The Smart Inner Lining of Your Blood Vessels

The Endothelial Glycocalyx

The inner lining of your blood vessels performs many important functions.

Your blood vessels are more than just pipes that let the blood flow through. They’re extremely smart. They have an inner lining called the endothelial glycocalyx (or EGX) that constantly monitors the flowing blood and controls what passes into your body and what’s kept out. This is important because the blood contains a mix of good and bad. It carries nutrients and oxygen that your organs need, but it also carries harmful things like too much LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). And there are elements in the blood that are good in themselves, but can accidentally cause bad outcomes.

For example, your blood has the task of carrying immune cells that rush to a site of injury or infection. Unfortunately, the immune system sometimes over-reacts. The name for this is inflammation, and it can be very destructive.

This is where the slippery-smooth inner lining, called the EGX, is especially useful.

A Home for Essential Helpers

When the EGX is healthy, those over-enthusiastic immune cells roll past it, and so does LDL, like fat rolling over a non-stick pan. However, when the EGX is compromised, the immune cells and LDL can break through the blood vessel walls. When that happens, plaque can begin to form.

As well as providing a protective lining, the EGX also regulates several key functions. For example, it contains special molecules that help control how blood clots. Clotting is useful when injury occurs but can be dangerous if it gets out of hand. The EGX also houses a powerful antioxidant that helps defend your blood vessels from harmful free radicals (superoxide dismutase, or SOD).

Nitric Oxide: A Key to Healthy Living

One of the most amazing jobs the EGX does is to trigger the production of nitric oxide, or NO. This is a natural gas your body produces that widens the blood vessels and has many important functions. Here are some of the things NO does for you:

  • Maintains healthy circulation
  • Helps control blood pressure
  • Improves muscle performance when you work out
  • Helps you recover after exercise
  • Contributes to healthy sexual function
  • Helps keep you maintain energy and stamina

The EGX senses how fast the blood is flowing through the arteries and sends a signal to make NO according to what it learns.

From all this, you can see how smart the EGX is, and what an important role this inner lining plays in protecting your health.