Nitric oxide Deficiency
You may not yet have heard about nitric oxide (NO), but this is one tiny molecule the scientific community is excited about. There are new studies published about it every month and there is even a medical journal called Nitric Oxide dedicated entirely to covering research on this topic!
NO is tiny because it is made of just two elements: nitrate and oxygen bound together. Nevertheless it has very powerful effects. It was first identified in the human body in the 1970’s but its function in health was not yet clear at the time. By 1998 enough was known about its critical roles that the scientists who first discovered it were belatedly awarded a Nobel Prize.
NO is produced in the inner layer of the arteries called endothelial layer where it promotes relaxation of the artery wall, thus increasing blood flow and regulating blood pressure. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant and controls inflammation now known to be at the root of heart disease and many other health problems, including cancer and dementia.
Nitroglycerin is a drug that has been in use since the 1880’s for chest pain and blood pressure though its mechanism of action was not known. Only recently have researchers discovered that it works by increasing levels of NO in the artery walls. Newer drugs including Viagra and others in its class work by causing NO to stay in the tissues longer thus enhancing its actions. This same effect can be achieved through more natural means and without the same side effects as will be discussed shortly.
Aside from the arteries, NO is also produced in other tissues and organs. In the lungs it promotes relaxation of the bronchi and increased air flow. Many cases of asthma, particularly asthma that starts in adulthood and is exercise-induced, may be the result of insufficient NO production. Childhood asthma is more likely to be allergy-induced, but a link to NO production is possible even in children.
In the digestive system NO promotes peristalsis, or a rhythmic motion that leads to complete digestion of food and healthy elimination. Therefore, insufficient levels of NO in the intestinal tract can lead to a range of digestive disorders as well as chronic constipation.
In the brain not only NO improves blood flow and therefore availability of oxygen, but also plays a role in neurotransmission. Symptoms such as poor focus, memory loss, and even depression could be a result of NO deficiency.
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