First Do No Harm

Nitric Oxide Revisited

When we last visited our hero, NO, he was springing forth from Beet Juice, L-arginine, and Citrulline.

Well, after a bit of research, we can find our hero almost everywhere, just waiting to take on heart disease and strokes, though, because of a perspicacious (love that word) reader who sent us a bit of info we'd missed, there can be a downside. You'll see this at the end of the article.

First, we’ll touch on what NO does and how it is produce. Okay?

Nitric Oxide, or NO, is a “gaseous signaling molecule” in the lining (endothelium) of our arteries. Signaling is part of communication. Every system in our body works best when there is communication, and events are all perfectly orchestrated through this communication. When there’s a break in communication, say a necessary chemical is missing, a signaling molecule will communicate to all systems to get to work and either find this missing chemical or manufacture it.

Thus one of NO’s jobs is to communicate between the nerves and the brain. Additionally, it has a role in our immune system in fighting off invaders and playing defense against tumors. For this NO is generated by our phagocytes when signaled by interferon or TNF (tumor necrosis factor). NO also improves sleep, reduces inflammation, increases strength and endurance, and helps out in moving our food thru the digestive system.

What we focused on previously in two of our recent articles (last quarter of 2015) was how NO helps prevent strokes and normalizes blood pressure, though for us doddering old men, it has a sizable part in helping erectile dysfunction.

It’s the NO’s cardioprotective function we are most interested in for this discussion, but first here’s a little fun fact for you: NO was used in medicine more than 100 years before it was actually discovered.

In 1847, Ascanio Sobrero discovered that NG (nitroglycerine) caused almost an immediate headache when a small amount was applied to the tongue. Not long afterwards, NG was further diluted to produce a homeopathic remedy for headaches, following the doctrine of “like cures like.” [A short history of nitroglycerine and nitric oxide in pharmacology and physiology.]

The gas, Nitric Oxide, NO, was discovered in 1998 and the discoverers won the Nobel Prize in medicine because NO was a critical factor in preventing hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and stroke.

These scientists went on to discover ways of boosting NO levels in the body and settled on the amino acid L-arginine which triggers an enzyme (eNOS) that makes NO.

Drinks all around.

However, there turned out to be a fly in the ointment.

There seemed to be a cut-off age for NO’s effectiveness. The L-arginine pathway has been found to lose its effectiveness in middle aged men (when hypertension and heart disease really starts taking its toll), and even worse it can do damage. People who’ve had heart attacks get no NO from this particular pathway, and people with heart disease can be pushed over the edge taking L-arginine supplements; we found a study in which six subjects died while taking large doses of L-arginine.

Luckily, there are other pathways to manufacturing NO in the body, and (you’re going to love this) one is called “nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway.” [Wikipedia] [The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics.]

This pathway was first suggested to us by the father of medicine, Hippocrates when he said: “Let your food be your medicine . . . .”

The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway takes foods rich in dietary nitrates and nitrites and converts them to NO.

And these foods will be found in the produce section or at your local farmer’s market for the most part. You’ll see that you can get an NO booster from the meat counter too, but the fewer chemicals the better when choosing meat and fish.

Shocking!

NO is a free radical! Once created, NO has a very short half-life of just a few seconds!

Having learned this, I came across an article that claimed orange juice would protect my NO against free radicals and I didn’t know what to think. Also, this short half-life occurs after NO hits the blood stream.

The thing is, in its short lifespan, NO attenuates quite nicely (spreads out) into the endothelial tissues to relax your arteries and lower your blood pressure.

And get this: the moment sunlight hits your skin NO is released into your bloodstream. [Sunshine could benefit health and prolong life, study suggests.]

So, let us go over the benefits for NO one more time.

  • Anti-hypertensive (maintains healthy blood pressure)
  • Oxygenation: elevates oxygen delivery during exercise and increases stamina because you need less oxygen and improves “exercise tolerance.”
  • Anti-Acid: lowers lactic acid following exercise.
  • Cardioprotective: slows vascular aging.
  • Immunosupportive: prevents and fights inflammation

We’re going to end with foods (and a few supplements) that boost NO levels (nitric oxide potency). We’re listing them from the biggest producers to the least.

Very High

Arugula
Beet Juice/Super Beets
Bok Choy
Celery
Ginseng
Lettuce
Spinach
Swiss Chard

High

Chinese cabbage
Cranberries
Dark Chocolate
Ecklonia Cava Extract (found at Simply the Best)
Endive
Fennel 
Mustard leaf
Organ Meats
Pomegranate & Pomegranate Juice
Radish
Red Beet Roots
Watermelon
Wild Salmon (CoQ10)

Medium

Cabbage
Carrots
Cayenne Pepper
Green Beans
Grape Seed Extract
Leeks
Turnips

Low

Broccoli
Cucumber
Cauliflower
Honey
Potato

Very Low

Asparagus
Brussels sprouts
Garlic
Onions
Peas
Tomato

The Downside of NO

Yes, there is a downside. NO stimulates some viruses, like herpes. So you have to weigh the good and the bad.

Instead of me telling you all this, I’ll let Joey Lott tell you in his article: Is Nitric Oxide Good Or Bad?

He’s got some great things to tell you; however, we’ve prescribed, in the past, a lot of his recommendations, and if they’re not working for you, say, you still have a bit of high blood pressure, adding NO potentiating foods to your regimen might be something to consider. Additionally, since I play tennis and work out, I ignore the downside to NO.


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