Getting Real About Nitric Oxide

It made sense to write this piece today when one of my sons mentioned he has heartburn from time to time. Not only that, he happens to be the same son that was excited about starting to get gray hair (something I talk about in my latest video) At the same time, I also know that he has at least one bowel movement during the night.

Now before going further, you have my word, I will do my best to not go overboard with long drawn explanations. On the other hand, I am exceptionally interested in bringing up a few important facts on the common denominator between gray hair, nightly bowel movements, indigestion, asthma and so much more..... that factor would be nitric oxide. Unfortunately for my son, he’s been showing signs of nitric oxide issues since the day he was born …. and what’s frustrating is so are many others.

To begin with, nitric oxide is a widespread signaling molecule, much like estrogen. If I had to compare the two, they’re both chemicals essential to our existence; they are there to keep us alive, even if you don’t like your current health condition. Nevertheless, the focus of this post is nitric oxide and will address estrogen at another time.

Nitric oxide, depending on the process it’s involved in, is both a neurotransmitter and hormone produced by the body. In fact, let’s take a moment to emphasize this … it’s a chemical produced by the body; although, it is currently available as a supplement in many stores and catalogs. Truthfully, this is both concerning and illuminating as taking it on a daily basis could potentially compromise a person’s health while underscoring my point that the human species is struggling with the regulation of this chemical.

That said, the following are some of the physiological roles:

  1. it regulates vascular tone and blood flow

  2. it is essential for leucocyte adhesion and platelet aggregation, and it controls mitochondrial oxygen consumption

  3. in the brain, it regulates many physiological processes affecting behavior and cognitive function

  4. it controls brain blood flow, promotes angiogenesis, maintains cellular redox state, cell immunity and neuronal survival

  5. it is identified in macrophages and contributes to the cytotoxic actions of these cells

  6. in the vasculature, it is involved in the profound vasodilatation of septic shock

Abnormalities in nitric oxide production are linked to:

  1. endothelial dysfunction with various cardiovascular pathologies like hypertension, varicose veins, atherosclerosis and angiogenesis-associated disorders

  2. insulin sensitivity, with diet-induced oxidative scavenging of nitric oxide as a first hit towards insulin resistance

  3. neurodegeneration due to exceptionally high levels of nitric oxide

  4. too much also produces oxidative stress which leads to the inhibition of cellular respiration diminishing the ability of tissues to utilize available oxygen, called metabolic hypoxia. This is not exclusive to septic shock as it also contributes to other inflammatory and degenerative conditions which includes digestive disorders i.e. inflammatory bowel disease, crohn’s disease, GERD, ulcers, etc

The value to listing these is to not only demonstrate the function of nitric oxide but to highlight the fact that levels fluctuate depending on the bodies needs. Take, for instance, its cytotoxic abilities. This means it’s a front line defense against microorganisms which is significant because it shows us that besides being a neurotransmitter or hormone, nitric oxide is also a reactive oxygen species (oxidative stress) .... and for good reason. This clearly illustrates the body’s ability to adapt according to its needs. We are, without question, wired to survive. However, ongoing alterations for the sake of survival leads to the body being chronically low or high and the reason why we’re seeing an increase in the signs of aging and degenerative disease. Even though we’ve normalized and paralleled the decline in health to aging, it seems fairly evident that many health issues are due to an over production of oxidative stress that is not being reverted back to chemicals that support thriving. To be brief, this is happening because the body is reacting to the environment which leads necessary genetic adaptations that signal chemical changes for the sake of keeping the body protected and alive. This is meant to be temporary and the realization that it’s seemingly more permanent is an indication that the body is working very hard to survive. This is in no way, a defective body.

Additionally, besides nitric oxide synthase being responsible for producing nitric oxide, there is an override mechanism, if you will, whereby the body converts consumed nitrites into nitric oxide and then this form is not as beneficial to the body.

With this in mind, there is no definitive way of testing nitric oxide levels unless doctors believe you have asthma at which time, you undergo a respiratory test that evaluates the amount of exhaled nitric oxide which is elevated due to the inflammation. Other than that, there are attempts to check it in the saliva; however, even when these tests show ‘normal’, these same test subjects have developed hypertension and other health issues. At that point, the only confirming test of being high or low in nitric oxide would be a diagnosis. Why is this? Because the half life of nitric oxide in the blood is very short as it oxidizes rapidly.

However, is the body really high or low or are the levels simply altered because the body is chronically exposed to stressors? In all honesty, the body is producing it, it’s just being converted to alternate oxidative stress chemicals which the body can reverse when it receives the signal to do so which leads me to say, taking it as a supplement is damaging. Why? Because the body is producing it at the level it is for good reason ... the need for additional chemical changes .. i.e. peroxynitrite and hydrogen peroxide. Not to mention, it’s not just the nitric oxide that varies; the chemistry of the entire body changes. Think about it for a second; if the body requires, say, hydrogen peroxide (which is used in the storage of certain heavy metals), it has to undergo a shift which is going to alter the production of other neurotransmitters and so on.

Does taking nitric oxide improve health? It may, temporarily; yet, when we give the body something it’s designed to produce, we’re essentially sending the message that it no longer needs to produce the chemical we’re taking which does nothing but contribute to the further production of oxidative stress. What’s more, if we haven’t received a diagnosis, like in my son’s case, blatantly taking it because it’s being marketed as good for heart health as well as a workout supplement for building strength and improving recovery time could actually potentiate inflammation and lead to a more serious health issue.

So, what should we do?

In my practice, I’m all about helping to stabilize the body rather than deliberately attempting to control a specific chemical. Truthfully, a good number of essential oil constituents do this which is described in numerous research documents. Did I just mention #essentialoils ? Absolutely, because they have the ability to modify genetic expression due to the fact that their constituents are signaling molecules, just like estrogen and nitric oxide. This is why it’s important to understand how these plant chemicals actually work in the body. That said, introducing oils that assist the body with regulating nitric oxide production a.k.a. reducing the production of oxidative stress is hugely beneficial.

As a side note, consuming anti-oxidants does help reduce inflammation, but they don’t slow down the production of oxidative stress. Only a signaling molecule can do that.

Therefore, seek to stabilize with #essentialoils as well as improving the digestive process. Additionally, reduce the intake of nitrites and phytoestrogens. Why phytoestrogens? Because the environment is already polluted with chemicals that also act like estrogen in the body. To consume large amounts of phytoestrogens (which are also found in herbs, not just foods) increases the activation of the stress mechanism which moves to change the chemistry in the direction of oxidative stress for the sake of survival. You see, besides being a reproductive hormone, estrogen (as well as progesterone) is a stress hormone. Remain physically active, consider increasing physical activity and / or take the time to deliberately inhale and exhale as slow as possible. Deep breathing actually soothes the parasympathetic nervous system as well as releases toxins.

Which oils do I recommend for this? Forgive me, I cannot say because every body is dealing with its own issues, regardless of how similar it seems to somebody else’s condition. Here’s a good example of why it’s not a good idea to compare yourself to anyone … health conditions vary from one person to the next. Not to mention, if there are medications involved, some of the oils I’d suggest would be contraindicated. Therefore, I invite you to consider either a consult with me or signing up for Aromatherapy as a Lifestyle

As for my comment about graying hair and bowel movements at night …. hydrogen peroxide produces gray hair … And if the bowel movement happened once, I wouldn't be concerned. However, my son has been staying with me for a while and I know it occurs every night; and, has admitted that this has been going on for some time. For this reason I mention it here as it is an early sign of inflammation in the bowels that has the potential to worsen into IBD, colitis or possibly crohn’s.