Looking for a safe, low-cost compound to provide relief from the coughing, wheezing, and thick phlegm associated with cold and flu?
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a water soluble and stable form of the amino-acid cysteine and a precursor to Glutathione.
Glutathione - Your Master Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
To understand the effects and mechanisms behind NAC you should know a little about Glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in your cells and is comprised largely of three amino acids (the building blocks of proteins): glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. These 3 amino acids are considered Conditionally Essential Nutrients (CENs). This means these compounds that are usually produced in the body in sufficient amounts to meet everyday physiological requirements, but come up short in times of illness and stress. In such cases these become essential nutrients to bring one back to a healthy state.
So much stress
Glutathione levels in the body can be reduced by many factors, such as poor nutrition, environmental toxins, other pollutants, and myriad stressors. Unfortunately like many other things, glutathione levels also decline with age. Boosting glutathione provides many health benefits, mostly through binding to water soluble toxins in phase II detoxification (conjugation) and reduction of oxidative stress through scavenging of free-radicals. NAC is similar to both L-Cysteine and the glutathione enzyme itself, being the direct precursor to glutathione.
Colds, Flu and Cytokines
Colds and flu-like-illnesses actually lead to damage on a number of fronts and one way is through the much talked about cytokine storm.
When invaded by something like a virus, your body mounts a coordinated attack on all fronts and those cells involved in the body’s immune response communicate with each other via the release of a set of proteins as chemical messengers, called cytokines. These cytokines tell immune cells what to do and also tell the body to produce more of them to bolster the defences against infection.
While cytokines are an important part of the body’s immune response, they are also involved in creating the unpleasant effects that fight infection like the fever, stuffiness, runny nose, inflammation, and aches and pains associated with something like the flu. These unpleasant side-effects of cytokine proliferation are what create an effective multipronged immune attack.
Unfortunately, in severe cases of the flu, cytokine production can get out of control. The cytokines tell the body to produce even more immune cells, and in turn these immune cells release even more pro-inflammatory cytokines. This can lead to a “cytokine storm,” a situation in which excessive cytokine production causes an immune response that can damage organs, especially the lungs, and create complications and even lead to death.
Cytokines and N-Acetylcysteine
In human studies N-Acetylcysteine has been shown to act as a mucolytic (in breaks down mucus associated with congestion) agent and reduces sputum formation (mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract).
This lead to speculation that NAC may be a valuable tool in combatting the current COrona VIrus Disease. In a letter to the editor of the journal "Med Hypothesis" back in mid 2020 the authors used the references below to support this claim. Several studies have been conducted since.
A review of the evidence was published in the November 2020 issue of Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management labled NAC as "a Forgotten Immune-Modulating Agent" and came to the conclusion pictured below.
How I use NAC
Anecdotally, I have seen good improvement with lung function and digestive function in myself and with a few patients using NAC orally at the 1,800 mg - 2,700 mg a day dosage over a one month period. Not all people handle NAC well as it is a high sulfur compound and as we know everyone is different.
I keep NAC at home in my "medicine cabinet" and use it to combat inflammation and restore glutathione after illness.
Check out the references in the. links in the article - I think you may find them interesting.
I am always interested to hear of your experiences with supplements so let me know if you have any experience with NAC in the comments below.
This post is informational and educational only and not to be construed as medical advice.
You should consult a licensed health care professional before starting any supplement, dietary, or exercise program, especially if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
Dr. Jerome Craig, DC