Just when you think we understand everything there is to know about human physiology, we get a subtle reminder that we are not even close.
First, a quick lesson on blood vessel health. There is a compound called nitric oxide that helps our blood vessels to relax and open up. This is generally a good thing. Nitric oxide has an arch enemy called ADMA that keeps it from being able to relax your blood vessels. Being prediabetic ups your levels of ADMA and is one of the principle reasons why the vast majority of blood pressure problems are actually prediabetes in disguise.
So where does the nitric oxide come from in the first place? Here’s where the story gets a little circular.
Nitrates that are naturally present in foods (vegetables, in general, are very high in nitrates) are converted by bacteria in our mouth to nitrite. (We have seen studies where antiseptic mouthwash actually stops this process and studies that suggest that stomach acid and nitrite protect the stomach lining)
The nitrite is then acted on by stomach acid to produce nitric oxide, which is a molecule well known to help lower blood pressure.
Based on all this, what do you think might happen to blood pressure if you used an antiseptic mouthwash? That is exactly what researchers set out to determine in this particular study.
In this small study, 19 participants were given a chlorhexidine-based antiseptic mouthwash for 7 days. Here’s what they found:
- The production of oral nitrite production dropped by 90%.
- Nitrite levels in the blood dropped by 25%.
- Systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased by 2–3 .5 mm Hg, increases correlated to a decrease in circulating nitrite concentrations (r2 = 0.56, p = 0.002).
- The blood pressure effect appeared within 1 day of disruption of the oral microflora and was sustained during the 7-day mouthwash.
While this small amount of increased blood pressure is not likely to send anyone off into stroke range, it is still important when added to other health-destroying habits.
Overall, this demonstrates just how important it is to have the right blend of bacteria in our bodies and to do everything possible to avoiding destroying our normal bacterial flora that is so common in our sterilized lifestyle.