by | Apr 9, 2024 | Nurse Pete

Maybe you’ve heard about nitric oxide (NO)? And, no, it’s not the stuff the dentist pumps into you to get you to relax so they can go about drilling those teeth. That’s nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas”. Nitric oxide is a completely different animal and is an essential molecule for overall health.

Back when it was first discovered, nitric oxide was considered a toxic gas that was used predominately in industrial processes. But that all changed in 1992, when it was proclaimed the “Molecule of the Year” in regard to its role in medicine. The many benefits of nitric oxide are still being explored today. Aside from its well-established cardiovascular effects, nitric oxide is also showing important roles in respiratory and immune system health.

The good news is that our own bodies produce nitric oxide. A high concentration of this colorless, odorless gas resides in the paranasal sinuses, a place just above our nasal passages. Why is this important? Well, it’s just another reason to be breathing in through your nose. By mouth-breathing you don’t pull in the nitric oxide from the nasal cavity, and it does reach the lungs. So, if you want to be utilizing the full potential of nitric oxide then you need to be nasal breathing at all times.

So, what’s the big deal then about NO? Let’s start with the cardiovascular benefits. Nitric oxide is a potent messenger molecule that signals our blood vessels to relax or dilate. This allows for an overall reduction in blood pressure and decreases strain on the heart over time. We have an epidemic of hypertension, or high blood pressure, in this country, so utilizing the full potential of nitric oxide is key.

Nitric oxide has similar dilation effects for the respiratory passages. As a smooth muscle relaxant, it will help open up constricted airways, leading to better air flow to the lungs. It improves the ventilation and perfusion process of gas exchange, making more oxygen available in the blood. This is especially important for athletes during competition, or anyone engage in strenuous exercise. More oxygen availability equates to greater endurance and less fatigue.

Researchers have been studying the role that nitric oxide plays in our immune system. Studies have indicated that nitric oxide is toxic to some types of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. It is quite possible that having such high levels of nitric oxide near the nasal cavity was not by biological accident. Think about it: if we breathe through our nose and the air comes into contact with nitric oxide before it reaches our lungs, then perhaps it helps to destroy pathogens before they reach our lungs. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Lastly, for the insomniacs among us, nitric oxide is a key player in facilitating and regulating your sleep cycle. Increasing levels of nitric oxide in the blood allow for a faster time falling asleep and also promotes relaxation. This is in part due to the dilation of blood vessels in the brain, contributing to an increase in blood flow. For those that suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and constricted airways, nitric oxide will also help to improve airflow to the lungs.

One of the ways to have a consistent supply of nitric oxide is to always breathe through the nose. If you are a chronic mouth-breather, then I suggest you consider learning about the Oxygen Advantage breathing technique. I’ve been living the Oxygen Advantage way for the last several years and have achieved such positive results that I decided to become a certified instructor. If you would like to learn more about Oxygen Advantage contact us here at Salted Desert.

So, in closing, go on and say “yes” to NO. If that makes sense.

Stay safe and be well,
Nurse Pete

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