanced age. This is caused by your body’s inability to naturally produce nitric oxide as you age. There are a couple of nitric oxide deficiency symptoms worth your attention.

Depression. Low levels of nitric oxide affect blood circulation causing high blood pressure and may lead to chronic PTSD. Nitric oxide helps reduce depression and stress by reducing inflammation.

Poor vision. The fluid in your eyes, located in the frontal part, regulates whether intraocular pressure increases or decreases. The proper flow of this fluid is determined by the nitric oxide that carries it. If this fluid does not drain properly from your eye, pressure builds up, causing weaker vision.

Fatigue. Nitric oxide decreased levels may cause chronic fatigue. Low nitric oxide levels can decrease your body’s natural energy at the cellular level. This is a result of reduced circulation, reducing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that your body needs.

Hypertension. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that controls your blood pressure levels. Nitric oxide regulates blood pressure preventing cardiac problems such as stroke and heart attacks.

Memory loss. Brain diseases such as dementia are caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. Low blood pressure resulting from decreased levels of nitric oxide may cause cognitive decline.

Can nitric oxide harm your body?

The presence of nitric oxide in nominal levels in the body is generally considered safe. High nitric oxide can cause headaches in migraine. It can cause damage on a cellular level. This is associated with neurodegenerative diseases, including  Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington disease.


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Medically Reviewed on 6/23/2022

American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology: "Exercise training enhances flow-induced vasodilation in skeletal muscle resistance arteries of aged rats: role of PGI(2) and nitric oxide."

Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care: "Regulation of nitric oxide production in health and disease."

PloS one: "Acute ingestion of beetroot juice increases exhaled nitric oxide in healthy individuals."

Molecular Syndromology: "Coenzyme Q10 Therapy."

Current medical research and opinion: "Potent activation of nitric oxide synthase by garlic: a basis for its therapeutic applications."

African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "NITRATE IN LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES AND ESTIMATED INTAKE."

Circulation research: "Long-term vitamin C treatment increases vascular tetrahydrobiopterin levels and nitric oxide synthase activity."

The Journal of Urology: "Effect of long-term oral L-arginine on the nitric oxide synthase pathway in the urine from patients with interstitial cystitis."

Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: "Cocoa flavanols: effects on vascular nitric oxide and blood pressure."

Hypertension: "Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study."

American Journal of Surgery: "Role of nitric oxide in wound repair."

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: "The effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance in healthy individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis."

Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research = Revista Brasileira de Pesquisas Medicas e Biologicas: "The role of nitric oxide in reproduction."

Indian Journal of Medical Research: "Involvement of nitric oxide in learning & memory processes."

Journal of the Association for Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics: "The Role of Nitric Oxide in the Intraocular Pressure Lowering Efficacy of Latanoprostene Bunod: Review of Nonclinical Studies."

Sports Medicine: "The effect of nitric-oxide-related supplements on human performance."

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Regulation of Nitric Oxide Production in the Developmental Programming of Hypertension and Kidney Disease."

Current cardiology reports: "Cardiovascular Disease, the Nitric Oxide Pathway and Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia."