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Nitric oxide plays an important part in many bodily functions, including memory, blood pressure, erectile function and quality of sleep. Smoking, high cholesterol, aging and inactivity can all lead to low nitric oxide levels, though there are many ways to increase nitric oxide in the body. These include exercise, diet, multivitamins and other supplements.
Exercise is the most common way to increase nitric oxide levels in the body. Any type of exercise requires that more oxygen be sent to the muscles, and this oxygen is supplied by blood. During exercise, the heart pumps harder, which supplies more blood — and oxygen — to the muscles. Nitric oxide is then released through the lining in the arteries.
Once the nitric oxide is released, the blood vessels will relax and widen. This allows more blood to pass through the system and, in turn, releases more nitric oxide. Increasing the level of nitric oxide through exercise can help lower blood pressure and help with heart-related issues.
Diet is another important and easily manageable way to increase nitric oxide. Adding foods that contain L-arginine can raise the levels of nitric oxide in the body. Foods rich in L-arginine include soy products, fish, nuts, chickpeas, lean meats and dairy products. Foods rich in vitamins C and E should also be consumed. Examples of these are broccoli, peppers and strawberries.
When vitamins C and E are not regular parts of a diet, a multivitamin can be taken to increase vitamin levels in the system. This will also increase a person's levels of nitric oxide. Taking vitamin C and E supplements also can help raise needed vitamin levels to boost nitric oxide, though care should be taken not to exceed the daily recommended allowance without first discussing it with a physician.
Another way to increase nitric oxide is by taking herbal supplements. Supplements said to help with this include ginseng, cacao, arginine and chrysin. Be aware, however, that some professionals are wary of using herbal supplements in this way, because there is little scientific evidence that such supplements actually increase the levels.
Cacao, the source of chocolate, is known to lower high blood pressure and may be able to lower the risk of cancer. Arginine, an amino acid, has the ability to help with impotence. Chrysin stimulates the release of testosterone, which may lead to larger muscles. Ginseng is known for providing energy and enhancing sexual activity. Most of these supplements lead to a more active lifestyle, which can increase nitric oxide.
A prime example of a person who takes supplements or nitric oxide boosters is a bodybuilder. Bodybuilders engage in extreme workouts that can actually cause nitric oxide levels to decrease. A bodybuilder may then take L-arginine supplements to replace the lost nitric acid and help speed recovery.
Do certain exercises help increase nitric oxide more than others? For example, would spinning help with this increase more than yoga, which usually involves less cardiovascular activity?
Are there any foods that decrease levels of nitric oxide in the body and should therefore be avoided?