The body is a very complex thing. So many parts perfectly put together and functioning as a well-oiled machine, day in, day out, 24/7/365. Amazing really when you think about it. Oddly enough, most of us don't really think about it very much, if at all, unless something interrupts the function of that well-oiled machine. Although I am a glass-half-full kinda gal, I do believe that looking ahead and being preventative is not only key to avoiding sickness and disease, it's also key to a more enjoyable life. Less disease, better quality of life. Simple. And one of the things that's critical to good health and longevity is circulation.
The circulatory system is responsible for moving the blood throughout the body in order to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all cells, and then remove the carbon dioxide, waste and toxins. Think of a garden hose. When it's hooked up to the water tap and you turn it on, water flows through it quickly and goes right to where you have the end of the hose directed at and those plants get the water they need to grow, or your car gets washed, etc., you get the point. Now what happens when you hook up the hose, turn on the water, point the nozzle in the right direction and you have kink in the hose? Water still comes through, but it takes longer to water your plants, and it's much more difficult to wash your car effectively as there isn't enough volume to properly do the job. Same thing inside your body.
Depending on what's going on in your body, you may already be aware of any circulation issues. Many people however, could have a little “kink” in some of those hoses and not even know it. Cold or numbness in hands and/or feet, swelling in feet and/or lower leg, fatigue, forgetfulness, changes in blood pressure, diarrhea, constipation, blood stools, muscle cramping, joint pain, purple-ish tinge to skin, sores that won't heal, especially on the lower extremities
Optimal circulation is needed to maintain health, promote healing, and to support immune and cognitive function. The amount of blood flowing, or not flowing, through your veins affects blood pressure, digestion, elimination, energy levels, joint, muscle and vascular health, as well as cognitive functioning, retention and memory. Clearly it's in everyone's best interest to get the kinks out.
Although certainly not new on the health scene, nitric oxide (NO) has been something only elite athletes were focusing on in order to optimize performance. NO occurs in the body naturally and is responsible for regulating healthy blood flow, blood pressure as well as how our cells communicate to our brain and how the body protects and defends itself against diseases. Nitric oxide is produced two ways; first, through a complicated process where enzymes convert amino acids (proteins) into NO; and second through food we eat. The problem with these delivery systems is that around the age of 40, our bodies' abilities to convert those enzymes decreases to only about 50 percent efficiency. And for the second, well we are what we eat.
Nitrates are converted to nitrites, which can then be converted to nitric oxide, which give us nitric oxide and can then provide us with the health benefits mentioned above. The million dollar question then becomes, how do I get more nitrates into my body and optimize the conversion process? Glad you asked. First of all, let's just clarify by saying that if you just google nitrates, you will likely find that it's an unhealthy chemical, something found in fertilizers and even used in killing rodents. Obviously, these are toxic and should be avoided. When you see nitrates listed on packaged foods, these too are the chemical, not-so-healthy options. The ones I'm referring to occur naturally in certain foods. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, arugula, kale, cabbage, bok choy, watercress, chicory leaf, Chinese cabbage, as well as veggies like beets, radishes, turnips, celery, onion, garlic, kohlrabi are all great sources of NO producing elements. To a lesser degree, watermelon, apples, bananas, grapes, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, oranges, and strawberries are also beneficial. One fruit in particular that does promote nitric oxide production, the dilation of blood vessels and improved circulation is the morinda citrifolia - more commonly knows as the Noni fruit, and also Indian mulberry.
For the past 2000 years, Polynesians have used Noni fruit in herbal remedies to treat various conditions. As with many super foods, there are many scientific papers and abstracts on the benefits of Noni with regards to NO production, circulation and its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits as well. Being an exotic and rather little known fruit, it's unlikely you'll stumble across it in your local produce aisle. It's also not very palatable and has been described by some as the “vomit fruit” due to its unpleasant odour.
For those who would like to try Noni, I suggest sourcing out a high quality supplement instead. As with any supplements, look for quality and bio-availability – where it came from, how it was made and how easily it will be absorbed by the body.
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