How Is Nitric Oxide Produced?
Nitric oxide is produced by the body in two ways. The first method is through the so-called nitric oxide synthase (NOS) pathway. Your endothelial cells, which are found on the interior surface of every blood vessel in the body, contain NOS that converts the amino acid L-arginine into nitric oxide. L-arginine comes from protein-rich food including poultry, red meat, fish, dairy products, whole grains, soy, and beans. Nitric oxide reacts with other molecules to form into nitrates that can be stored by the body.
Another way your body produces nitric oxide is by eating nitrate-rich foods and plant protein. Once you hit your 40s, your body starts producing less nitric oxide naturally. You produce about 50% less nitric oxide once you hit this age compared to when you were a teenager.
To increase your body's nitric oxide levels, include more leafy green vegetables in your diet. Examples of these are arugula, spinach, kale, celery, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, leeks, and parsley. Red beets, radishes, and turnips are also rich in nitrates.
Dark chocolate, berries, cherries, green tea beets, and pomegranates contain plenty of the healthy polyphenol and flavonoid compounds that encourage your arteries' endothelial cells to produce more nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide has a very short life so it reacts with other molecules so that it can be stored by your body. For instance, it's oxidized with oxyhemoglobin to become nitrate, which is also the primary way your body retains nitric oxide.
Too much nitric oxide, however, can cause problems. Excessive levels can cause headaches, brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, Huntington disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting muscle control.
Nitric oxide is also available in the form of supplements. L-arginine and L-citrulline supplements can provide your body's nitric oxide needs. Athletes and fitness buffs are advised to take them before training so they can perform better and longer. Meanwhile, some men take Viagra and Cialis that release nitric oxide for improved penile erection.