It’s been nearly four weeks since the first symptoms of “the COVID” hit me.
And thankfully, I’m confident in saying I’m finally better.
One hallmark of this virus I keep hearing about is the intense fatigue… and that’s in addition to the shortness of breath, which all four of my family members had even though we had what I believe to be a “mild to moderate case.”
Unlike so many others, our lives will go on after COVID-19. For this, we are tremendously thankful, and it’s something we talk about daily.
For far too many others, that hasn’t been the case.
And as I read more and more accounts about those who succumb to this illness, I’m learning that around day 10 of managing symptoms at home, many patients suddenly find themselves getting much sicker quickly.
Day 10 seems to be a turning point. After a week and a half of having a high fever that won’t come down and decreasing oxygen levels, a sickness that previously seemed manageable becomes an emergency.
But there is light in this darkness…
People are drawing closer… nurses and doctors act as surrogate family members and step in to make sure their patient’s potential last moments aren’t spent alone. This provides great comfort to both the sick and their worried families who can’t be at their loved one’s bedside.
All this while epidemiologists, scientists and medical researchers work tirelessly to find a way to put an end to the virus.
In fact, researchers at one Massachusetts hospital may be on to something big, a treatment that could have the power to help treat COVID-19.
The treatment: Nitric Oxide
The team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is now studying whether or not inhaling this gas molecule could be a potentially lifesaving treatment due to its ability to dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow and oxygen and open airways for those hospitalized with the virus.
MGH doctors first used the gas in 1990 to treat a baby born with persistent pulmonary hypertension that resulted in “blue baby syndrome.” And since then, it’s become part of their standard of care for that and other respiratory and heart problems.
Now it could help against COVID-19
The MGH team says nitric oxide even demonstrates some antiviral effects — there’s anecdotal evidence from when it was used during the 2003 epidemic to help patients suffering from SARS (“The COVID’s cousin”).
According to Robert Kacmarek, director of respiratory care at MGH and one of the leaders of the hospital’s nitric oxide trials, “That’s the reason we’re doing these studies, because we believe that the combined effect of improving oxygenation — because all of these patients have oxygenation problems — and the potential antiviral effect of the drug may change the course of the disease in an individual.”
The researchers plan to test the power of nitric oxide to hopefully:
- help get patients with severe COVID-19 off ventilators.
- stop the progression of the disease in those with the “mild to moderate” version, as well as those in the ER.
- help mitigate the risk of the virus for healthcare workers who are exposed to it on an almost constant basis.
And while the results are not in yet, the possibility of success does shine a light in a sea of darkness (especially since at this time there are no proven treatments for COVID-19).
Nitric oxide at home
Of course, inhaling nitric oxide at home isn’t possible… but, could increasing nitric oxide naturally be helpful? I think so, but first let’s take a closer look at what exactly nitric oxide does.
Released by the inner single-cell layer of blood vessels called the endothelium, nitric oxide…
- helps relax your blood vessels.
- helps keep blood vessels flexible.
- helps allow the endothelium to dilate, which helps support smooth blood flow which in turn helps increase the body’s ability to utilize oxygen.
It’s possible that older people and people with conditions that reduce blood flow are at a particularly high risk of succumbing to COVID-19 due to a decreased ability to produce nitric oxide.
Studies have shown that by the time they reach 40, men only produce half or less of the nitric oxide (N-O) they did when they were 20 (for women it’s around 35%). Maintaining optimal N-O levels is especially important as you age because it affects how every cell in your body communicates with each other.
The nitrate=nitrite=N-O pathway
Nitrates are the most bioavailable way for you to get more nitric oxide. Nitrates are gas molecules made by the body, and the function starts in the mouth.
When ingested, dietary nitrates found in foods like beets, kale, spinach, garlic, citrus fruits and dark chocolate mix with the saliva… this starts the process…
Nitrates are then converted into nitrites… and then the acidic conditions in the stomach reduce nitrite to nitric oxide…
Nitric oxide then goes to work in the vessels through a process called vasodilation — which simply means relaxing the vessels for smoother blood circulation throughout the whole body.
It might sound complicated, but the whole process takes just seconds to complete.
You see, because of my family’s heart and circulatory history, I’ve developed several products that help to naturally promote the production of nitric oxide levels.
Beets are by far one of the best sources of the nitrates you need to start the nitric oxide ball rolling.
The research on nitric oxide is so powerful that the scientists who discovered it were awarded the Nobel Prize.
According to a Southern Methodist University study, beet juice ingestion was shown to increase N-O and improve immune response. It was concluded that N-O, as found in beet juice consumption, plays an important role in improving innate immunity. And they linked nitric oxide deficits to a loss in respiratory health and performance.
Another study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, reported that dietary supplementation with beetroot juice was shown to reduce resting blood pressure and the oxygen cost of exercise and to increase tolerance to high-intensity cycling.
Put simply, athlete’s lower resting blood pressure due to beet juice consumption resulted in less labored breathing which allowed them to exercise harder.
Sounds promising for a condition that by design reduces lung capacity.
I’ve felt strongly about maximizing nitric oxide levels to improve my ability to exercise and promote my heart and blood pressure health for years.
Beets are excellent for you and are a great source of fiber and polyphenols in addition to nitric oxide. But they are notoriously messy and difficult to juice, prepare and cook. That’s why I prefer the convenience of a powder.