Nitric Oxide - Where Sex and Heart Health Meet

Nitric Oxide - Where Sex and Heart Health Meet

Have you ever thought how your diet impacts your sex life?

There are specific foods that have potential to improve your experience in bed, yes you heard me correct. And I am going to share with you what to eat and what not to eat to perform like a rockstar! 

Learn how to take charge of your performance naturally. 

People are often afraid to talk about sexual health. Although widely-feared, you shouldn’t have to avoid talking about it. Maybe start a safe conversation with your doctor about diet and lifestyle changes that can help you through difficult situations, and then let’s start talking about sex a little more openly —- we all have something to learn!

Your diet, just like physical movement, and emotional well-being can transform your life. Let’s start with the fundamentals.

What Actually Causes Arousal?

Looking at the whole exciting process, getting aroused involves a lot: hormones, emotions, the nervous system, your musculoskeletal system. Every woman knows how important mindset and setting are. It’s no surprise that sex can be complicated...

When you look at the anatomy in itself though, an erection at least is a pretty simple process. Let’s elaborate. 

At rest, muscles and blood veins in the penis are contracted, which prevents blood flow. Sexual interest starts in the brain and signals those muscles to relax, which in turn allows the penis to fill with blood and become erect.

Yes, that simple!

For females, the research leaves a little more room for mystery. Surprise, surprise.

The fundamental process still involves the liberation of blood flow. A signal from the brain relaxes vaginal muscles to allow for blood flow to the vagina and clitoris

These are just the basics, but they get the point across: blood flow is crucial for sex. It’s more than just an endurance sport after all!

Here is where your veggies come in handy. The way those blood vessels relax is with a signalling molecule called nitric oxide.  The primary function of nitric oxide is to open up blood vessels throughout your body. 

Nitric oxide is created from two major pathways in your body: one uses the amino acids arginine and citrulline, the other uses natural nitrates. And both of these rely on a balanced diet with tons of key veggies (more on that below). You can start to see that your sexual health is intimately linked with your heart health (blood flow) and diet. 

And another question we may want to ask is… 

What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?

Without adequate nitric oxide, blood vessels can’t open up enough. That limits an erection of a penis or a clitoris. In fact low nitric oxide and nitric-oxide-related heart health issues are a leading cause of E.D

This study shows that nitric oxide plays a clear role in establishing and maintaining an erection for men. Similarly for women, nitric oxide interacts with estrogen to promote clitoral and vaginal blood flow and smooth muscle relaxation during sexual arousal

So, without enough nitric oxide the blood vessels in the penis — or the vagina — can’t function properly. This is one reason why low nitric oxide is a common issue with heart conditions, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.


Natural Ways to Improve Your Sex & Heart Health?

Exercise and diet are the best ways to increase your nitric oxide levels, and not coincidentally, exercise is one way researchers have looked at to manage impotence.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, getting regular physical activity — more than 2.5 hours per week of exercise intense enough to make you breathe hard — can mitigate many preventable heart conditions. Even better if you can get 5 hours: if you think you’ll look great in the mirror, think about what your partner sees!

This study showed that just walking regularly can improve poor sexual performance. I know it might sound cheesy, but go for a walk with your partner to see what a great way it can be to set the mood, plus it never hurts to warm up before jumping between the sheets!

Can Foods Help How You Do In Bed? 

 

Hey veggies may not be the best toy to bring with you to bed, but you will want to pay attention to them at dinner to have more fun later.

A Mediterranean diet — which checks all the boxes for a healthy diet —  could address the root cause of poor sexual health too, according to multiple studies

Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables may be one of the key food groups to include, they make potent additions to any healthy diet. 

This kind of healthy, traditional dietary pattern is also linked with weight loss, which is yet another factor to pay attention to when getting to the root source of sexual issues.

We truly wish sexual dysfunction had more research valuable for women. It goes without saying that, to my knowledge, there is no research on diet, sex, and trans folks. I’m sure a healthy diet is going to help you do what you like to do, no matter your identity, but we’ll have to wait for science to catch up to be sure.

Foods that Boost Nitric Oxide 

Getting more granular, there are specific foods that have been researched for sexual dysfunction. You probably guessed that some of the best also boost nitric oxide. Correct! 

Amino Acids Citrulline and Arginine for Nitric Oxide

Citrulline and arginine are amino acids that can be converted to nitric oxide. Citrulline is the storage tank, arginine is what gets loaded into your nitric-oxide-making enzyme, and nitric oxide is what’s fired out. Neighboring cells get hit with the signal, and this forces them to relax. 

Your body is doing this at all times, keeping nitric oxide levels finely controlled to keep your blood vessels at the perfect level of open or closed. 

Small studies have shown that these amino acids can have a mild effect in treating impotence in men. Foods with citrulline are a better choice for two reasons: arginine levels are more tightly regulated (remember that citrulline can be stored in higher levels), and eating a lot of arginine over a long period can decrease the efficiency of how well you make nitric oxide — essentially your body adapts to having it ready and available all the time.

Foods highest in citrulline are:

  • Watermelon
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Beans and legumes
  • Liver

Plant-based Nitrates for Nitric Oxide

Those amino acids were leading nitric oxide supplements decades ago, but research has proven that natural nitrates give you a bigger nitric oxide boost.  And you know what they say about a bigger boost to nitric oxide levels…

Nitrates are converted to nitrites by your gut and mouth bacteria, and then those nitrites freely convert to nitric oxide.  There’s no limit to this pathway (but don’t overdo it!), which is why athletes have caught on to the advantages of nitrates.

You might be surprised to learn that beets and beetroot juice —- popularly known as a leading nitric oxide source —- are actually not very high on the list of highest nitrate foods.  

Here are the high-nitrate foods that top our list:

  • Red spinach (aka amaranth)
  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Rhubarb
  • Green spinach

There are dozens of other high-nitrate vegetables, check out the complete list here. Though all are healthy, some — like spinach —- have high levels of the antinutrient oxalate, so it’s best to switch your sources around every once in a while.

Indirect Nitric Oxide Boosters

Other foods don’t bump nitric oxide by providing nitric oxide or it’s precursor directly, some help regulate the pathways that your body uses to create nitric oxide.

For example, take cocoa and the flavanol antioxidants it’s rich in. Multiple studies show that not only do low levels of food-based flavanols correlate with problems with erections, but high levels of flavonoids (including anthocyanins, flavones, and flavanones) can decrease risk of erection problems. Either way you look at it, these powerful antioxidants can play a big role in sexual health.

Here’s a list of polyphenol antioxidants with similar effects on vasodilation and nitric oxide pathways. These haven’t been studied for their effect on sexual health directly, but they have been used traditionally, have been studied for effects on blood flow and nitric oxide, and may hold promise:

Vitamin C is essential for nitric oxide to function properly. It’s one of the top vitamins people are deficient in, so make sure you’re getting your daily servings of fruit! 

Vitamin C is rich in these foods, many of which are also high in the polyphenols your body needs for healthy blood flow:

  • Colorful bell peppers
  • Currants
  • Green veggies
  • Kiwi
  • Citrus fruits

The number one on this list is a little less common: acerola cherries. See the complete list of vitamin C foods on my blog post on everything vitamin C

Don’t Forget About What’s Important

In the thick of things, it can be hard to keep your eye on the ball. Make sure to take a step back and dial in what motivates you to do the work.  

Whether it’s for your own self or for your someone special, getting to the root of sexual health pays dividends for more than just your sex life — if you choose healthy diet and lifestyle for your sex life, you’ll see benefits everywhere else too. 

Check out my special blogs on Male Focus and Female Focus. In all my experience working with people of all walks of life, these are the must have tips to live life the way you want in 2021. Demystify what a healthy life means, and you’ll be living it on your terms. Keep in mind, food, just like emotions can create a healthy shift in the relationship you have with yourself and others. 





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While other companies push clickbait and fake news, what we say is backed by research. When you have the right information, you are empowered to make the right decision, that’s why we break down complex science into practical takeaways you can use today. 

If there’s something you want to know more about, let us know by contacting us or getting in touch on social media!

Helping you lead a healthier life,

The Resync Team


References

Begot, Isis, et al. “A Home-Based Walking Program Improves Erectile Dysfunction in Men With an Acute Myocardial Infarction.” American Journal of Cardiology, vol. 115, no. 5, Elsevier, Mar. 2015, pp. 571–75. www.ajconline.org, doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2014.12.007.

Cartledge, J., et al. “The Role of Nitric Oxide in Penile Erection.” Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2001, pp. 95–107. PubMed, doi:10.1517/14656566.2.1.95.

Cassidy, Aedín, et al. “Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Incidence of Erectile Dysfunction1.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 2, Feb. 2016, pp. 534–41. PubMed Central, doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.122010.

Chen, J., et al. “Effect of Oral Administration of High-Dose Nitric Oxide Donor L-Arginine in Men with Organic Erectile Dysfunction: Results of a Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study.” BJU International, vol. 83, no. 3, Feb. 1999, pp. 269–73. PubMed, doi:10.1046/j.1464-410x.1999.00906.x.

Cormio, Luigi, et al. “Oral L-Citrulline Supplementation Improves Erection Hardness in Men with Mild Erectile Dysfunction.” Urology, vol. 77, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 119–22. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.urology.2010.08.028.

DHHS. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. p. 118.

Förstermann Ulrich and Münzel Thomas. “Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase in Vascular Disease.” Circulation, vol. 113, no. 13, American Heart Association, Apr. 2006, pp. 1708–14. ahajournals.org (Atypon), doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.602532.

Gerstgrasser, Alexandra, et al. “In Vitro Activation of ENOS by Mangifera Indica (CarelessTM) and Determination of an Effective Dosage in a Randomized, Double-Blind, Human Pilot Study on Microcirculation.” Planta Medica, vol. 82, no. 4, Georg Thieme Verlag KG, Mar. 2016, pp. 298–304. www.thieme-connect.com, doi:10.1055/s-0035-1558219.

Heiss, Christian, et al. “Endothelial Function, Nitric Oxide, and Cocoa Flavanols.” Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, vol. 47, June 2006, p. S128.

La, Justin, et al. “Diet and Men’s Sexual Health.” Sexual Medicine Reviews, vol. 6, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 54–68. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.sxmr.2017.07.004.

Musicki, Biljana, et al. “Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Regulation in Female Genital Tract Structures.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 6, no. S3PROCEEDINGS, Mar. 2009, pp. 247–53. PubMed Central, doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01122.x.

Mykoniatis, Ioannis, et al. “Sexual Dysfunction Among Young Men: Overview of Dietary Components Associated With Erectile Dysfunction.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 15, no. 2, Feb. 2018, pp. 176–82. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.12.008.

Sandbakk, Silvana Bucher, et al. “Effects of Acute Supplementation of L-Arginine and Nitrate on Endurance and Sprint Performance in Elite Athletes.” Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, vol. 48, Aug. 2015, pp. 10–15. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.niox.2014.10.006.

Santos-Parker, Jessica R., et al. “Curcumin Supplementation Improves Vascular Endothelial Function in Healthy Middle-Aged and Older Adults by Increasing Nitric Oxide Bioavailability and Reducing Oxidative Stress.” Aging (Albany NY), vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 187–205. PubMed Central, doi:10.18632/aging.101149.



Written by Barbara Depta and registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated on 5/10/2021.

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This content is for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute the practice of any professional healthcare service, INCLUDING the giving of medical advice. No provider-patient relationship is formed. The use of this information, and the materials linked to this content is at the user's own risk. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should abide by the advice of their healthcare provider, and should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have.

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