Vasodilation occurs when blood vessels expand, allowing larger amounts of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the muscles of the body. What results is that wonderful feeling of skin and muscle swelling which is called the “pump” after an intense workout, or the “runner’s high” after an invigorating run.
There are several ways to increase vasodilation. As mentioned, intense exercise is the best way to open up your blood vessels.
However, for the elderly or infirmed who cannot participate in rigorous exercise, massage is used to better circulate the blood and increase vasodilation. Essential oils are often used for this purpose which combines the beneficial elements of such natural ingredients as lemon, lemongrass, marjoram, cypress and myrtle, all of which have been used since ancient times to dilate capillaries and improve circulation.
Prescription vasodilators can also be obtained through a doctor, but you should have a medical reason for obtaining them. In the following portion of this article, we will discuss natural vasodilators, but these should never be used in place of prescription vasodilators unless it is first discussed with your doctor.
Natural Vasodilators and Their Sources
When it comes to exercise, vasodilation occurs naturally within the body. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator and its effects are increased by eating foods rich in nitrates, flavonoids, L-arginine and other natural vasodilators.
Nitrates are contained in such foods as spinach, leaf lettuce and beets. When eaten, the saliva in the mouth turns natural nitrates into nitrites which then get swallowed and arrive in the stomach where nitrite is converted into nitric oxide by gastric acid. Nitric oxide is then used by the body to relax and dilate the walls of blood vessels.
Flavonoids play another key role in producing nitric oxide and can be found in foods like broccoli, spinach, kale, hawthorn and dark chocolate. Flavonoids magnify the effect of nitric oxide synthase which is the catalytic enzyme used in nitric oxide production. Therefore, flavonoids increase the activity of nitric oxide synthase which, in turn, increases the amount of nitric oxide produced by the body. The more nitric oxide coursing through the body, the more dilated the blood vessels become.
The amino acid L-arginine is another powerful vasodilator which research is finding is used by the body to assist with the synthesis of nitric oxide. Natural food sources which supply L-arginine are red meat, chicken, fish, cheese, milk and eggs. You can also obtain it from almonds, walnuts and cashews.
Increase Vasodilation through Supplementation
In addition to a nutritious diet filled with foods that stimulate nitrate oxide production, high quality supplements are very effective at increasing vasodilation. Such products include balanced sources of L-arginine, nitrate and other known ingredients which boost blood vessel vasodilation thereby flooding your muscles with oxygen and nutrients. These supplements are designed to give those active in weightlifting and bodybuilding massive “pumps” as the result of increased fuel flowing into their veins.