Boosting Nitric Oxide Flow Improves These 7 Health Issues
In the human body, nitric oxide (NO) is a cell-signaling molecule involved in blood flow. You may already know that the body depends on blood to oxygenate and transport nutrients to every organ, cell, and system.
Normally, when blood vessels become damaged or tighten, nitric oxide helps them relax so blood circulates more easily to the body’s organ systems. But for some people, nitric oxide deficiencies are associated with heart disease1, immune dysregulation2, sexual dysfunction3, and a myriad of other physical and mental issues.
Turning inward to consider something as small as nitric oxide molecules may be an afterthought, but the extra effort could be worth it when you hear that NO plays a major function in everything from blood pressure and orgasm to inflammation and muscle growth.
Ahead, discover seven science-backed benefits, what the consensus is on supplements vs. natural sources of nitric oxide, and small ways to nourish blood flow that make a big difference.
What Is Nitric Oxide?
In addition to being a vasodilator (substances that dilate blood vessels), nitric oxide is also a toxic atmospheric gas with ties to reduced air quality4 and acid rain5 from natural sources and fossil fuel emissions.
Ecologically speaking, this reactive gas poses short and long-term risks for human health and climate change, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)6.
On a lighter note, nitric oxide in the body contributes to improved endothelial cell ability, allowing blood to do the important job of relaxing blood vessels. There are many pharmaceutical applications of nitric oxide—one example being the use of NO inhalants to level out high blood pressure7.
For more details on how this works, keep reading to learn seven potential benefits of nitric oxide supplements.
Symptoms of Poor Circulation
People without a diagnosed heart condition also experience the occasional bout of poor circulation. Just sitting too long can affect blood flow, leading to symptoms such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Cold hands or feet
Insufficient blood flow can affect memory, fatigue, the digestive system, and skin discoloration, possibly leading to varicose veins and leg ulcer pain.
Patients with diagnosed conditions that affect circulation, such as diabetes and atherosclerosis, experience other condition-specific symptoms in addition to those listed above.
All About Nitric Oxide Supplements
Despite what the name suggests, NO supplements don’t technically contain nitric acid. Instead, they contain other compounds that induce NO production8.
Amino Acids Increase NO Production
There are dozens of formulated pill, powder, and topical NO products on the market, most of which contain two amino acids: L-arginine and L-citrulline. These compounds are found in select food items (meat, dairy, nut, and legumes), but since amino acids convert to NO, a supplement is one way to boost NO production.
3 Natural Nitric Oxide Boosters
Nitric oxide supplements draw some controversy, namely the effectiveness in healthy test subjects vs. those with diagnosed conditions that affect circulation9. Natural sources of NO from food and exercise, however, are a more reliable way to benefit from better circulation.
Fruits and veggies contain nitrates and flavonoids, which are also NO-synthesizing compounds. Many researchers consider nitrate-rich vegetables (spinach, chard, beets) and fruits (watermelon, apples, grapes) to be the most important dietary source of nitric oxide10.
If you’re still not convinced, a low dose of plant-based NO, called S7®, boosts nitric oxide by 230%11. This blend of broccoli, kale, turmeric, and more is the NO superstar in our Purpose supplement.
Combine this with regular physical activity, and you have a potent strategy for naturally boosting NO.
Finally, NO supplements have some antioxidative effects. Due to an unstable free radical, NO has a short half-life and must be continually replenished.
Consuming antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, along with NO supplements, help to keep this stability in check so NO lasts longer, reducing the pressure put on blood vessels. Conversely, impaired NO bioavailability is associated with blood vessel dysfunction and oxidative stress12.
Moral of the story: You need antioxidants to stabilize NO so free radicals don’t overcharge your system. Antioxidants work to balance the delicate relationship between free radicals and oxidative stress (the culprit of many inflammatory disorders).
If you’re still curious, check out The Essential Guide to Antioxidants.
7 Possible Health Benefits
Research findings reveal the potential of nitric oxide for multiple disease states. Supplementing with NO may have far-reaching possibilities for the following conditions/ailments (based on animal and human studies):
- Blood Pressure13
- Sexual Dysfunction in Men14 and Women15
- Digestive Issues16
- Type 2 Diabetes17
- Lung Disease18
- Muscle Power20
Despite popular claims, the benefits of nitric oxide for improved exercise performance remain unclear21. Does the NO boost come from the supplement or the exercise? Making this distinction in exercise studies is difficult.
Anecdotally, however, some Purpose fans have reported reduced hangover fatigue and altitude sickness from our plant-based nitric oxide supplement.
Potential Side Effects
NO sources from fruits and veggies are safer than manufactured supplements when it comes to “natural” supplementation. That said, despite some stomach irritability (nausea and diarrhea), L-arginine has a favorable safety profile22. What’s more, L-citrulline doesn’t produce any adverse side effects23. Always follow the recommended dosage on the supplement label.
Meanwhile, too much NO can lower blood pressure, which may not be suitable for insulin-sensitive patients. If you’re unsure, talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any supplement plan. They can also discuss possible drug interactions that may occur.
Boosting nitric oxide favors improved blood flow, which may lead to better muscle function, heart health, and sexual performance. If you decide to take NO supplements, consider leaving behind counteractive habits, like smoking and not exercising, as they can contribute to NO dysfunction.
Mindfulness techniques also bring an integrated approach to your wellness routine, so keep an eye on stress levels. The key to reaping the benefits of NO is to honor your body through food, exercise, and self-awareness.