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July 2006 Vol. 32, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Have a Little Nitrox, M'Dear

from the July, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last October, we quoted an Undercurrent reader who’d discovered an unusual benefit of Nitrox. After she and her husband made two dives with a 32% blend, “something amazing happened,” said Karen Decker (Oxnard, CA). “We went back to the room and had sex. Yep, that’s right, sex. Something that had never happened before the nap before that day.” Decker reported that she and her husband “actually had the energy to engage in this extracurricular activity each day after diving. We’ve been enjoying Nitrox ever since!”

That article brought several comments, including this from a subscriber who requested anonymity. “I love diving; however, I found the drastic diminution of my sexual responsiveness after a day of diving on air to be an intolerable side effect. I proposed to my husband that I dive only every other day and see if that helped. He was not similarly affected; regular air or Nitrox, he was always in full, happy vacation condition. He is a physician and said that he thought Nitrox might fix the problem. The change was immediate.

“We have experimented with one tank of Nitrox and one of air when Nitrox is in short supply. This also seems fine. For many of us, the whole vacation is not about diving only. No one said a word about this in the Nitrox classroom, but discreet inquiries on my part have revealed that this is not a new discovery.”

Al Ankus, an Undercurrent subscriber and pharmacist in Chicago, IL, offers an explanation. He told us that Nitric oxide (a by-product of Nitrox inhalation) serves as a neurotransmitter between nerve cells. Production of nitric oxide “also plays a role in development and maintenance of erection by stimulating the smooth muscle cells surrounding the blood vessels supplying the corpus cavernosum (region of erectile tissue that contains most of the blood in the penis during erection). Through relaxation of these muscles, more blood can flow in.” By the way, adds our friendly pharmacist, “Nitric oxide is the main ingredient of sildenafel — commonly known as . . . Viagra.”

Ern Campbell, MD, who runs Scubadoc blog told us that while there are good anecdotal reports, there still isn’t any hard evidence. He speculates, with tongue in cheek, that perhaps vigorous sex and Cialis before diving might decrease the risk of decompression illness, citing research that shows while fitness above a basic level made little difference, a bout of intense exercise (amorous or otherwise, he says) 20 hours before a simulated dive in a pressure chamber dramatically reduced nitrogen bubble formation. The researchers believe that the exercise eliminates microbubbles that seed the formation of larger bubbles in the blood.

Other studies suggest that these microbubbles are attached to the walls of blood vessels. Exercise is known to stimulate the release of nitric oxide (NO), which not only dilates blood vessels but changes their surface properties, making them more slippery.

Obviously, there’s a need for more research in this subject. As soon as we find a research team willing to take it on, we’ll put out a call for volunteers.

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