Nitric Oxide: Benefits, Ways to Increase & More

Practice
February 25, 2022

Your body is capable of amazing things, from achieving physical feats to carrying new life to reaching a higher consciousness. However, you need to maintain your health in order to do all these things. One important part is maintaining a good level of nitric oxide (NO) in your body.

You might be wondering what nitric oxide is and how it helps. We’ll answer all your questions within the following topics:

  • What does nitric oxide do for the body?
  • Top 6 nitric oxide health benefits for everyone
  • 10 best ways to increase nitric oxide
  • Top 5 breathing exercises to increase nitric oxide
  • Top 5 FAQs on nitric oxide

Before we instruct you on how to increase nitric oxide by breathing, we’ll first establish what nitric oxide does for the body.

Also, if you want to learn more about the science of breathing, check out our guide to deep breathing and the parasympathetic nervous system.

What does nitric oxide do for the body?

A woman’s shadow on a rock

So what does nitric oxide do? Nitric oxide is a molecule produced in the body that contributes to a process called vasodilation. Nitric oxide vasodilation is what helps blood vessels relax, which allows for increased blood flow and circulation throughout the body. Having higher levels of nitric oxide is ideal for overall health.

Top 6 nitric oxide health benefits for everyone

So we’ve answered the question of “What does nitric oxide do for the body?” But you might still be wanting some specific examples of nitric oxide benefits. This section will cover some of the top nitric oxide health benefits you should know about.

1. Improves heart health

A person with their hand on their chest

One of the biggest benefits of nitric oxide regards heart health. Nitric oxide is important for the body’s circulation, as well as helping blood vessels to relax. Having a good level of nitric oxide contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Reduces inflammation

Nitric oxide also greatly influences inflammation. It’s able to act as an anti-inflammatory under normal conditions, but can also help produce inflammation when it’s truly needed. Maintaining a good level of nitric oxide helps to reduce the inflammation that negatively affects the body.

3. Improves oxygenation

Another big benefit of nitric oxide is its ability to help improve oxygenation. Nasal nitric oxide is generated in the sinuses, which enters your body when you breathe in and travels to the lungs and heart. This helps to improve the blood flow needed to carry oxygen throughout your body.

4. Increases physical endurance

Two people moving around wrapped in a sheet

Nitric oxide is also great for athletes and those with an active lifestyle. It increases blood flow to the muscles, allowing for increased energy and endurance during physical activity. This also helps decrease muscle soreness and improve recovery time afterwards.

5. Reduces erectile dysfunction

Those struggling with erectile dysfunction can also benefit from increased levels of nitric oxide. Since nitric oxide improves blood flow, it is viewed as a natural way of combating this issue. Many even take supplements in order to help.

6. Helps manage type 2 diabetes

Nitric oxide can also combat type 2 diabetes. Since type 2 diabetes impairs nitric oxide production, it is believed that increasing nitric oxide levels helps prevent and manage it. Studies have shown that having more nitric oxide increases insulin sensitivity and improves blood sugar control.

10 best ways to increase nitric oxide

Those wondering how to increase nitric oxide will be pleased to know it can be done in many different ways. These are some of the best ways to increase the body’s nitric oxide levels.

1. Practice nasal breathing

Two women practicing nasal breathing outdoors

Since nitric oxide helps move oxygen throughout the body, it makes sense that practicing nose breathing for nitric oxide would be helpful. Nasal nitric oxide is generated in your nose and sinuses, and then travels to your lungs and throughout your body as you inhale. By using nasal breathing exercises, you can increase the amount of nitric oxide entering your body and flowing to your lungs and heart.

2. Eat vegetables high in nitrates

Several vegetables contain nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide when consumed. By digesting more nitrates, you can easily create more nitric oxide in your body and experience more of its health benefits. Some vegetables you can eat include spinach, celery, arugula, lettuce, and beetroot.

3. Consume more antioxidants

Since nitric oxide is an unstable molecule, it tends to break down easily. Antioxidants can actually help stabilize these molecules and reduce the rate of breakdown. Try eating plant-based foods that contain vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols, and glutathione to support the nitric oxide in your body.

4. Take nitric oxide supplements

Several plants in a bucket of water

If you’re someone who prefers taking daily vitamins and supplements, there are options that can help increase nitric oxide. While there aren’t any supplements that are specifically for nitric oxide, there are several options containing ingredients that will help boost the amount of nitric oxide in your body. The two most common ingredients are L-arginine and L-citrulline.

5. Use less mouthwash and fluoride

Fluoride – typically found in water or toothpaste – and mouthwash have the ability to reduce and/or suppress nitric oxide. Overuse of one or both can impact your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide. Limiting your use of both is a great way to protect your body’s nitric oxide production capabilities.

6. Exercise

Exercise is a natural way of helping your body produce nitric oxide. This is because exercise improves endothelial function, which is what helps create nitric oxide in the first place. Combining aerobic and anaerobic exercises you enjoy for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week, is all you need in order to see results.

7. Get more natural sunlight

A woman enjoying the sunlight

You have a chemical called nitrite in your skin cells, which produces dermal nitric oxide. Sun exposure helps your skin turn nitrite into nitric oxide, allowing it to help heal wounds, build dermal immunity, and improve your skin’s blood flow. Making a commitment to spend more time in the sun is a sure way to help increase your dermal nitric oxide.

8. Reduce your stress

Stress is part of life, but high stress levels actually decrease your nitric oxide. Low nitric oxide levels can also cause you to feel more stressed. Making attempts to eliminate stress where you can will help keep your nitric oxide levels adequate and help you feel more relaxed throughout the day.

9. Stick to a healthy diet

While some foods help increase nitric oxide, other foods and beverages can actually decrease it. Too much salt, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and alcohol can all negatively affect your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide. Making an effort to choose healthier food and drinks will help maintain your nitric oxide production.

10. Quit smoking

A woman blowing dandelion seeds next to water

Smoking or prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke can cause irreversible damage to your pulmonary and cardiovascular systems, leading to a higher risk of disease in these systems. It can also greatly reduce your nitric oxide levels as a result. Making an effort to quit smoking, or avoiding being around cigarette smoke, can make a big difference in your nitric oxide levels and your overall health.

Top 5 breathing exercises to increase nitric oxide

Nitric oxide breathing exercises are some of the best ways to increase the amount of nitric oxide in your body. But it’s important to figure out which ones will work best for you. Here are some of the top breathing exercises to increase nitric oxide.

1. Buteyko breathing

A man lying on a couch

The Buteyko Method is a breathwork technique created by Dr. Konstantin Buteyko in the 1950s. First introduced in Russia, it gained popularity in Australia and the UK in the early 1990s. Many use Buteyko breathing for nitric oxide to improve their breathing and cognitive functioning.

Steps:

  1. Sit up in a chair, keeping your spine straight.
  2. Relax your respiration muscles as best as you can.
  3. Take a few minutes to breathe as you normally would.
  4. When you feel ready, take your last exhale and hold your breath.
  5. Use your thumb and index finger to plug your nose.
  6. The next step depends on whether you’re new to Buteyko or more experienced.

    a. If you’re a beginner, opt for the Control Pause. Hold your breath until you feel the urge to breathe, then let go and inhale through your nose.

    b. If you’re comfortable, you can try the Maximum Pause. Hold your breath for as long as possible (aiming for double the length of the Control Pause). Once you feel uncomfortable, let go and inhale through your nose.
  7. Breathe as you normally would for a count of 10 seconds.
  8. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

2. Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as “belly breathing” or “abdominal breathing”, is a breathing exercise that's one of the simplest forms of deep breathing. This type of breathing is typically done to relieve stress and correct breathing patterns, among plenty of other benefits. It’s arguably the easiest breathing exercise to do, and can be practiced whenever and wherever.

Steps:

  1. Get into a comfortable position. You can choose to sit, lie down, or stand.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  3. Take a deep breath in, feeling your stomach push against your hand.
  4. Slowly exhale, noticing the way your stomach lowers. Try to keep your chest still throughout the exercise.
  5. Continue to inhale and exhale this way for as long as desired.

3. Alternate nostril breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, referred to as “nadi shodhana” or “anulom vilom'' in Pranayama breathwork, is an exercise that involves cyclical nasal breathing. This is a popular breathwork technique for its ability to help relieve stress and cleanse the body of toxins. The focus on the nose also helps improve breathing patterns and induce a restful state. That makes this breathwork technique a great method of nasal breathing for nitric oxide.

Steps:

  1. Sit or stand in a comfortable position.
  2. Take your right hand and place your right thumb on your right nostril. You can choose to place your index and/or middle fingers on your forehead for comfort.
  3. Keep your right nostril closed and slowly inhale through your left nostril.
  4. Place your ring finger on your left nostril and take your thumb off your right nostril.
  5. Slowly exhale through your right nostril.
  6. Next, slowly inhale through your right nostril.
  7. Put your thumb back on your right nostril and take your ring finger off your left nostril.
  8. Slowly exhale through your left nostril.
  9. Continue this cycle as many times as desired.

4. Humming bee breath

A man practicing breathwork next to a sound bowl

Humming bee breath, referred to as “bhramari'' in Pranayama, is a fun breathing exercise that incorporates humming. This technique can be used any time of day to assist with relaxation and rest. It’s also great for helping improve mood and soothe pain.

Steps:

  1. Sit up or lie down, with your eyes closed.
  2. Place your index fingers inside your ears.
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose.
  4. When you exhale, plug your ears and start humming. You may keep your ears plugged the entire time or continuously plug and unplug them.
  5. Inhale again.
  6. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

5. Skull shining breath

Skull shining breath, sometimes called “breath of fire'' or “kapalabhati” in Pranayama, is a breathing exercise that involves forceful breaths. This technique is similar to “bellows breath”, but puts more focus on your abdominal muscles. It’s another great exercise for detoxing and relaxing.

Steps:

  1. Sit up and cross your legs.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose.
  3. Following your inhale, use your abdominal muscles to force the air out through your mouth in a short burst.
  4. Inhale again, relaxing your stomach.
  5. Repeat this up to 20 times.
  6. Once you’re finished the round, close your eyes and allow yourself to reflect on any sensations and feelings you’re experiencing.
  7. Repeat these steps up to 2 times per day.

Top 5 FAQs on nitric oxide

In case you have some additional questions about nitric oxide, here are some answers to the top frequently asked questions about the chemical.

1. Is nitric oxide good for you?

A woman bundling a plant

Many have asked: “Is nitric oxide good for you?” The answer is: yes! Nitric oxide is a big contributor to your overall health, as it plays a big role in the travel of blood and oxygen throughout your body. Maintaining an adequate amount of nitric oxide will help improve your physical health.

2. Can too much nitric oxide be harmful?

Nitric oxide is a natural compound within your body, so it’s by-and-large safe and even necessary for improving your health in many ways. However, if you have specific health conditions, you might be advised to avoid trying to increase their levels. These kidney disease, low blood pressure, and a history of heart attacks. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

3. Can deep breathing increase nitric oxide?

Can deep breathing increase nitric oxide? Yes, it can! Nitric oxide and deep breathing are a great pair, as breathing in oxygen helps nitric oxide to enter and travel throughout your body. Since many nitric oxide deep breathing exercises involve breathing through the nose, this also helps you increase your levels with the addition of nasal nitric oxide.

4. Does breathing through your nose increase nitric oxide?

A woman practicing breathwork lying down

Does breathing through your nose increase nitric oxide? Yes! You can definitely use nasal breathing to increase nitric oxide. This is because nasal nitric oxide is created in the sinuses and is able to enter your body when you breathe in through your nose. There are plenty of nitric oxide breathing exercises you can practice in order to allow for this.

5. Does nitric oxide lower blood pressure?

Does nitric oxide lower blood pressure? Yes! This is due to nitric oxide’s effect on the cardiovascular system’s cells. Increasing the level of nitric oxide in your body helps to relax blood cells and improve your blood flow, lowering your blood pressure. It’s especially great if you have higher blood pressure due to pregnancy.


So, if you’re ready to see the connection between nasal breathing and nitric oxide for yourself, explore our available class styles on the Othership app.