Fall is here. For my family, that means one thing…
It’s time to plan our winter ski vacation!
I’ll admit, I’m really not much of a skier since I’m not exactly what you would call graceful.
But I do love sitting in front of a roaring fire with a good book and a mug of steaming hot chocolate with a view of a snow-covered mountain in the background…
At least after the first day or two.
You see, I’ve always suffered from altitude sickness.
Even though we head up a mountain every year, it always takes my body a day or two to acclimatize to being higher up — a day or two where I live with a headache, nausea and feel like nothing more than climbing into bed, right when I want to enjoy time with my family.
But this year, nothing is going to ruin my good time. That’s because I found something that’s good for my heart is also good for beating altitude sickness…
Nitric oxide power
You guys know I’m always looking for nutritional ways to avoid the heart disease dilemma that runs (strongly) in my family.
So, last year I started taking a beet supplement. It’s an organic fermented beet and mango superfood drink that supports healthy blood pressure.
Basically, it’s jam-packed with nitrates that your body uses to make nitric oxide — a molecule that signals your blood vessels to widen so that your blood flows more smoothly.
And when I started taking it, I never even thought about what it might do for my altitude sickness until for the first time ever, my headache and nausea lasted a few hours instead of a day or two.
Yup, I actually got to enjoy my vacation even the day we first arrived!
At first, I didn’t put it together that my new beet root regimen was behind the improvement until I read about a study that looked at exactly that phenomenon…
Making blood vessels work better
Previous research had demonstrated that one of the main reasons behind altitude sickness is the tendency for your blood vessels to constrict at high altitudes.
This led researchers from the K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine — Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Environmental Physiology Group at Mid-Sweden University in Östersund, Sweden, to wonder if the nitrates in beets could be the answer.
They had participants drink either a nitrate-rich beet juice or placebo and then measured blood vessel function using ultrasound during a high-altitude expedition.
And guess what…
Simply drinking beet juice alone restored reduced blood vessel function at high altitude, relaxing and allowing them to widen again and beating the cause behind altitude sickness.
“Next time you plan a trip at high altitude, maybe it is worth carrying a bottle of beet juice in your backpack,” said the study’s corresponding author, Svein Erik Gaustad, from NTNU’s CERG. “It may be the extra boost your body needs to deliver enough oxygen to your tired muscles and keep you healthy when you are climbing a high mountain.”
Or in my case, sitting in a lodge on a mountain and drinking my hot chocolate!