When I founded Aviva Natural Health Solutions seventeen years ago, my primary focus was to offer research-based dietary, supplement, exercise and lifestyle recommendations that could help people achieve optimum health.
As a new business owner, I attended various industry events to meet the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of natural health products in Canada. At my first trade show in 2001, I met Barrie Carlsen, the owner of Enerex Botanicals at that time. Barrie was in his 60s but looked and acted like a man much younger. He inspired me to try Enerex Greens, an organic super green food formula containing a variety of ingredients including grass juice powders, red beet juice powder, brown rice bran, microalgae, and probiotics. Barrie taught me the importance of choosing a product made from grass juices, rather than powdered grasses, as juiced greens are up to 33 times more nutrient-dense, and taste sweeter than grass powder products. Most of the popular products available used grass powders, and the taste was quite bitter. I learned that companies chose grass powders because they cost less to produce than the more potent and better-tasting grass juice powders.
I took Barrie’s advice, blending a tablespoon of greens into a glass of water and drinking first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I quickly realized that my energy levels were off the charts when I started my day with the green drink, without the jitters that can follow a couple cups of coffee. I also noticed another benefit, related to a more personal issue that men seeking health advice are frequently looking to address. The causes can vary, but one of the primary reasons men visit health stores is for information on how they can put more “lead in their pencil.” While I didn’t know the scientific reason why drinking a green juice in the morning had this effect on me, I would recommend it to every man who asked me for advice on this particular issue, and would often receive a glowing review and thank you, sometimes within a few days. Packed with nutrition, there are many health benefits to taking a green superfood drink beyond helping in the bedroom.
About nine years ago, I learned about nitric oxide (chemical formula NO), a gas that acts as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. NO was named “Molecule of the Year” in 1992 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Nobel Prize in 1998 was awarded to three scientists who identified the critical importance of NO in achieving optimum health. Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association, said: “the discovery of nitric oxide and its function is one of the most important in the history of cardiovascular medicine.”
NO is a colourless gas, produced by the one-cell-thick lining of our arteries, veins, and heart called the endothelium. Production of NO by the endothelium regulates circulation and blood vessel dilation by relaxing the vessels’ smooth muscles. There isn’t a single disease that is not affected by NO production, which is foundational to how the body works. NO not only provides cardiovascular benefits; it also stimulates the brain and supports the elimination of potential threats like bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and other infectious agents. NO helps white blood cells defend against tumors and cancer cell proliferation, maintains gastric mucosal integrity, helps prevent ulcerative colitis, regulates blood pressure, controls blood flow, and plays an important role in our sense of smell.
Nitrates from foods and supplements are converted by bacteria on the tongue into nitrites. Nitrites are then converted into NO by the endothelium to work its vasodilation magic, boosting circulation by widening blood vessels and decreasing blood pressure.
When I learned how nitric oxide was produced in the body I understood why super green food drinks had benefits in the bedroom, as grasses and green (as well as some red) vegetables are high in nitrates. Arugula, beets, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are some of the best food sources of nitrates.
The medical term for the inability to attain and maintain an erection is called erectile dysfunction (ED). The discovery of NO and its key circulatory role in the body resulted in the development of drugs designed to cure ED called PDE5 inhibitors, including sildenafil (Viagra). While these drugs do work in some cases, about 50% of men don’t receive the expected benefits, and PDE5 inhibitors have potentially dangerous adverse effects including blindness, facial flushing, rhinitis, indigestion, hearing loss, tinnitus, and loss of smell.
The primary causes of ED include: physical health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, MS, and Parkinson’s disease; psychological issues like anxiety or lack of desire; prescription drugs; and endothelial dysfunction, which I call the “other ED.” Endothelial dysfunction is caused by low levels of NO, which disrupts the biochemical processes carried out by the endothelium that are critical to producing an erection.
NO levels decrease with age; a 40-year-old has about half the levels of a 20-year-old. Insufficient NO levels are associated with hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, glaucoma, macular degeneration, Raynaud’s disease, diabetic neuropathy, thrombosis, Alzheimer’s disease (vascular dementia), chronic inflammation, poor wound healing, and erectile dysfunction. Restoring youthful levels of NO brings incredible, long-lasting health benefits, as improved circulation and oxygenation affect all parts of the body.
The amino acid L-arginine has long been recommended as a solution for curing ED. However, new research has shown that it is often ineffective and possibly dangerous for men over 40, or are in the developing stages of cardiovascular dysfunction.
Thanks to the research by Nathan Bryan, Ph.D., from the University of Texas, there are scientifically proven methods of increasing NO levels using natural products like beetroot, hawthorn berry, and L-citrulline (an amino acid that is a precursor to L-arginine). Hawthorn showed the most robust and effective nitrate activity of over 400 foods and 100 herbs tested. Dr. Bryan developed Neo40, a completely natural lozenge that increases NO levels while restoring the enzyme the body needs to produce it. After seven successful peer-reviewed clinical trials, Neo40 was made available to the public.
In addition to hawthorn berry, L-citrulline, nitrate-rich vegetables and green food drinks, I recommend complementary herbal supplements that can improve the efficiency of NO conversion. Often found in products designed to improve sexual function, helpful herbs include Pycnogenol, Tribulus terrestris, Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba and epimedium (horny goat weed).
A healthy prostate gland is also required for peak sexual performance, as an enlarged prostate not only encumbers the flow of urine into the urethra; it can also block the flow of seminal fluid. For men experiencing prostate problems, my first recommendation is a prostate massager, proven to improve lower urinary tract symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate (BPH) and chronic prostatitis. Helpful foods and supplements include Styrian pumpkin seed oil, zinc, stinging nettle, cranberry, plant sterols, rice bran solubles, DIM (diindolylmethane), rye flower pollen extract, saw palmetto, and pygeum.
As cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women, a diet high in nitrates is extremely important. Research indicates that restoring NO production can improve many of the 400+ risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Supplements like Neo40 can help increase NO levels, alleviate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, and reduce the negative effects of that other ED, endothelial dysfunction.
Nathan Zassman is the owner and president of Aviva Natural Health Solutions.