Nitric oxide has been used in medical applications since the 1800s, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that scientist confirmed its presence in the body. In fact, its discovery by three pharmacologists in the 1990s won them the Nobel Prize. The compound was proclaimed molecule of the year in 1992, and for good reason: as a chemical messenger, its presence is essential in all living mammals. Discover what it is that makes this gas so important to our health below.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a colorless gas byproduct of reactions in which nitric acid is reduced. It’s long been known that miniscule amounts of the compound are released with exhalations. Yet, scientists originally didn’t think nitric oxide contributed much to bodily functions because its molecules are so small and have a lifespan of just a few seconds. Nonetheless, it was subsequently discovered that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
What Does It Do?
A key finding occurred in the 1990s when the American pharmacologists mentioned above discovered the compound’s role in the cardiovascular system. Specifically, the compound is produced by cells that line the artery walls. It then acts as a vasodilator that relaxes the arteries, thereby aiding in blood pressure regulation and overall circulation. Nitric acid also controls inflammation and oxidative stress.
In individuals with atherosclerosis, the root cause of heart disease and other vascular issues, the artery walls have a limited ability to produce nitric oxide. This spurs a dangerous cycle in which low nitric oxide levels further damage already compromised arteries, thereby increasing the likelihood of a cardiac event. With sufficient nitric oxide, however, artery walls stay healthy and blood circulation is optimized.
Beyond promoting cardiovascular health, nitric oxide also contributes to overall wellness in other ways. It supports white blood cell health and is used to fight serious illness, and it is also produced and used by the brain. As a signaling compound, nitric oxide is used for neurotransmission, which is why nitric oxide is touted for its potential to help minimize the risk of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Nitric oxide can support digestion by relaxing muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. It also plays a role in energy utilization, respiratory function, and a host of other important bodily functions. For these reasons, making sure your body has plenty of nitric oxide can help support overall wellness.
How to Optimize Your Nitric Oxide Levels
One way to increase nitric oxide is through your diet. While protein-rich sources such as meat may spur the synthesization of nitric oxide through the amino acid arginine, a better alternative may be to eat more leafy greens. While rich in nitrates and nitrites, which stimulate the body’s natural ability to produce nitric oxide, these plant sources are also low in calories. Beet juice is also rich in nitrates, so if you’re looking to increase nitric oxide through dietary measures, consider sipping two cups per day.
Because nitric oxide production is inhibited by free radicals, antioxidants could also deliver added health benefits. Green tea, onions, and other foods rich in flavonoids can prevent free radical damage, thereby protecting nitric oxide. Because exercised muscles demand additional nutrients and oxygen, physical activity can also spur the natural release of nitric oxide to support cardiovascular health.
Depending on your doctor’s recommendations, you may also consider taking a supplement to boost nitric oxide synthesis. Stemedix offers a nitric oxide supplement, Neo40 Professional. This supplement helps open up the blood vessels in the body to stimulate healthy circulation. Neo40 Professional achieves this task by activating the immediate production of nitric oxide gas as it is dissolving. Neo40 also fixes the enzyme responsible for the conversion of the amino acid named L-Arginine to nitric oxide thereby improving the body’s own ability to produce NO. This leads to an improvement in endothelial function and activity. Always check with your physician prior to starting any supplements.