Even though nitric oxide was declared “molecule of the year” by Science Magazine in 1992 and was the subject of Nobel prize-winning research in 1998, many people remain unaware of just how vital this little molecule is for men’s health. As a respected provider of anti-aging treatments for men for nearly 20 years, Renew Youth is working to change this.
We’ve made it our mission to provide men with the real facts around how hormone therapy can help men to conquer common age-related problems like fatigue, weight gain, depression, low sex drive, and erectile dysfunction. Central to our effort is explaining that hormones don’t work in a vacuum. Instead, complex interactions among the various nutrients, enzymes, and chemical compounds in the body allow hormones and hormone receptors to do their important work. Whether or not you’re undergoing hormone replacement, if you want to look and feel your best, you want your body in a condition where hormones will work their best. This requires the right balance of many substances, including nitric oxide.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a molecule that facilitates communication amongst the 50 trillion cells in the human body. It is produced by the endothelium, which is the inner layer of cells contained within blood vessels. Because nitric oxide is an unstable molecule, it has a very short lifespan, degrading quickly in the bloodstream and requiring constant replenishment. Unfortunately, nitric oxide production tends to decline with age, particularly if certain health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and poor nutrition are present. Restoring nitric oxide to more youthful levels can help the body function better and provide protection against many age-related health issues.
The Many Roles of Nitric Oxide
Nitric oxide performs many key roles in the body and delivers important benefits for men’s health:
Heart & Circulation
As a vasodilator that relaxes the walls of blood vessels, nitric oxide is essential for cardiovascular health. With normal nitric oxide production, blood vessels stay wider and more flexible, whereas reduced nitric oxide leads to stiffening—also known as atherosclerosis—and can contribute to hypertension.
Nitric oxide also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which keeps platelets and white blood cells from sticking to the linings of blood vessels and reduces the risk of plaque development. In short, nitric oxide is protective against cardiovascular disease. But once nitric oxide production dips for any reason, a vicious cycle can begin. The high blood pressure, inflammation, and hardened arteries caused by declining nitric oxide can hinder nitric oxide production even more, which in turn makes those conditions worse.
It’s no accident that many medications designed to protect the cardiovascular system make use of the benefits of nitric oxide. Nitroglycerin, ACE inhibitors, and statins all work by increasing nitric oxide availability to improve the flow of blood and oxygen to tissues.
The brain is a hungry organ. It accounts for about 20 percent of the total energy the body requires on any given day. To get that energy to the brain cells that need it, a lot of blood flow is required. For the average adult, blood supply to the brain accounts for about 15 percent of cardiac output. Given nitric oxide’s role in promoting healthy circulation, ensuring easy and ample blood flow to the brain is the first way that nitric oxide supports brain health. Nitric oxide also helps red blood cells to release oxygen into tissues throughout the body, including tissues within the brain.
But this isn’t everything nitric oxide does for the brain. As a signaling molecule, it also plays a key role in many neurological processes, sometimes even acting as a neurotransmitter. This is why levels of nitric oxide can affect memory and cognitive function. Some research even suggests a link between declining nitric oxide levels and depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of nitric oxide are also important for protecting brain health, since inflammation creates a number of harmful byproducts that can damage brain tissue and impair memory and cognition.
Nitric oxide is one of the most important building blocks for healthy erections. Without nitric oxide, men simply don’t get the blood flow or the tissue relaxation that is needed to get and maintain an erection. Many of the medications available to treat ED make use of the nitric oxide pathway, initiating a complex series of enzymatic reactions that have the end result of enhancing nitric oxide. This includes the famous “little blue pill” otherwise known as Viagra. Interestingly, this medication was initially developed as a treatment for angina (which is a symptom of coronary artery disease) that turned out to be effective for treating ED. This just illustrates that there is indeed a link between erectile function and heart health—and that link is most likely nitric oxide. In fact, recent research has shown that having ED due to low nitric oxide puts men at increased risk for heart disease.
Nitric oxide is one of the most versatile players in the immune system. It helps regulate the activity of many types of inflammatory and immune system cells. It can have protective or toxic effects, depending on the circumstances; but in general, nitric oxide is considered protective of immune health. Given how widespread nitric oxide production is, how many different substances it interacts with (DNA, proteins, etc.), and how its concentration affects its activity, it’s not surprising that nitric oxide continues to perplex immunology researchers. What is clear, however, is that macrophages—the immune cells that recognize and destroy invaders—generate nitric oxide as they do their work. This nitric oxide is then involved in numerous chain reactions that affect immune function.
In moderation, inflammation is a normal part of the immune response. In fact, it is actually necessary for the healing of any kind of tissue damage, whether it be from injury or infection. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, health problems can result. Chronic inflammation not only causes the immune system to attack the body’s own healthy cells, but also results in larger quantities of harmful byproducts from this activity. In addition to causing pain, fatigue, and depression, chronic inflammation has been linked to health problems such as arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and stroke. Chronic inflammation is also associated with reduced longevity.
Under normal conditions, nitric oxide has an anti-inflammatory effect. When production is impaired, it can actually cause inflammation, especially in the blood vessels. Inflammation makes blood vessels more vulnerable to plaques, which means they are more likely to become constricted and hardened. If nitric oxide is overproduced, it can contribute to inflammatory disorders of the joints, gut, and lungs. The key is to strike a healthy balance.
The dual nature of nitric oxide—which can function as a signaling molecule and as a vasodilator—can be readily seen in its impact on cancer cells. Nitric oxide can cause cancer cells to self-destruct through its influence on immune signaling. But it can also help tumors to grow by promoting the growth of blood vessels that supply them. Whether nitric oxide will help or hurt cancer cells depend on a variety of factors, including the type of tumor and the concentration of nitric oxide. Some chemotherapy drugs actually work by increasing nitric oxide in cancer cells to destroy them.
Endurance and Strength
Nitric oxide affects endurance and strength because it facilitates blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles. In research on professional cyclists, a supplement designed to boost nitric oxide improved endurance during intense exercise by 20 percent and coincided with a 1 to 2 percent improvement in race times—a meaningful feat at the elite level at which study participants competed. Nitric oxide is also believed to help reduce recovery time after exercise by helping to prevent lactic acid buildup.
During the REM phase of deep sleep, an enzyme is produced that triggers nitric oxide production. The longer you spend in REM sleep, the more nitric oxide you produce. Research has shown that if nitric oxide is inhibited, REM movements decrease and sleep cycles get shorter. This is likely due to nitric oxide’s effect on the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Nitric oxide is especially important for recovery sleep, when your body is trying to make up for missed sleep the night before. This makes sense when you consider that ample circulation is needed to help your body carry out all the cell repair and renewal that needs to happen during sleep. However, if sleep disruptions become routine, nitric oxide production won’t keep up. Low nitric oxide can then contribute to insomnia, which will in turn cause nitric oxide to drop even more. Low nitric oxide is also associated with sleep apnea.
5 Ways to Boost Nitric Oxide
Though nitric oxide production does tend to decline with age, lifestyle factors are also important in determining whether or not your nitric oxide will drop to where you will experience health issues as a consequence. This means that to a large degree it’s within your power to change your habits and keep nitric oxide production at a higher, more youthful level.
Here are 5 simple steps you can take to help your body produce and use nitric oxide more effectively:
Staying active is essential for keeping your heart and arteries healthy. Exercise improves endothelial function (meaning the activity in the lining of the blood vessels), which is responsible for nitric oxide production. Research has shown that as little as 30 minutes of exercise per day three times per week is enough to improve endothelial health and boost nitric oxide production.
Eat More Vegetables
Many vegetables are high in nitrates, which the body needs to make nitric oxide. In fact, more than 80 percent of the nitrates in a healthy diet come from vegetables. The nitrates naturally found in vegetables should not be confused with sodium nitrate, which is a preservative that has been linked with cancer. Nitrate-rich vegetables include:
Research has shown that eating more of these vegetables can be as effective as some blood pressure medications in lowering blood pressure. This is likely due to the role these vegetables play in improving nitric oxide production. Beetroot in particular has been proven effective in increasing nitric oxide and boosting athletic performance.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. This is important for protecting both nitric oxide itself and the numerous enzymes that facilitate the production and use of nitric oxide in the body. Having ample protection is important because the lifespan of nitric oxide is already short. Free radical damage cannot be easily absorbed and is best prevented instead.
The most important antioxidant nutrients to look for include vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and glutathione. Fruits and vegetables also contain plenty of polyphenols, a category of antioxidant micronutrients that are associated with protection against cancer and heart disease. In fact, over 8,000 different polyphenols have been identified in foods from tea and wine to fruit and chocolate. Some of the best sources of antioxidants are fruits such as blueberries, red grapes, raspberries, and strawberries. If sweets aren’t your thing, garlic, onions, dark green vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains are all options for foods that are high in antioxidant compounds.
While a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables may include enough antioxidants, you can also take antioxidant supplements, or even use an injectable nutrient formula. For example, glutathione, “the mother of all antioxidants,” can be taken via injection to protect nitric oxide while also reducing the risk of age-related problems like cancer, dementia, heart disease, and more.
Supplement Nitric Oxide Precursors
The amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline are essential for nitric oxide production. Arginine creates nitric oxide and citrulline within cells. Then, citrulline is recycled back into arginine, which in turn makes more nitric oxide and citrulline. Supplementing either of these amino acids adds fuel to this process so the body can produce more nitric oxide.
Supplementing arginine or citrulline is especially important for athletes because arginine can become depleted during exercise. If left unaddressed, this can lead to depleted nitric oxide, increased lactic acid, greater fatigue, and longer recovery times.
Arginine can be found in foods like nuts, fruit, meat, and dairy, but it can also be taken as an oral supplement. However, a large portion of orally supplemented arginine will be broken down in the digestive tract before it reaches the cells that need it. This is why when Arginine is supplemented, it really needs to be done by injection. Citrulline does not have this problem, which is why many experts consider it the number one choice for supplementation. Whereas research on the effectiveness of oral arginine supplements has been mixed, studies have shown that oral citrulline supplements can increase blood flow, improve exercise performance, and lower blood pressure.
Correct Low Testosterone
Testosterone is protective of nitric oxide. It helps keep arterial inflammation from interfering with nitric oxide production, and it can even boost nitric oxide by acting on the precursor enzyme eNOS. Low testosterone, on the other hand, can be damaging to nitric oxide levels as it can accelerate atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which inhibits nitric oxide production.
Numerous studies have shown that both testosterone and nitric oxide are involved in key areas of men’s health like cardiovascular function, brain function, strength and endurance, and sexual performance. Both substances are necessary to optimize the body’s performance in these areas.
Consider ED for example. While nitric oxide is vital for facilitating the blood vessel dilation and muscle relaxation that lead to erections, it does not address the lack of desire that, for many men, is a big part of ED. Testosterone is needed to improve low sex drive first, and then nitric oxide is needed to make sure men have the ability to act on their desire.
If you are considering taking steps to boost nitric oxide, get your testosterone levels checked. Without sufficient testosterone available to protect the nitric oxide in your system, you may not see the benefits you expect by attending to nitric oxide alone. Bear in mind that testosterone can start to decline in men as early as age 30, though most men won’t notice symptoms of low T until their 40s or 50s.
If your testosterone is below optimal levels, do more than just replace testosterone. Look for a comprehensive hormone replacement program that will also address other vital hormones that can become unbalanced with age, such as estrogen, thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, and growth hormone. This approach will provide more benefits to your overall health than addressing testosterone alone.
At Renew Youth, we offer a proven safe and effective hormone replacement protocol for men, in addition to quality supplements and injectable nutrient formulas that can support nitric oxide production. Together, these measures can help men to look, feel, and live better. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your anti-aging goals.