shutterstock_101597704-200x300Dr. Ignarro, Can I supplement with Nitric Oxide?

 

Nitric Oxide (NO) is a signaling molecule that helps support the maintenance of already healthy blood pressure levels while keeping the arteries youthful and elastic. Unfortunately, NO can’t be taken as a supplement.

If you want to support NO production, though, you can give your body the building blocks for increasing NO production.

Why doesn’t an NO supplement exist? Well, NO is different from other substances in the body in that it is a short-lived gas molecule. NO can’t be isolated and put into a capsule; it dissipates rapidly, making it impossible to encapsulate. This characteristic of NO is what made my laboratory research so challenging—and why it was especially rewarding when my colleagues and I discovered the critical role of NO in the body, and particularly the cardiovascular system.

If you’re looking to increase NO production, two of the most important strategies are exercise and nutrition. Both target the endothelium, which is the “production house” of NO. Keeping your endothelium healthy is necessary to healthy NO levels.

First, let’s discuss exercise. Movement stimulates the endothelial cells by creating “shear stress” on your blood vessels. When you exercise, blood flow increases; as blood flows over the endothelium, it encourages the cells to produce NO. Increased blood flow and NO support the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body, which just adds to the many benefits of exercise.

In addition to exercise, nutrition plays an important role in NO production. L-arginine and L-citrulline, in particular, have been identified as nutrients that support endothelial health and, as a result, NO production. The endothelium naturally produces NO using the amino acid L-arginine and is supported by the additional presence of L-citrulline. So, while you can’t supplement NO, you can supplement L-arginine and L-citrulline to support NO production.

L-arginine and L-citrulline supplements are especially effective at night, when NO levels are at their lowest. I also supplement right before my workouts, which just amplifies the benefits I’m already receiving from movement.

Of course, there are other nutrients that support the health of the endothelium. The first place to start is a great lifestyle that includes regular movement and a balanced diet; then, add in a supplementation regimen that supports your healthy choices.

 

What supplements do you use to support NO production?