Nitric Oxide

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Nitric Oxide

Jason Clark, BSc, MSc writes: Nitric Oxide is a molecule that our body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body. Nitric Oxide is proven to be important in the following cellular activities:

  • Helps memory and behavior by transmitting information between nerve cells in the brain
  • Assists the immune system at fighting off bacteria and defending against tumours
  • Regulates blood pressure by dilating arteries
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Increases endurance and strength
  • Assists in gastric motility

In the last 20 years, there have been over 100,000 studies conducted on Nitric Oxide and in 1998 the Nobel Prize for Medicine was given to three scientists who discovered the signalling role of Nitric Oxide.

Nitric Oxide has received the most attention due to its cardiovascular benefits. Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, was prescribed nitroglycerin over 100 years ago by his doctor to help with his heart problems. He was skeptical, knowing nitroglycerin was used in dynamite, but this chemical helped with his heart condition. Little did he know that nitroglycerin acts by releasing Nitric Oxide and this relaxes narrowed blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow?

The lining or endothelium of your arteries produces Nitric Oxide. When plaque builds up in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, you reduce your capacity to produce Nitric Oxide, which is why physicians prescribe nitroglycerin for heart and stroke patients. Studies show that at age 38 our body produces half the Nitric Oxide it produced at age 20.

How to Increase Nitric Oxide in Your Body

The most common way to increase Nitric Oxide is through exercise. When you run or lift weights, your muscles need more oxygen which is supplied by the blood. As the heart pumps with more pressure to supply the muscles with blood, the lining or endothelium in your arteries releases Nitric Oxide into the blood, which relaxes and widens the vessel wall, allowing for more blood to pass though.

Nitric Oxide is one of the body’s most essential molecules. But because it has such a short life span, it can be difficult to keep nitric oxide at optimum levels in the body, especially for people over 40.

For people under 40 they can increase Nitric Oxide production through diet and consuming the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Arginine is found in nuts, fruits, meats and dairy and directly creates Nitric Oxide and citrulline inside the cell. Citrulline is then recycled back into arginine, making even more Nitric Oxide. Enzymes that convert arginine to citrulline, and citrulline to arginine need to function optimally for efficient Nitric Oxide production. We can protect those enzymes and Nitric Oxide by consuming healthy foods and antioxidants, like fruit, garlic, soy, vitamins C and E, Co-Q10 and alpha lipoic acid, allowing you to produce more Nitric Oxide.

With Nitric Oxide deficiencies due to aging, inactivity, smoking, high cholesterol, fatty diets, and lack of healthy foods, increasing your Nitric Oxide levels can help increase your energy, vitality and overall wellness.

Eating well and staying active should all make sense now!