Nitric Oxide-Miracle or Hype?

Why I don’t use nitric oxide supplements.

Effect of exercise and games with others

If you don’t know what I am talking about, good. You are living the natural life. But in my natural health profession, there is a constant flow of marketing toward supplements that raise your ability to produce Nitric Oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is also clumsily called,  endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF), and is made in your body from L-arginine, oxygen  and NADPH by various enzymes like nitric oxide synthase. Nitric oxide is a highly reactive free radical—with a lifetime of a few seconds yet sneaks across cell membranes in that brief lifetime. Ideal for quick messaging in local tissues.

The endothelial lining of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax allowing the capillaries to dilate and enhance blood flow. We all know some common NO activities, times where we want a really fast blood flow response at a local tissue. A facial blush, flushing from exercise, the color that comes to the face with crying of laughing, genital stimulation.  That last one? THAT is what puts NO on the natural product maps. It is not lost on supplement companies that wildly profitable sildenafil (Viagra) uses the nitric oxide pathway to do it’s thing.

But naturally, our body can make plenty of NO as long as we have adequate blood flow and provide the materials it needs

  1. Enough arginine. This amino acid is common in all protein rich foods and even a modest protein intake will have over 5 grams of arginine daily.  Take home – eat enough protein.
  2. Enough natural nitrates. Did I just say this? Isn’t that the bad part of processed meats? Well no.  This is a simple list of nitrate-rich healthy vegetables: Celery, most types of Lettuce, especially arugula, Beetroot, Spinach. I wrote about nitrates and bacon here in fact…
  3. Keep the other nutrients present. I use a multiple vitamin mineral to assure I take in enough zinc, B complex, magnesium etc.
  4. EXERCISE: this moves blood flow and effectively “exercises” the pathways and response to NO.
  5. Connect! Laughing, hugging, crying…these all release NO and activate pathways that have all the beautiful cardiovascular benefits. It might be pretty simple.

So why don’t I take the latest NO supplement to feel better, improve blood pressure, better exercise performance, live longer…or whatever the hyped headline claims? Because I think my body know when to release NO and when NOT to release NO. Free radicals SHOULD be short lived and I believe there is regulation occurring in my body that I can’t begin to fully understand. If I am not feeling flushed often enough, I’d say I am not living my life fully. Supplement Nitric oxide? No, I’ll Try this…Dance more, hug those dear to me, exercise hard, make love, smile, laugh, cry. Some things don’t come in a capsule.

Yours in life.