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The Importance of Nitric Oxide

Everywhere we look lately, we are seeing an increase in advertising for Nitric Oxide supplements; it seems as though Nitric Oxide is the “new” keyword of the health conscious – especially in body building circles.

But what exactly IS Nitric Oxide?

First of all, Nitric Oxide is not to be confused with Nitrous Oxide, used most commonly as an analgesia referred to as “laughing gas”, or as a fuel that makes race cars go faster.

Nitric Oxide is contained and produced by red blood cells and vascular endothelial cells (the lining of blood vessels).  Once its released, NO goes through several biochemical steps to create vasodilation, analgesia, and angiogenesis within the body.

In 1998, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to 3 scientists for discovering that Nitric Oxide (NO) is the body’s most powerful endogenous vasodilator. This means that NO originates within the body (endogenous) and improves blood circulation (vasodilation). Nitric Oxide is also an important biological signalling molecule. The cells of the body use it to communicate with each other – think of it like a phone for your cells (the original “cell” phone).

Research has shown that Nitric Oxide is important in helping memory & behaviour, assisting the immune system fight off bacteria & defending against tumors, regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation, improving sleep quality and increasing endurance & strength.  This last reason is why body builders and athletes have turned Nitric Oxide supplements into a massive money-making industry.

According to Dr. Thomas Burke, an expert on Nitric Oxide, NO provides three things:

  1. prompts vasodilation (dilates arteries, veins & lymphatic vessels)
  2. provides analgesia (pain relief)
  3. causes angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels)

But these three things are integral to optimal health.

Vasodilation:

Proper blood flow is essential to life.  Without it, we would literally shrivel up and die, one extremity at a time.  One of society’s largest killers, heart disease, is caused by improper blood flow.  Some of the other common effects of poor circulation include memory loss, headache, stroke, kidney damage, peripheral artery disease, Reynaud’s and sexual dysfunction.

Improved circulation can decrease swelling and edema, decrease pain, and promote wound healing. When circulation is improved and blood flow is restored, nutritional flow is increased so that more nutrients delivered to the cells that need them.  When more nutrients like oxygen are delivered to the cells, they are able to work better.

Analgesia:

As we covered in Understanding Pain,  pain is an essential bodily function.  It is like an alarm telling you that something is wrong. But once we’ve heard the alarm, we do not necessarily need to continue hearing it.  Nitric Oxide helps to silence the alarm.  So not only is NO a vasodilator, as mentioned above, it is a powerful neurotransmitter; it plays a key role in the switch between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System responses.  NO has the same molecular structure as morphine, making it your body’s natural pain-relieving relaxant – without the narcotic side effects.

Angiogenesis:

Improving blood flow to sites of injury would mean little without the ability to repair and regrow the injured tissue.  Nitric Oxide plays a key role in the body’s ability to regenerate tissue.  Research also shows that NO is capable of preventing cell damage as well

As we get older, our ability to naturally produce Nitric Oxide decreases. A number of other factors can determine the body’s ability to produce and release NO. High blood glucose levels destroy Nitric Oxide and impede the production of it. Decreased production of NO is also evident in several common illnesses, including diabetes and muscular dystrophy.

The entire body benefits from Nitric Oxide production, so what can we do to ensure that our bodies produce and release enough of it?

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Molecular & Cellular Cardiology  determined that shining Red light onto the skin causes the vascular endothelial and red blood cells to release nitric oxide levels in the area where the light is shined.

An average of 72 times a minute, new blood cells enter the area where the light is shining, releasing more Nitric Oxide and increasing circulation.  This video shows how In Light Wellness Systems, using 480 nm (Blue), 650nm (red), and 880nm (Near Infrared), increase the production and release of Nitric Oxide

Be sure to check back next month for another post on Nitric Oxide.

 

Sources:

EuroStemCell, Using Nitric Oxide to Sustain Muscle Regeneration http://www.eurostemcell.org/fr/node/29509

Pritikin Longevity Center, Sex, Nitric Oxide and Your Heart https://www.pritikin.com/your-health/health-benefits/reverse-heart-disease/331-sex-nitric-oxide-and-your-heart.html#.VRwxrvnF_PA

Nutrition Express, What is Nitric Oxide and How Does it Work? http://www.nutritionexpress.com/showarticle.aspx?articleid=286

Dr Thomas Burke, What LEDs Do, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoJxKP2dGKM

Dr Thomas Burke, What is Nitric Oxide, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWo71B7wGkU

Dr. Louis Ignarro, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc2g2TVocMQ

 


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