This is the first article in a short series on L-arginine and L-citrulline. But first we are going to talk about nitric oxide and then bring the conversation back to L-arginine and L-citrulline.
Nitric oxide is made by the blood vessel lining or endothelium. Increased nitric oxide expands blood vessels which increases blood flow capacity, acts to help lower blood pressure and also aids in decreasing plaque growth and tendency for blood to form clots.
Nitric oxide balance is also important for structural integrity of nerve synapses. Of course blood flow to the brain is paramount and nitric oxide is at work there too.
The thalamus is a brain switching center, kind of like a sophisticated hub that directs sensory traffic coming in from eyes, ears, stretch receptors, touch receptors, and the like, sending these signals to higher brain centers. The thalamus depends heavily on nitric oxide and is a center of nitric oxide synthesis and release.
As we age, the capacity for nitric oxide production tends to decrease, thereby reducing blood flow capacity and increasing tendency to form plaques in the blood vessels. Factors such as increased levels of cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, smoking or emotional distress reduce production of nitric oxide and therefore artery plaques and heart disease increase.
In summary, lots of nitric oxide is good, while lowered levels of nitric oxide are bad.
Decades ago medical science learned that nitroglycerin could work to relieve angina or chest pain caused by constriction of coronary arteries. Turns out that nitroglycerin is converted into nitric oxide. Three Americans were awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering this mechanism.
Viagra also works on nitric oxide pathways. Adequate nitric oxide concentrations are essential for erections. Now that you know this, are you surprised that smoking, elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure contribute to erectile dysfunction?
So how does one increase nitric oxide? First let’s talk about lifestyle choices.
Olive oil does have some wonderful benefits but helping with nitric oxide increase doesn’t seem to be one of them. Canola oil is the one that can increase your body’s release of nitric oxide. That could explain how canola oil can decrease inflammation. There is some evidence that grape seed oil is also an oil favorable to improving nitric oxide levels.
Foods that can help increase nitric oxide are donuts, tequila, pizza…. Sorry about that. You know by now that no list of healthy foods for any reason will include these foods. The real list includes spinach, beets, celery, arugula lettuce, iceberg lettuce, carrots, parsley, cabbage, radishes, and collard greens for example.
Also on the list are grape seed extract, vitamin C combined with garlic, sunlight, exercise, L-arginine, L-citrulline, quercetin and pycnogenol.
This list is not surprising. You have seen many of these items listed as healthy items. Now you know that increasing nitric oxide is part of their benefits.
A lot of work has been done with supplementing L-arginine and L-citrulline. These are important agents in the formation and release of nitric oxide. Unlike spinach, these are easily supplemented in high quantities as is often needed to get enough nitric oxide in the body to get the desired effect.
Next blog will discuss L-arginine and L-citrulline in more detail so you have an idea of why we recommend it so much.
As of this writing, we are recommending Pure Encapsulations Nitric Oxide Support powder. How many scoops a day you use will depend on what health issue you are working on. 1-3 scoops a day in water is common.