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N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine has been recognized for its wide range of health benefits. This article explores how NAC supplements can play a role in specific health concerns. From its potential in supporting respiratory health, and improving the detoxification processes in the body, to its emerging role in mental health and chronic disease management, NAC stands out. Whether you’re looking to support your immune system, improve antioxidant defenses, or explore its other health benefits, understanding NAC’s potential is something you will want to know about.
What Is N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)?
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. It is commonly used in dietary supplements, as well as in medical treatments for various conditions.
NAC is a precursor to glutathione, which is an important antioxidant in the body. It is believed that NAC helps to increase the production of glutathione, which helps to protect cells from oxidative stress and damage.
NAC is available in capsule, tablet, and powder forms. It is generally considered safe when taken in recommended doses, although it may cause mild side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and headache. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider before taking NAC, especially if you are taking any medications or have a medical condition.
What are the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)?
- Respiratory health: NAC can help to break down mucus in the lungs, making it easier to breathe. It is commonly used to treat respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, and asthma.
- Covid-19: N Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) helps you make the glutathione, the “master antioxidant”. The recent COVID 19 causes a “storm” of highly inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines can result in damage to lungs, blood vessels, the brain and heart. Without adequate glutathione, our cells cannot quench the resulting reactive oxygen species. As we get older, we produce less glutathione. This may be reason the elderly are hit much harder by COVID 19. NAC also has an antiviral effect. It works through the NFkB pathway to help keep viruses from using our cellular machinery to copy themselves. [PMC7649937]
- Liver health: – NAC may help to protect the liver from damage caused by toxins such as alcohol and acetaminophen. It can also improve liver function in people with liver disease.
- Prevents Liver Damage from Acetaminophen: “Depletion of glutathione (GSH) is one of the initiating steps in APAP-induced hepatotoxicity; therefore, one strategy for restricting organ damage is to restore GSH levels by using GSH prodrugs. N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a GSH precursor, is the only currently approved antidote for an acetaminophen overdose.” [PMID: 26602168]
- Cognitive Function: NAC provides the amino acid cysteine, which is needed to make glutathione. [PMID: 29182711, PMC6320789]
- Mental health: NAC has been found to have a positive effect on mental health, particularly in conditions such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It may also help to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Cardiovascular health: NAC can help to reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system, which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Immune system health: – NAC can help to boost the immune system, particularly in people with compromised immune systems.
- Antioxidant activity: NAC is a precursor to glutathione, which is an important antioxidant in the body. NAC can help to increase the production of glutathione, which can help to protect cells from oxidative stress and damage.
- Detoxification: NAC can help to support the body’s natural detoxification processes, particularly in people who have been exposed to heavy metals or other toxins.
- Pain Relief: In clinical trails, there is some evidence to show NAC may provide analgesic efficacy for certain pain conditions, but this effect is not consistent. [PMID: 33560443] In animal models, NAC was shown to improve acetaminophen’s pain-relieving effects. [PMC7791802] Researchers have proposed that all over-the-counter acetaminophen should be combined with NAC to prevent accidental and intentional overdoses. [PMID: 26250417]
Is N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) Safe?
Doses above about 1200 mg per day can cause headache, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. People who take nitroglycerine should not take NAC unless they are supervised by a physician since it can cause the nitroglycerine to work more intensely and cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.
Medication interactions with NAC
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) may interact with certain medications, leading to adverse effects. Here are some of the medications that may interact with NAC, along with the severity of each interaction:
- NITROGLYCERINE – For people taking NAC, nitroglycerine (a medicine used to treat chest pain) may cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.
- Anticoagulant medications (e.g., warfarin, heparin) – NAC may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulant medications. Severity: Moderate to Severe.
- ACE inhibitors (e.g., lisinopril, enalapril) – NAC may enhance the effects of ACE inhibitors, leading to excessively low blood pressure. Severity: Mild to Moderate.
- Nitroprusside – NAC may decrease the effectiveness of nitroprusside, a medication used to treat high blood pressure.
- Chemotherapy medications – NAC may interfere with the efficacy of some chemotherapy medications, reducing their effectiveness. Severity: Unknown.
Supplement interactions with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC).
While N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is generally safe when used appropriately, it may interact with certain nutritional supplements, leading to adverse effects. Here are some of the nutritional supplements that may interact with NAC:
- Vitamin C and Selenium are able to help recharge Glutathione, so they work synergistically with NAC to increase glutathione levels.
- Lipoic acid – Lipoic acid may enhance the effects of NAC, potentially leading to excessively high levels of glutathione in the body.
- Melatonin – Melatonin may enhance the sedative effects of NAC, leading to excessive drowsiness and lethargy.
It is important to talk to a healthcare provider before taking any nutritional supplements, especially if you are taking NAC or any prescription medications. Your healthcare provider may need to adjust the dosage of your supplements or monitor you more closely for potential interactions.
Food Sources of Cysteine
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a synthetic form of the amino acid cysteine, NAC is not found in any specific food. However, most protein foods are rich in cysteine may help to support the body’s production of glutathione. These foods include:
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Dairy products (milk, cheese)
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas)
- Brussels sprouts
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NAC by Integrative Therapeutics
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) helps to replenish intracellular glutathione, which is vital in cellular antioxidant pathways.*
Suggested Use: Take 1 capsule once or twice daily, or as recommended by your healthcare professional.
Amount Per 1 Capsule Serving
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) … 600 mg**
Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.
Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.
To Sum It Up
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) supplements offer a range of health benefits rooted in their ability to support the body’s antioxidant defenses. As a rate-limiting precursor to glutathione, one of the body’s most potent antioxidants, NAC plays a key role in combating oxidative stress and supporting cellular health. Its benefits extend to lung health, where it helps to reduce inflammation and break down mucus, aiding in conditions like chronic bronchitis and cystic fibrosis. For those seeking liver support, NAC is valued for its detoxifying properties. Additionally, emerging research suggests potential benefits in mental health, particularly in mood regulation and reducing symptoms of psychiatric disorders. NAC’s diverse health benefits make it a noteworthy supplement for those looking to bolster their antioxidant intake and support overall well-being.
This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice
Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.