Signs of Nitric Oxide Deficiency

Nitric oxide (NO) is a compound that is naturally produced in many cells and tissues of the body. Though it was found in the air that we exhale, its role in the body was not known for a long time. Scientists stumbled upon its very important roles in the body when they analysed compounds in fruits and vegetables to find out which onesled to better heart health. They discovered that some plant foods contain nitrates which are converted to nitric oxide in the body which then acts as a signaling moleculethat helps cells to communicate with each other. It also plays very important roles in various body system such as regulating blood flow, regulating blood pressure and activating the immune system. Further studies found that deficiency of nitric oxide is linked to various health problems. It is therefore very important to know when you are deficient and to correct the situation.

What causes nitric oxide deficiency

Nitric oxide deficiency occurs as the body degenerates with time. Degeneration may be caused by:

  • A diet low in nitrates,
  • Cigarette smoking,
  • Lack of exercise,
  • Taking anti-acids and proton-pump inhibitors which inhibit the synthesis of NO.
  • Destruction of good bacteria involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide by using mouth washes, antibiotics, hand washes, hand sanitizers and other factors.

Signs of nitric oxide deficiency

Decreased levels of nitric oxide cause a decrease in blood flow. This is obvious when:

  1. You suffer from erectile dysfunction (if you are a man) or vasculogenic female sexual dysfunction (if you are a woman). Either way, it means that you are not getting sufficient blood in the genitals to enable normal sex.
  2. You develop high blood pressure, which normally follows sexual dysfunction.
  3. You gradually develop plaque deposits in the lining of the blood vessels and the arteries become dysfunctional.
  4. When you have a heart attack or stroke because the problem has not been corrected.

There is a very clear progress of cardiovascular disease that begins with the loss or reduction of the production of NO and the loss of blood flow regulation.

Health effects of nitric oxide deficiency

Heart disease is the most obvious effect of nitric oxide deficiency as discussed above. The other chronic diseases such as those involving the kidney, the brain, and the liver are linked to low blood flow. Even vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other brain/neurological disorders are partly due to reduced blood flow to the prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain. Again, the cause is NO deficiency. If the problem is not fixed, and there is no blood to fire the synapses for too long, they dysfunction and the result is loss of the ability to remember.

It’s all very simple: if you starve your body cells of oxygen and nutrients, they become dysfunctional. Obviously, you don’t have enough blood to flood every cell and tissue at all times. That is why your body regulates blood flow, a function which is dictated by the production of nitric oxide. Failure to make NO means that you lose regulation and many systems suffer.

Reverse NO deficiency through supplements

The best way to give each and every cell in the body sufficient oxygen and nutrients is to improve blood flow. This is done by promoting a healthy circulatory system which can produce nitric oxide on demand. Taking NO-boosting supplements and eating nitrate-rich foods increases the production of nitric oxide in the body. In healthy people, taking supplements prevents many chronic diseases. In people who are already sick, it can reverse some conditions. For example, patients with vascular dementia were given NO and, 30 days later, the cognitive abilities had improved.

There are several nitric oxide boosters available as dietary supplements on the market that contain ingredients that contribute to the formation of nitric oxide in the body. The commonest ones are L-arginine, L-citrulline and beetroot.


L-arginine is a semi-essential (or conditionally essential) amino acid, meaning that the bodies of healthy adults can make all they need. It only needs to be consumed in the diet under certain conditions. It produces nitric oxide directly in the body through a process called L-arginine-NO-pathway. Lots of scientific evidence exists to prove its usefulness in the body. In a number of studies, L-arginine increased blood flow for certain people and effectively reduced blood pressure in people with high blood pressure including pregnant women. However, doses as low as 10 grams are known to cause stomach ache and diarrhea.


The body can make all L-citrulline that it needs as a byproduct of converting L-arginine to nitric oxide. However, when there is shortage of citric oxide, L-arginine can be taken as a supplement. It can be processed in the body to make to L-arginine which is then used to produce more nitric oxide. In fact, it increases the levels of L-arginine in the body much more than taking supplements of L-arginine. That is because most of the L-arginine taken orally is broken down before it reaches the bloodstream. It is therefore wise to take L-citrulline as a supplement in order to increase citric oxide production. It is relatively safe and there is low risk of side effects even when taken in large doses.


L-arginine and L-citrulline supplements don’t work very well in young people because they already synthesize enough of the amino acids. However, younger people can benefit from taking supplemental beetroot which creates as much nitric oxide as the bacteria in the mouth and gut can produce.

How nitric oxide works in the body

Nitric oxide works as a neurotransmitter, an antimicrobial that destroys dangerous microbes in the body, a vasodilator, an anti-inflammatory, a blood thinner and it promotes blood vessel growth. It also functions as an antioxidant that stops bad LDL cholesterol from being oxidized and that way stops the formation of atherosclerotic plaque.

Are you deficient in nitric oxide?

Nitric oxide plays many crucial roles in many body systems. If the body’s ability to make its own NO is impaired, the deficiency progressively leads to heart disease and other chronic diseases. However, development and progression of chronic diseases can be stopped by taking NO-producing supplements.

Nitric Oxide Information

For more everything you need to know about nitric oxide and the role it plays in the human body, check out our comprehensive information page here.

Nitric Oxide Information

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Ron Goedeke MD, BSc Hons MBChB, FNZCAM

Dr Ron Goedeke, specialises in alternative and functional medicine. He is a foundation member of the New Zealand college of Appearance medicine and has been a member of the American Academy of Anti-aging medicine since 1999. With over 20 years of experience in the anti-aging field, Dr Ron Goedeke is recognized as one of New Zealand’s leaders in this new and growing field of medicine.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read on this website.

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