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NO–The Second Most Important Gas in your Body

Nitric oxide (NO) is one of the most important gases in your body, second only to oxygen (O2). In 1998, the Nobel Prize was awarded to the three scientists who co-discovered the essential role of nitric oxide in the human body — and in particular its role in heart health. That same year, the president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Valentin Fuster stated:

“The discovery of NO and its function is one of the most important in the history

of cardiovascular medicine.”

Nitric oxide floats throughout the 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the body, reaching every cell. It’s vitally important to recognize that the half-life of nitric oxide is only three to five seconds. Once synthesized in the body, nitric oxide immediately begins to deteriorate to 50 percent within approximately five seconds. This means that the body must constantly replenish nitric oxide in order to sustain optimal healthy levels.

Beginning at the ages of 40 to 50, the body’s natural production of NO can drop by upwards of 50 percent. This is significant, as NO is essential not only for heart health, but also for proper immune function, erectile function, brain function, blood vessel dilation, and multiple other vital processes in the body.

A medical journal article published in 2017 shared research findings that beetroot juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. It has been shown in previous studies that beetroot juice helps fuel nitric oxide (NO) production. Additional foods that help support NO levels include kale, Chinese cabbage, watermelon and leafy vegetables. Supplementation with citrulline and arginine can also help increase nitric oxide.

After NO augmentation, improvements in athletic performance were observed as measured by the relationship between oxygen consumption and power generated. Researchers also found that NO supplementation enhanced performance at various distances, lengthened the time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities, and increased cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max).

Among diabetic individuals, an apparent catch 22 has been associated with lower nitric oxide levels. This suggests that supporting nitric oxide levels in diabetes may be particularly important.

Maintaining optimal nitric oxide levels may help improve many health conditions, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Thrombosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Chronic inflammation

Take-Home Message

Most of the patients who visit my holistic family practice are already health conscious. Yet over 90 percent of them have tested low in nitric oxide levels, as measured with a salivary test strip that changes color based on the presence of nitric oxide.

I find that a vast majority of individuals do not consume sufficient vegetables—or supplements such as citrulline—to sustain optimal nitric oxide levels. Especially as NO levels naturally decline due to aging and stress, it’s essential to continually replace the body’s supply of this vital gas with a healthy diet and supplementation.

Written by Dr. Chris D. Meletis

Reference:  Domínguez R, et al. Nutrients. 2017;9:pii:E43.


Health Tips On the Go!

Improve Posture

  • 1.Avoid slouching. Be aware of your posture as you walk, sit, and drive, keep shoulders squared and head pulled back and up.

  • 2.Imagine a thread pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling. Visualization can help improve your sense of position.

  • 3.If your job requires you to sit for long periods, take frequent breaks to stand, stretch and shake it out.

  • 4.Maintain a strong core to help support proper posture. Add core-training exercises to your daily routine.

  • 5.A firm mattress and ergonomic pillow help achieve proper back support while you sleep, so you'll stand straighter in the a.m.

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