N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
At WellCentric Health we have a few supplements that we consider foundational that we recommend to every client because of the benefits they provide in avoiding disease and promoting health. N-acetyl cysteine is, definitely, one of those supplements and one we all take daily.
N-acetyl cysteine is a compound of three amino acids–cysteine, glutamate, and glycine– bound together that act, primarily, as a donor of cystine. It’s two main strengths are as support for our anti-oxidant system and as a breaker of disulfide bonds.
NAC is used in hospital emergency departments to save lives from those who overdose on acetaminophen (Tylenol). Acetaminophen is partially broken down in the liver to a compound, NAPQI, that is very toxic to the liver. When enough liver cells die, so does the patient. NAC is used for its antioxidant ability to quickly change the NAPQI into a safe compound that can then be excreted from the body. It is also used for respiratory patients to protect their lungs from oxidative damage, but also to break the disulfide bonds of mucous. This thins the mucous to allow easier and improved respiration.
Oxidation is occurring constantly in our bodies. It is the process used to make energy in the form of ATP in our mitochondria. Some of our white cells kill invasive pathogens by oxidation.
A fire in your fireplace or from the burner of your gas stove is an oxidative process and it serves well by providing heat. Obviously, however, that same fire has the potential to cause devastating damage to your home. In the same way, uncontrolled oxidation in our cells can cause of lot of damage—some of it irreparable and can cause the death of the cell.
This oxidative damage to cells can be the source of poor cell/tissue/body performance is a major contributor to many disease states such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and other neurological diseases, cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetes, mood disorders (such as rampant depression and anxiety), and the list goes on and on.
Glutathione is a chemical our cells use to control oxidation. If a cell does not have an adequate supply of glutathione oxidation starts destroying cellular proteins, cell membranes, DNA, and more. NAC provides cysteine to make more glutathione and is very good at it. You may ask why not simply take glutathione itself, and you could. The problem is glutathione is poorly absorbed from the gut, it does not stay around long enough to work well, and it can be pretty expensive—especially for the forms that work better. In contrast, NAC is better absorbed, lasts longer, and is quite affordable.
NAC has also been shown to reduce inflammation and can interfere with certain viral infections. While there is evidence that it may help prevent COVID infections by interfering with the viral spike proteins interaction with the ACE2 receptor, there are not yet clinical studies to demonstrate its effectiveness in this regard. Now, we do have studies that show that for those who do get sick with COVID, or other severe respiratory diseases, that NAC is definitely beneficial. Similarly, we do know that it can help prevent influenza, reduce symptom severity, and expedite recovery. As the authors of one journal article wrote, “NAC treatment […] resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of influenza-like episodes, severity, and length of time confined to bed. Both local and systemic symptoms were sharply and significantly reduced in the NAC group.”
So, whether you are working with WellCentric Health to correct a disease process or are working to optimize your health and longevity, NAC should be among your regular supplements that support an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle.