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Nitric oxide (NO) is a naturally occurring molecule produced by the body that plays a crucial role in various physiological processes. We know its potential benefits of lowering blood pressure, lowering blood clot prevalence, increased sexual arousal, boosting athletic performance but what is not regularly discussed is its effect on inflammation. One of its most significant benefits is its ability to reduce inflammation, making it a potential treatment for autoimmune disorders.
Studies in experimental models show that nitric oxide (NO) is reduced with aging and this can be relevant to a number of diseases plaguing the aging population. Endothelial production of nitric oxide declines to 50% of what one needs by age 40 and while exercise helps, it is unable to restore all lost production (Torregrossa, 2011). Americans are living longer and many carrying multiple chronic illnesses.
Inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body fight off infection and injury. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to various health problems, including autoimmune disorders. In autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues; leading to chronic inflammation and tissue damage. This is where nitric oxide comes into play.
NO has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties by regulating the immune system and reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins that are produced by immune cells and are responsible for initiating and regulating immune responses. When there is an imbalance of cytokines in the body, it can lead to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Studies have shown that NO can help reduce inflammation in various autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease. In rheumatoid arthritis, NO has been shown to reduce joint inflammation and pain by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (Ribeiro, 2020). In multiple sclerosis, NO has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, which can help prevent further damage to nerve cells (Shabani, 2019). In inflammatory bowel disease, NO has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestinal lining, which can help alleviate symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.
How can we supplement our body with NO? Foods rich in nitric oxide include spinach, beets, carrots, mustard greens, coleslaw, eggplant and broccoli. Often it is difficult to take a deep, hard look at our diet and assess if there is any improvement to what we place into our bodies. Two amino acids, L-arginine and L-citrulline boost nitric oxide production within the body since they are precursors to nitric oxide. These are commonly found in pre-workout products used in by younger generation but may not provide sufficient levels for individuals deficient in NO or cannot convert enzymatically the precursors into NO.
Fear not as the proof can be done with a simple test at the pharmacy in less than 30 seconds. We currently carry a nitric oxide supplement and that company has found a way to examine levels in the mucosal tissue through a test strip. I would highly encourage testing be done prior and periodically while taking the supplement to evaluate effectiveness and absorption of the nitric oxide. If this testing proves NO levels are deficient, then consideration should be made for supplementation.
Dosing is important to follow for nitric oxide since excessive amounts of the product can eventually become harmful at the cellular level. Just like anything else, too much of a good thing is not always beneficial. Please adhere to the recommended dosing and no more regardless of positive effect you may receive. In conclusion, nitric oxide is a naturally occurring molecule that has been shown to have
significant benefits in reducing inflammation and regulating the immune system in autoimmune disorders.
Ribeiro, C. F., & Alves, R. D. M. (2020). Nitric oxide as a therapeutic target for autoimmune diseases. BioMed Research International, 2020.
Shabani, F., Farasat, A., Mahdiyar, P., & Jafarzadeh, A. (2019). Nitric oxide in the pathogenesis and treatment of multiple sclerosis. Neurochemistry international, 129, 104483.
Tripathi, P. Nitric oxide and immune response. (2007). Indian J Biochem Biophys. 44(5):310-9. Doi:18341206.
Torregrossa, A.C., Aranke, M., Bryan, N.S. (2011) Nitric oxide and geriatrics: Implications in diagnostics and treatment of the elderly. J Geriatr Cardiol. Dec;8(4):230-42. doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1263.2011.00230.