Have you ever had those crippling headaches on the sides of your head, right behind the eyes? Do you find that you have regular joint problems like loose, injury prone knees, and find yourself awake at 2am? Stiff back of the neck and wandering pains, get sick easily, fear the Spring when the winds kick up? Digestive issues, bloating, mystery pains, chronic fatigue, anxiety? Do you sigh constantly throughout the day? You have a certain gas issue.
I’m obsessed with gas. Of particular note is nitric oxide (NO). This is a gas that is produced in our bodies and has wide ranging effects on everything from vasodilation, to bronchospasm, to energy production within cells. It is a gaseous messenger in our body, similar to neurotransmitters, and is among a small family of gaseous signaling molecules coined gasotransmitters. Why does this matter? Because there is a sweet spot to how much your body has, and when the levels are too low, or too high, lots of bad stuff can start to happen inside your body.
You may have heard how high levels of NO can cause the nerves to be damaged, “rusting” them until they degrade, or how low levels will not be able to regulate GABA pain receptors. One particular aspect of NO levels has direct implications for people with Fibromyalgia, chronic pain, CFS, RA, IBS, and a slew of other chronic conditions. When NO levels get elevated, it changes your blood. Look under your tongue at the two sublingual veins. Are they purple and bulging? Do you have red spots around the outside edge and tip of your tongue? These are clues that your blood has changed.
There are these hormone-like lipids produced by your body called prostaglandins. There are several types. One type causes the clotting part of your blood, the platelets, to clot less, and also softens your veins and arterial walls. When NO levels spike, it blocks that kind of prostaglandin, and promotes a different kind, one that actually makes the platelets stickier and more prone to clot.
NO likes to cluster around your liver, especially when you are stressed. It spikes when you have inflammation, and when your gut is out of balance. It rises when you fail to sleep properly. NO will jump, and then start changing your blood, causing it to get sticky and want to clog up capillary systems. Your liver starts looking like an oil filter that hasn’t been changed in years. If you didn’t change your oil, your engine would start to malfunction. Your body is no different.
So what is there to be done? Take steps to find a safe place from stress. Breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, qigong. Watch out for triggers (ahem, election coverage). Baby your liver. Your body wants to expel these gases already by making you sigh a ton- allow it to. Breathe long, slow, sighing breaths regularly. Take the time to allow your body to slow down and focus on healing.