N-acetyl cysteine is a multidimensional nutritional tool that has shown impressive efficacy in supporting a variety of organs and systems.
Here we will explore all of the many N-acetyl cysteine health benefits and why it can be useful for an array of health and healing purposes.
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What Is N-Acetyl Cysteine?
N-acetyl cysteine, also often referred to as “NAC,” is the nutritional supplemental form of the sulfur containing amino acid L-cysteine.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and play key roles in the growth and functioning of the human body.
Cysteine is an important amino acid that acts as a precursor for the creation and replenishment of the body’s most powerful antioxidant, glutathione.
Cysteine is considered a “semi-essential” amino acid because our body can make moderate amounts of it from other amino acids including L-methionine and L-serine. Essential amino acids are those that aren’t made by the body at all and must be obtained entirely through our diet.
Cysteine can be found in high protein foods including eggs, poultry, seeds, and beans.
NAC can be used when dietary cysteine consumption is insufficient and/or if one’s health needs require increased antioxidant protection, liver detox support, and more.
NAC is available as an over the counter nutritional supplement and also as a prescription, which is usually a liquid injection form.
It is used in many healthcare settings including hospitals and doctor’s offices.
NAC is high in sulfur, which accounts for much of its healing properties. As a note, however, if you have an expressive CBS gene variant, you may need to utilize lower sulfur containing supports, as this gene variant can cause marked sulfur sensitivity.
NAC Promotes Antioxidant Protection
Glutathione is a tripeptide that is made of the amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamate. It is often referred to as the body’s “master antioxidant” and is hugely important for our health.
Not only is glutathione a potent antioxidant, but it is also essential for liver detoxification, immune function, nutrient metabolism, gene expression, DNA and protein synthesis, and much more. It is a big player in the overall functioning of the human body.
Also known as “free radical scavengers,” antioxidants are molecules/substances that help to stabilize free radicals, thereby protecting your cells from the effects/potential damage they can cause.
Antioxidants essentially neutralize the adverse impacts of free radicals.
Free radicals are “unstable” atoms that can cause various types of cell damage (including DNA damage), which are produced as a result of a process called oxidation.
Oxidation is the result of many normal physiological processes that occur:
- As part of phase 1 of the liver detoxification process when your body is cleansing itself from various pollutants and toxins such as smoke, pesticides, etc
- As you breathe and your body metabolizes oxygen to be utilized for energy by your cells
- When your cells use glucose to produce energy
- When your immune system is fighting off a pathogen such as bacteria, fungus, or parasites
- As part of your stress response
- When metabolizing glucose/sugar
- And more
Free radicals are also produced at high levels by exposure to x-rays, heavy metals, pesticides, and environmental toxins such as smoke, industrial chemicals, air pollution, mold, and more.
A balance between antioxidants and free radicals is required so as to maintain health and the proper physiological function of the body.
If there is an imbalance between the amount of free radicals present in relation to the amount of antioxidants present, with fewer antioxidants to free radicals, an increase in “oxidative stress” can occur.
Oxidative stress refers to stress and damage that can be done to our cells as a result of being exposed to too many free radicals.
An increase in oxidative stress can contribute to the development of a variety of different medical conditions including neurodegenerative conditions (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc), diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, cataracts, lung conditions, skin conditions, and many others.
Additional symptoms of increased oxidative stress can include chronic fatigue, migraines, anxiety, and many more.
Furthermore, an increase in oxidative stress makes overall healing more challenging for the body. Making sure you are including plenty of antioxidants in your healing protocol is a wonderful way of helping your body to heal more efficiently.
By helping to produce the body’s main and most powerful antioxidant, N-acetyl cysteine can help reduce oxidative stress and the damage and illness that it can cause.
N-Acetyl Cysteine Health Benefits
NAC is a useful healing tool for both acute and chronic illnesses. The following are some of the main ways that NAC can be used to support health and healing. Most of these benefits relate back to NAC’s ability to provide antioxidant protection by helping to create glutathione, as discussed above.
- Liver and Kidney Support/Detoxification Support
NAC has long been used to treat overdoses from various drugs/medications due to its ability to support liver detoxification and prevent organ damage to the liver and kidneys.
Because of its key role in the production of glutathione, which helps encourage liver detox overall, NAC can also help to eliminate other toxins in the body such as heavy metals, environmental toxins, biotoxins, excess hormones, and more.
Increased oxidative stress is particularly harmful to the respiratory system. NAC helps to protect the lungs from the effects of free radicals and helps to reduce inflammation in the airways.
It also acts as an expectorant, meaning it helps to loosen and clear mucus from the airways.
For these reasons, it helps to improve lung function and reduce flare-ups and exacerbations of lung conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.
- Increases Insulin Sensitivity and Helps Alleviate Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance occurs when the cells become less sensitive to the hormone insulin, which helps glucose, or sugar, enter our cells to be utilized by the body. If sugar doesn’t enter the cell as it is supposed to, it will build up in the blood, causing high blood sugar. When this happens chronically, it can lead to diabetes and many other health complications.
Glutathione can help to increase insulin sensitivity and alleviate insulin resistance.
By helping to produce and replenish more glutathione in the body, NAC is helpful in increasing insulin sensitivity, alleviating insulin resistance, and balancing blood sugar.
- Neuroprotective Properties
Glutamate is an amino acid that also acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter. It is important for healthy brain function when it is present in balanced amounts, but “excitotoxicity” and its coinciding symptoms can result if glutamate rises to excess levels.
High glutamate levels can result in anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, addictions, and more.
Glutathione helps to keep glutamate balanced, so NAC can support balanced glutamate levels by way of increasing glutathione.
Many studies now show that NAC can be helpful in reducing or eliminating the symptoms and conditions that can result from high glutamate levels.
NAC has also shown to be helpful in the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This is largely due to its antioxidant protective properties, as increased oxidative stress have shown to contribute to the development of both of these conditions.
The Best NAC Supplement I’ve Ever Used
NAC has been a staple in my healing protocols for various purposes including healing from Biotoxin Illness/Mold Toxicity, balancing my copper levels, and detoxifying excess estrogen as part of my endometriosis healing plan.
Supporting liver detoxification, respiratory function, reducing inflammation, and protecting against oxidative stress are fundamental components of healing from all of the conditions I’ve had so NAC has been very helpful.
By far the best N-acetyl cysteine supplement I’ve ever used is Thorne NAC.
Thorne is a superior line of nutritional supplements that have always impressed me with how well-formulated and effective they are. All products utilize only the most pure, bioavailable ingredients and they are free from common allergens such as gluten and soy. They are powerful yet gentle and well-tolerated.
Out of the number of NAC supplements that I’ve tried, this one stands out. About 2 weeks after incorporating it into my protocol, I noticed a marked improvement in brain fog and a very noticeable improvement in respiratory symptoms.
Dosing is completely individualized and should be determined with one’s healthcare practitioner. The standard recommended dose for this product is one 500mg capsule 2 to 3 times per day.
There are 90 capsules per bottle, which usually lasts me about a month and a half.
I take NAC with food, but it can be taken with or without food depending on one’s unique case.
Click here to check out Thorne NAC.
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As we’ve explored here, NAC helps provide powerful antioxidant protection that has a very positive influence on our health and wellness. It also supports the respiratory system, liver, kidneys, and brain.
It is a multidimensional nutritional tool that can be used for a variety of health and healing purposes.
I wish you all the best in your journey, and may optimal health and wellness be yours now and always 💜.