I have written here before about my LENGTHY journey to get my blood pressure under control. So far I’ve detailed how I’ve used the Ketogenic Diet, Magnesium, Vitamin D, L-Arginine and different nuts to try to leverage natural remedies to keep my pressure as low as possible. It was probably about 9 months ago when I learned of something else I was doing that might have been raising my blood pressure that really surprised me.
The Enterosalivary Cycle of Nitrate
A paper published last year went into some detail about something I had never heard about called the enterosalivary cycle of nitrate. I have talked before about the power of Nitric Oxide, or NO, to lower blood pressure. In fact several of the interventions I have tried, most notably the L-Arginine supplementation I tried, is specifically to raise NO levels in the blood. Nitric Oxide allows the blood vessels to relax which allows more room for the blood to move through the body which lowers blood pressure.
Nitrates from the diet are broken down by bacteria in the salivary glands into nitrites which are then ingested and converted to nitric oxide by the body. While there are several things that disrupt this process such as smoking, proton-pump inhibitors, ascorbate at high concentrations, and xanthine oxidoreductase inhibitors, none of the things on this list have any relevance to me. However, one item on the list not only affected me but was part of my normal oral hygiene routine and I was doing it every day, rinsing with mouthwash.
The Problem with Mouthwash
I have always been very fastidious about my oral hygiene ever since the day I was eating BBQ with a friend and my back tooth literally crumbled between bites and I was spitting out chunks for several minutes. I was very young at the time, probably not even 25 and my diet was so terrible my teeth just couldn’t keep it together. So from that day on, I brushed, flossed, water-picked and mouthwashed every day and as many times a day as I could.
What I now know because of this paper is every time I used this anti-bacterial mouthwash, while it made my breath smell minty clean it was destroying the natural microbiome in my mouth that God and Mother Nature intended to be there. Just as an aside, this idea has come up many times along my health journey. If we evolved a certain way, it’s almost always best to leave it alone rather than try to use a modern solution (mouthwash) for a modern problem. (terrible diet)
Further Research on Mouthwash’s Effects on Health
I wondered if this study was just a one off or if there was a body of research showing a pattern. Doing a little revealed that this has been something that has been looked at and discussed for years. There is an article from 2018 that showed men in Puerto Rico who used mouthwash had a higher rate of diabetes. Another article from 2012 that also showed mouthwash raised BP in subjects but it only studied 19 subjects and looked at a very specific mouthwash unavailable without a dentist’s prescription. Another article from 2015 that showed a rise in blood pressure after using mouthwash. Another one from 2009 that showed the effect of eating nitrite rich foods to lower BP was negated when using mouthwash. In fact after reading all of these papers I started looking for something that suggested a positive effect of mouthwash and couldn’t find one which surprised me to no end. I mean, why is Listerine even in business?
What to Do Instead of Mouthwash
It would appear that the best course of action is to take care of your dental health not by doing something after the fact that repairs damage but by not doing things that damage your dental health in the first place. The most important thing to do is to remove the foods that damage your teeth from your diet such as sugar, grains and soda. Sticking to a diet of whole foods seems to prevent any further damage to your teeth. There is no clinical evidence that I can find that brushing your teeth causes any of the problems that mouthwash does so you can continue with that.
Again, as with most of the things I did to lower my BP, it was hard to see any effect. The result of stopping mouthwash may have been so small that I didn’t see any change but I still cut it out because once I changed my diet, there was almost no reason to not do anything other than regular toothpaste and a water rinse at the end of the day.
Have you changed your oral hygiene habits and seen a drop in your blood pressure? Does mouthwash raise your blood pressure? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!