Have High Blood Pressure? You May Want To Cut Back On Mouthwash

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

Image by Martí Sans / Stocksy

If you're someone who frequently rinses with mouthwash post-meal, it may be time to think twice before taking a gulp. 

A new study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine shows that the blood-pressure-lowering benefits of exercise were reduced when people rinsed their mouths with antibacterial mouthwash. 

You're probably thinking, "How does my blood pressure level relate to my minty-fresh breath?" The two might have more in common than you thought, as our oral bacteria has the ability to create what's known as nitrite, an important molecule that helps produce nitric oxide in the body. The nitric oxide works to widen the blood vessels (increasing blood flow to our active muscles), which, in turn, leads to a lowering of blood pressure after exercise. 

Biology crash course aside, what you need to know is that if this type of oral bacteria is removed (perhaps with a swig of spearmint), it won't be able to produce nitrite, which won't be able to help lower your blood pressure. 

The scientists at the University of Plymouth decided to test this theory by researching 23 healthy adults, who ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes on two separate occasions. After each exercise, they were asked to rinse their mouths with either antibacterial mouthwash or a mint-flavored placebo. Their blood pressure was measured both before and after the exercise, as well as samples of their saliva and blood. 

What they found was that when the participants were given the mouthwash, the blood-pressure-lowering effect of exercise was diminished by more than 60% in the first hour and completely gone two hours after the exercise. Consequently, when the participants were given the placebo, the nitrite levels in their blood raised, showing how important oral bacteria can be for our cardiovascular health. 

"In effect, it's like oral bacteria are the 'key' to opening up the blood vessels. If they are removed, nitrite can't be produced and the vessels remain in their current state," says Craig Cutler, the study's co-author, in a news release. It looks like our bodies' natural processes are even more in harmony than we previously thought. 

So, maybe just brushing twice a day will suffice for optimal oral hygiene. And if you do feel the need to gurgle for an extra bout of fresh breath—just make sure you do so well before hitting the gym. 

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