Poor blood flow SUCKS!
In this guide you are going to learn everything you need to know about blood flow, how nitric oxide plays a role in blood flow, and which nitric oxide boosting supplements are truly effective.
Table of Contents:
- What Is Nitric Oxide
- The Circulatory System
- Vasodilation vs Vasoconstriction
- Supplements that increase Nitric Oxide Production
- Reasons to take Nitric Oxide Supplements
What Is Nitric Oxide:
Nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter produced in the body that is made up of one nitrogen atom, bonded to a single Oxygen atom.
Nitric oxide acts primarily as a vasodilator in the body.
A vasodilator is a molecule which induces vasodilation, or an expansion of the arterial walls in the body. "Vaso" meaning vessel and "dilate" meaning to expand.
This expansion of the arterial walls allows more blood to flow through the arteries at a lower blood pressure. Increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to the body.
Nitric oxide also plays a beneficial role in a number of other biological processes in the body.
To understand how Nitric Oxide functions we must break down how the human circulatory system functions.
The Circulatory System:
The circulatory system is like our body’s version of the postal service.
It’s our body's way of transporting Oxygen (O2), nutrients, hormones, and waste products throughout the body.
The circulatory system can be broken down into two loops. The systemic circulatory system and the pulmonary circulatory system.
The Systemic Circulatory System:
The systemic circulatory system begins with the heart, and pumps blood through our arteries. This is equivalent to our body’s distribution center.
Blood leaves the heart through our aortic artery, the body’s largest artery, which then breaks off into several smaller arteries.
Blood flows through the arteries from high pressure to low pressure.
As arteries move away from the heart, they continually decrease in size to maintain a steady blood pressure.
Blood is then transferred from the arteries into tiny capillaries. At which point the cells of the tissues exchange O2 and nutrients for waste products like CO2.
At this point, oxygen-poor blood travels out of the capillaries and into the venous system, which transports blood back to the heart.
Like arteries, veins also increase in size as they get closer to the heart.
Unlike arteries, veins cannot use pressure to return blood to the heart.
In order to bring the oxygen-poor blood back to the heart, veins contain one-way valves, used to generate pressure as blood collects in the vein.
When enough blood pools in a vein, the pressure becomes great enough to force the valve to open and the blood shoots upwards.
This process is repeated with a number of veins until the blood reaches the heart.
The Pulmonary Circulatory System:
Pulmonary circulation begins when the blood finally reaches the heart.
The heart pumps this deoxygenated blood into the lungs through the pulmonary artery. The Red blood cells then take up Oxygen and release CO2.
This blood gets returned to the heart through the pulmonary vein, and is then pumped through the systemic circulatory system.
Note: Every red blood cell contains millions of molecules of a protein known as hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is an oxygen carrier protein that contains Iron (Fe2+). Iron is responsible for the red blood cell’s ability to bind to oxygen in the lungs, and release it in the capillaries.
It is for this reason that having an iron deficiency (anemia) can be so detrimental to blood flow and red blood cell production.
The circulatory system contains many different mechanisms to control where blood is distributed throughout the body.
As seen below in the diagram, our body is able to prioritize blood flow to specific regions in the body depending on the amount of oxygen it needs.
When at rest, our brain and organ systems are prioritized to receive more blood.
However, during strenuous exercise, up to 80-90% of blood is used in the muscles.
This is when vasodilation and vasoconstriction come into play.
All arteries in the body are surrounded by a thin layer of muscle tissue. This tissue can either be contracted (vasoconstriction) to restrict blood flow or relaxed (vasodilation) to increase blood flow.
Vasoconstriction typically occurs in response to stress, when the body needs to conserve blood flow or heat.
This results in a narrowing of the arteries and an increase in blood pressure because of the decreased diameter of the arteries.
Vasoconstriction has its time and place.
But many people today can get stuck in a degree of constant vasoconstriction due to various lifestyle and nutritional stressors.
This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) among other health issues over time.
Vasodilation occurs to increase blood flow and thereby provide more nutrient and oxygen delivery to certain places in the body, while removing waste throughout the body.
This will result in lower blood pressure and improved blood flow/circulation.
Nitric Oxide Synthesis:
Now that we understand the role Nitric Oxide plays in the body, it helps us see the potential benefits of increasing our Nitric Oxide production.
Certain supplements have been shown in research to be very effective at increasing Nitric Oxide production.
We must briefly look at how Nitric Oxide is produced in the body.
L-Arginine + energy -----> L-Citrulline + Nitric Oxide
The protein Nitric Oxide Synthase catalyzes (speeds up) the reaction. Converting the amino acid L-arginine into L-Citrulline + Nitric Oxide.
So when looking for supplements to increase Nitric Oxide production, you want to look for supplements that do a few things.
- Increase Nitric Oxide Synthase
- Increase L-arginine levels, or any of the required co-factors that may be short in supply.
Side Note: A co-factor, often referred to as “helper molecules”, are non-protein compounds that help process a given reaction. For Nitric Oxide synthesis our co-factors would be:
- NADPH (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate)
- O2 (dioxygen)
- BH4 (Borohydride)
- FMN (Flavin Mononucleotide)
- FAD (Flavin Adenine Dinucleotide)
The majority of these cofactors are produced within the body, and are not in short supply.
However, if we are looking to increase nitric oxide it may be beneficial to see if we can increase their prevalence/production.
The Limiting Factor:
Before we get into supplements, I would like to address the idea known as the “limiting factor”.
In our context, the limiting factor is the “ingredient” that is holding us back from producing more of our desired product, usually due to a lack of supply.
For example, if your body is deficient in L-arginine (the limiting factor in this case), the amount of nitric oxide your body is capable of producing will be limited.
In this case, by consuming more L-arginine you would be increasing your body’s supply of L-arginine. This would, in turn, theoretically increase your nitric oxide production.
In this same scenario, if L-arginine is not our limiting factor then consuming more of it will not increase our nitric oxide production (it still could, but much less of a sure-thing).
This is likely one of the reasons why the same supplement may work wonders for your cousins and neighbors, but might not seem like anything more than a sugar pill to you.
Finding your “limiting factor” is the key to figuring out what supplements will work the best for you.
While you can have blood tests performed to find your “limiting factor,” it can often be easier to do more trial & error to find which supplements work for you.
Supplements that Increase Nitric Oxide Production:
In the urea cycle (which we will not be going into), L-Citrulline is converted into L-arginine. As we now know, by increasing the amount of L-arginine in the body we increase our potential to create Nitric Oxide.
Compared to its cousin L-arginine, L-citrulline has a much higher absorption rate, otherwise known as bioavailability.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 6,000mg or 6g
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ L-Citrulline, Citrulline Malate
As discussed previously, L-arginine is a precursor to Nitric Oxide production.
By increasing the amount of L-arginine in your body, you will naturally be supplying yourself with the “fuel” necessary to produce Nitric Oxide.
Thereby increasing your nitric oxide production as a result.
I actually do not recommend supplementing with L-arginine and instead prefer to use L-citrulline.
Because of L-arginine’s poor bioavailability you need to consume way more of it compared to L-citrulline to achieve the same results.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 3-6g
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ L-Arginine
Vitamin C has been shown to increase the stability and bioavailability of the BH4 cofactor. Which is required in Nitric Oxide production.
As a result of this increased stability and bioavailability of BH4, an increase in Nitric Oxide production occurs.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 1-2 g daily
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ Ascorbic Acid, Sodium-L-Ascorbate, Potassium-L-Ascorbate, Calcium-L-Ascorbate, and L-Ascorbyl-6-Palmitate.
Get 1 gram of Vitamin C with every dose of Redwood.
Garlic has been shown to increase the activity of Nitric Oxide synthase activity.
Garlic contains high quantities of the amino acid L-arginine and Quercetin. These molecules have been shown to increase L-arginine levels and NO production.
Garlic and Vitamin C work together to increase the absorption and effectiveness of both supplements.
Note: You can always choose to consume garlic naturally instead of in its extracted form. Aged garlic supplements can be beneficial if you are not a fan of the smell of garlic.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 600 -1,200 mg Daily
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ Aged or raw garlic extract
Curcumin, one of the main bioactive ingredients in Tumeric, has been shown in research to increase plasma nitric oxide concentration.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 1-2g daily of curcumin extract.
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ Curcumin is poorly absorbed by itself, but when taken with Piperine (black pepper extract) the absorption is increased significantly.
The amino acid L-Carnitine has also been shown to be effective in increasing nitric oxide production.
Only the Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine form of L-Carnitine is used to boost blood flow and nitric oxide production.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 1- 4g daily
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ Glycine propionyl-L-Carnitine
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract has been shown to increase nitric oxide production. It is currently believed that grape seed extract enhances the nitric oxide synthase enzyme.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 150-300 mg daily
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ N/A (there is only one form)
Ginkgo Biloba has been shown to have a vasodilatory effect as a result of increased nitric oxide production.
The high antioxidant concentration is also thought to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. It does this by increasing the bioavailability of nitric oxide.
Recommended Effective Dose ~ 120-240mg daily
Most Bioavailable Supplement Forms ~ Ginkgo Biloba EGb-761 extract.
*Note: Not all supplements are created equal. When looking at supplement ingredients there will be a few different forms of each supplement.
Due to the different structures, different forms of the supplement will have different rates of absorption. This difference can sometimes be marginal, but some forms of supplements are unable to be absorbed by the body.
Why Take A Nitric Oxide Boosting Supplement:
- Increased Blood Flow & Circulation - This results in less cold extremities and improved nutrient/oxygen delivery.
- Decreased Blood Pressure - Due to the expansion of the arterial walls during vasodilation, more blood is able to flow through the arteries at a lower blood pressure.
- Improved performance - After supplementing with nitric oxide boosters like l-arginine, endurance athletes have experienced increased performance.
- Increased Muscle Pump - The vasodilation of arteries allows for more blood to flow through, resulting in an increased “pump” effect while weightlifting.
- Can improve ED symptoms - Nitric oxide boosters have been shown to be beneficial in helping with ED, and have a very similar effect to viagra.
The Best Natural Nitric Oxide Boosting Supplement
Redwood is UMZU's all natural nitric oxide boosting supplement with the exact dose of vitamin c and garlic that was shown to increase nitric oxide production by 200%.
The Potential Downfall Of Nitric Oxide Supplements:
Nitric oxide supplements are one of the few products that live up to their reputation.
Even with the evidence to back them, we should always make an effort to understand any potential ramifications that could come with their use.
We are all different people and are products of both our environment and our parents (genes). Therefore we should not expect everyone to exhibit the same effects from a given supplement.
Additionally, we must understand that anything in excess can do more harm than good.
Nitric oxide boosters are typically very well-studied. Most would consider them to be a low-risk supplement, but we are all different and all have our limits.
While these side-effects are rare and consist of mild symptoms, we must address them so we are aware of these possible implications.
- Low Blood Pressure
- Increased Urination
- Zinc Deficiency
- Respiratory Ailments
- Reduced Dopamine Production
- Electrolyte Imbalance
Should I Avoid NO Products?:
Nitric Oxide Side Effects Are a Rarity
Keep in mind that the side effects we are about to point out only occur in rare instances and when doses are taken in excess. They are also relegated mostly to nitric oxide supplements rather than nitric oxide foods.
1. Low Blood Pressure
One of the primary benefits of nitric oxide is its ability to lower hypertension (high blood pressure). This alone makes a nitric oxide supplement like Redwood popular.
After all, hypertension affects one in three American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, going beyond the recommended dosage may result in blood pressure readings below the healthy range
Chronic low blood pressure is just as hazardous as high blood pressure.
Low blood pressure symptoms may include:
- Diminished concentration
- Blurred vision
- Dizzy spells
When taking a nitric oxide supplement with medication for high blood pressure, it will increase the likelihood of having low blood pressure, so make sure to talk to your doctor if you are on medication.
2. Increased Urination
One side effect of nitric oxide supplements is the urge to pee. While not dangerous, it’s certainly inconvenient.
Why may this happen? As you may know, arginine is one of the major precursors of nitric oxide production.
This amino acid also happens to be vital for the production of urine (Remember the urea cycle that we didn’t talk about :).
However, if you have high amounts of arginine, then the body will also try to expel what it doesn’t need through your pee.
To avoid trips to the bathroom every 30 minutes, keep arginine doses under 5,000 mg per day. It’s rare that you’ll exceed this dosage from food alone.
3. Zinc Deficiency
Nitric oxide side effects can potentially include zinc deficiency. This is especially bad for men, as this is a vital mineral for natural testosterone production.
The reason zinc depletion occurs is because some nitric oxide products contain histidine. This amino acid works in sync with beta-alanine to produce carnosine, which in turn creates nitric oxide synthase.
Research shows that an excess level of histidine is associated with zinc deficiency. To avoid this, we recommend consuming more zinc-rich foods or taking a zinc supplement.
In fact, this is something you should be doing regardless. Zinc deficiency is correlated with a lot of health problems, such as stunted growth, low testosterone and impotence.
4. Respiratory Ailments
Nitric oxide effects may include wheezing and other respiratory problems. This is especially prevalent in children, who have more narrow airways than adults.
In rare cases, this may lead to atelectasis, a respiratory disorder resulting in a partially or completely collapsed lung.
This puts the organ at risk of filling with fluid or developing severe asthma. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory illnesses are more at risk.
We should also note that in healthy concentrations, nitric oxide is believed to have a therapeutic effect on patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Inhaled nitric oxide therapy, in fact, has become a recent trend in western medicine for treating various forms of respiratory illnesses.
5. Reduced Dopamine Production
Studies show that exorbitantly high levels of nitric oxide may decrease dopamine levels.
The neurotransmitter regulates sleep cycles, cognitive skills, motivation levels, and short and long-term memory.
If you notice problems with any of these, then your dopamine levels may be taking a hit.
6. Electrolyte Imbalance
According to research, Nitric oxide is an important mediator in the transport and regulation of electrolytes. High nitric oxide levels, however, have been linked to high creatine and potassium.
While these are all good for the body, excess levels can cause side effects of their own.
It has also been linked to phosphate deficiency. This can especially interfere with kidney and liver function, both of which regulate electrolytes.
So, Should I Avoid Nitric oxide Products?:
Having discussed these nitric oxide side effects, you may think twice about using a nitric oxide supplement.
However, we want to remind you that nitric oxide is by and large extremely beneficial.
In fact, we have dedicated multiple posts to the benefits of nitric oxide that we suggest you check out. Every one of the benefits we listed is backed by independent research.
Yes, it’s true that nitric oxide in excess can cause side effects, but the same can be said of just about anything else that’s otherwise good for you.
Mega-doses of vitamin C, for example, have been known to cause diarrhea, heartburn, headaches and insomnia. Is this reason to avoid the very potent antioxidant?
Whatever your reason for looking into nitric oxide supplements, whether it's due to high blood pressure, cold extremities, or just to get a better pump in the gym, I hope you found this article helpful and maybe even interesting :).If you have anything to add to this article, or any helpful comments or criticisms feel free to reach out to me in our facebook groups (The Thermo Diet Community Group, The UMZU Community Group).
Until next time… be good
B.S. Physiology & Neurobiology
If you want to read more on how to boost nitric oxide and support better blood flow check out The Lifestyle Guide To Boosting Blood Flow Naturally!
Need more Energy? ⚡️— Alli Nutrition 🧬 (@AlliNutrition) August 27, 2020
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