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What Does Nitric Oxide Do For The Body?

Many people wonder what does nitric oxide do without understanding that it is a vital gaseous compound necessary for the body to function properly. Nitric oxide is created from two atoms; one part nitrogen and one part oxygen. While it’s a simple molecule, it serves as a powerhouse in the body, optimizing the functionality of nearly every system. Studies show that nitric oxide has the potential for many therapeutic applications, but increased research is necessary. For example, the ability to detect nitric oxide can assist doctors in recognizing nitric oxide deficiencies at early stages. The medical field is focusing on various therapeutic applications for nitric oxide to assist with minimizing some of the health challenges that occur in the natural aging process.

In its most basic form, what nitric oxide does in the body is act as a vasodilator. This means it relaxes blood vessels, allowing for more efficient delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to essential parts of the body.

Research shows that nitric oxide can support increased longevity in individuals as they age and also support endurance levels for high-performance athletes. The benefits might seem different but come from the same nitric oxide role in improving circulatory system functions. 

 

What Does Nitric Oxide Do For The Body’s Circulatory System?

One of the major roles of nitric oxide is supporting the optimal health of the circulatory system. As aforementioned, nitric oxide causes vessels to relax, widen and expand, aiding in oxygen and nutrient transportation to vital organs and tissues. Nitric oxide plays an important role in the endothelium (the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels). Endothelial cells control vascular tone, and nutrient flow, by synthesizing compounds such as nitric oxide. When the body can produce more nitric oxide, these systems work better. When the body is deficient in nitric oxide, these systems lag and can be felt with symptoms of low energy and slower recovery times.

What nitric oxide does in the body is act like a transporter. Nitric oxide boosters, such as nitrate rich whole foods, can help support the body’s natural processes by enabling an improved delivery system. Nitric oxide helps improve metabolic processes. This is closely linked to how the body processes food and helps it deliver vital vitamins, minerals, and oxygen.

The body make nitric oxide from L-arginine, which is naturally created in the body. This amino acid is also found in many fruits, legumes, and nuts. L-arginine supports healthy circulatory functions by producing nitric oxide. In 1998, Louis J. Ignarro, Robert Furchgott, and Ferid Murad discovered that nitric oxide acts as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. They won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for their discoveries. Ever since then, the benefits of nitric oxide continue to be explored.

 

The Link Between Nitric Oxide and Endurance

The Link Between Nitric Oxide and Endurance | NutriGardens

Research shows that nitric oxide levels have an impact on overall performance, energy, and recovery after exercise. Increasing nitric oxide is a great way to improve endurance levels, especially with age, as slow and fast-twitch muscle (endurance muscles versus sudden energy muscles, respectively) fibers begin to weaken over the decades. A main component of endurance is an individual's V02 Max (peak oxygen uptake). When asking what does nitric oxide do for the body, it's essential to consider its influence on oxygen dispersion. The V02 Max is the rate at which an individual can consume oxygen during exercise and how well that oxygen is circulated to important systems in the body, like our muscles.

Nitric oxide allows muscles and tissues to receive oxygen quickly; it reduces lactic acid build-up and aids in effective recovery that helps muscles recuperate. Overall these are the main components an individual must focus on to increase stamina. Nitric oxide boosters are a great way to support this process.

 

The Influence of Nitric Oxide On The Nervous System

Nitric oxide also plays a role in the health of our nervous system, particularly the peripheral nervous system (the parts of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord). Many people ask, what does nitric oxide do, without considering its impact on the nervous system. Here is how nitric oxide is directly involved in our peripheral nervous system functions:

  • Synaptic plasticity - the capacity of our brain to translate transient experiences into memories 
  • The sleep-wake cycle - our daily rhythm of being awake and asleep
  • Neurosecretion - the release of hormones into the body
  • Fluid secretion - the control of saliva, urine, mucus, and other bodily fluids

 

The Relationship Between Nitric Oxide and The Brain

The Relationship Between Nitric Oxide and The Brain | NutriGardens

When wondering what does nitric oxide do, research shows nitric oxide can increase cognitive functionality and is being investigated as a support for declining mental abilities. What nitric oxide does is act as a neurotransmitter in the brain, which can assist in oxygen flow and improve our overall cognition (mental action) and mood.

While these are some areas that nitric oxide has a particularly important impact on, in the end, nitric oxide is a naturally occurring molecule that supports overall health for the entire body. 

So, what does nitric oxide do? For high performers, nitric oxide can deliver that edge to push harder for longer. For others approaching mid-life, nitric oxide is a great way to feel healthier, stronger, and more physically capable. Nitric oxide has many benefits and can serve as a great supplement to keep the body in a state of optimal health. There are various ways to source dietary nitrate. It's recommended to eat nitrate rich vegetables such as beets, red spinach, or other leafy greens to boost nitric oxide levels. These dietary additions are also beneficial for those suffering from a nitric oxide deficiency.

 

 

 

Resources

Bryan NS. Nitric oxide enhancement strategies. Future Sci OA. 2015;1(1):FSO48. Published 2015 Aug 1. doi:10.4155/FSO.15.48

Félétou M. The Endothelium: Part 1: Multiple Functions of the Endothelial Cells—Focus on Endothelium-Derived Vasoactive Mediators. San Rafael (CA): Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK57149/

Lancaster JR Jr. Historical origins of the discovery of mammalian nitric oxide (nitrogen monoxide) production/physiology/pathophysiology. Biochem Pharmacol. 2020 Jun;176:113793. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2020.113793. Epub 2020 Jan 8. PMID: 31923387.

Cossenza M, Socodato R, Portugal CC, Domith IC, Gladulich LF, Encarnação TG, Calaza KC, Mendonça HR, Campello-Costa P, Paes-de-Carvalho R. Nitric oxide in the nervous system: biochemical, developmental, and neurobiological aspects. Vitam Horm. 2014;96:79-125. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800254-4.00005-2. PMID: 25189385.

Cossenza M, Socodato R, Portugal CC, Domith IC, Gladulich LF, Encarnação TG, Calaza KC, Mendonça HR, Campello-Costa P, Paes-de-Carvalho R. Nitric oxide in the nervous system: biochemical, developmental, and neurobiological aspects. Vitam Horm. 2014;96:79-125. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800254-4.00005-2. PMID: 25189385.

Ralapanawa U, Sivakanesan R. Epidemiology and the Magnitude of Coronary Artery Disease and Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Narrative Review. J Epidemiol Glob Health. 2021;11(2):169-177. doi:10.2991/jegh.k.201217.001

Tse JKY. Gut Microbiota, Nitric Oxide, and Microglia as Prerequisites for Neurodegenerative Disorders. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2017 Jul 19;8(7):1438-1447. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.7b00176. Epub 2017 Jul 7. PMID: 28640632.

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