Some people spend a small fortune in an attempt to look younger and live longer. They rub on expensive anti-aging creams, undergo painful Botox injections, or seek out cutting-edge stem cell replacement therapy — all in the name of radiant, youthful health.
While many of these treatments do provide tangible results, there’s an important anti-aging remedy that’s all but forgotten, and it needn’t cost you more than five dollars.
In fact, this affordable remedy can not only help you slow down aging, but the research also shows it can help lower blood pressure and protect your cardiovascular system.
It’s a tongue scraper.
Tongue scraping is an ancient practice that can be traced back thousands of years to Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic doctors recommended tongue scraping to remove Ama (toxins) and to improve taste, digestion and general health.
Today, The American Dental Association regards tongue cleaning as unnecessary for good oral hygiene but they say it’s “a great way to go the extra mile for your mouth” and can prevent halitosis, or bad breath.
So far, so good. Maybe there really is something to this tongue scraping business.
But how can it lengthen your life?
Longevity Benefits all Come Down to Nitric Oxide
Dr. Nathan Bryan, a molecular medicine specialist and adjunct professor at Baylor University in Houston, believes there are three key aspects to healthy aging.
The first is to preserve the length of telomeres, the specific DNA-protein structures found at both ends of each chromosome. The second is to maintain the health of energy-producing mitochondria. The third is to prolong the ability of stem cells to repair cellular damage.
The molecule that plays a key role in all three processes is nitric oxide (NO). You may have heard of it because it’s received a lot of press the last few years.
Nitric oxide is best known for its ability to dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow, lower blood pressure, and help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
But as Dr. Bryan explains, “Nitric oxide controls telomerase, the enzyme that adds telomeres to the ends of DNA. Nitric oxide controls mitochondria biogenesis. And nitric oxide is the cellular signal that tells stem cells to mobilize to repair damage.”
Our bodies create nitric oxide from nitrates found in the foods we eat, but the conversion process that allows nitric oxide to end up in our tissues is complex.
This is where the link with the tongue becomes apparent.
The first step in the conversion, from nitrate to nitrite, depends upon bacteria that reside in the mouth — upward of ten billion of them — to be of the right kind.
“Our data,” said Dr. Bryan, “suggests that the bacteria on the tongue contribute about 50 percent of the body’s total nitric oxide production. Tongue scraping may allow for more diversity, so the ‘good’ bacteria flourish and generate more nitric oxide.”
Failure to clean the tongue daily, on the other hand, hinders nitric oxide production and favors the conversion of nitrate to harmful ammonia instead. Not only are stem cells rendered unable to mobilize and repair damage to fight off the problems of aging, but blood pressure can rise, too.
Dr. Bryan and his co-authors wrote, “In subjects lacking other systemic health problems, the nitrite-reducing genetic content of the oral flora of the tongue significantly correlates with resting blood pressure values…. (On the other hand) high levels of ammonia-forming nitrite reductase correlate with high blood pressure.”
Nitric Oxide Production Drops Sharply with Age
Writing in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology last year, he and 14 colleagues from the University of Texas reported, “The potential to restore the oral flora as a means to provide NO production is a completely new paradigm for NO biochemistry and physiology…”
Our ability to produce nitric oxide slows with aging. Typically, by the time we reach the age of 50 our nitric oxide levels have already dropped by half, so it’s important to do whatever we can to keep production raised.
As Dr. Bryan puts it, to “protect all the tissues in the body from advanced aging.”
Using a Tongue Scraper
Using a tongue scraper is pretty simple. You can buy a tongue scraper from most stores that sell toothbrushes. Simply place the rounded part of the scraper on the back of your tongue, pulling it forward to the tip of your tongue. After each pull, wipe or rinse off the debris. Be sure to scrape the entire top surface of your tongue, including the sides, not just the center.
As well as a tongue scraper, other ways to increase nitric oxide in your body include consuming nitrate-rich foods. Among these are beets, leafy green vegetables like spinach and arugula, celery and radishes. The amino acid arginine can also be converted to nitric oxide in the body. Especially good sources of arginine are fish and walnuts.
- Pedrazzi V., do Nascimento C., MardeganIssa J. P., Fedorowicz Z. (2016). Interventions for managing halitosis. Cochrane Database System. Rev.