There’s been a bit of controversy around N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), the supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. The FDA sent out warning letters that NAC could not be marketed as a dietary supplement after being approved as a new medication in 1963. However, the FDA finally realized the fantastic benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine, changed its stance, and recognized NAC as a dietary supplement.
That’s great news because research shows the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine impact everything from the liver, respiratory health, brain health, gut health, and so much more. I will tell you about all the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine in just a minute. First, let’s talk more about cysteine.
Cysteine is the Precursor of N-Acetyl Cysteine
N-Acetyl Cysteine comes from the amino acid L-cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid. The reason it’s considered semi-essential is that NAC can be made from the non-essential amino acids serine and methionine, which are produced naturally in the body.
However, your body may be low on these two amino acids because of a poor diet, stress, or toxin exposure. When this happens, the only way to provide your body with optimal amounts of cysteine is through supplementation or eating high-protein foods, such as chicken, beef, pork, and wild-caught seafood.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is the supplement form of cysteine. Like cysteine, NAC bonds with glycine and glutamine to create glutathione, a potent free radical scavenger your body naturally produces. One of NAC’s most incredible benefits is its ability to replenish glutathione stores.
Yet, N-Acetyl Cysteine has a diverse list of benefits, as I mentioned earlier. Let’s talk more about the wide range of benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine.
Six Benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine
NAC is highly touted for its role in glutathione production, which is essential to facilitate an immune system response and fight free radical damage to cells. This makes it crucial to support heart, brain, and liver health. Here are six benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine:
NAC Supports Liver Health
One of the essential benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine is supporting liver health. The liver is one of your body’s most important organs and is the only organ that can lose up to 75% of its mass and regrow to its full size.
Your body has many systems in place to remove waste. In a healthy person, the kidneys, skin, lungs, and liver work together to regulate the flow of toxins, metals, pollutants, alcohol, caffeine, and medications.
However, constant exposure to toxins from the food we eat, the water we drink, the clothes we wear, and our beauty products can cause this system to be overworked. Too much toxic exposure causes your body’s overworked systems to struggle to flush these substances out of your body optimally.
NAC has been shown to have several benefits for the liver, and they are all tied to glutathione production, which happens in the liver. The increased production of glutathione supports the liver’s natural detoxification process and helps to protect liver cells from oxidative stress, which can occur due to factors such as alcohol, viral infections, or exposure to toxins.
NAC Supports Respiratory Health
You might have heard N-Acetyl Cysteine mentioned as a potential treatment for COVID-19.I’ll talk more about this in a minute. Another reason N-Acetyl Cysteine gets mentioned with COVID is the number of benefits for respiratory health.
One way NAC supports respiratory health is that it has been shown to break up and dissolve mucus in the airways. N-Acetyl Cysteine also reduces oxidative stress in the respiratory system. Oxidative stress contributes to inflammation in the lungs and can damage lung tissue.
N-Acetyl Cysteine also has benefits to support your immune system, which helps fight off viruses and bacteria in the respiratory system.
NAC Facilitates an Immune System Response
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to a foreign invader. When your immune system works optimally, acute inflammation is a critical weapon that protects you against severe and immediate stressors. However, a diet full of inflammatory foods, environmental toxins, leaky gut, or chronic stress can cause your immune system to misfire and begin attacking healthy tissue.
A benefit of N-Acetyl Cysteine is that it promotes a healthy inflammatory response by reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Remember, NAC is a precursor to glutathione, your body’s most potent free radical scavenger.
Another way NAC supports your immune system is that it has been found to modulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), by inhibiting the activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) which is responsible for the production of many cytokines. This is beneficial for COVID-19, which triggers a cytokine storm in pulmonary tissues through the hyperactivation of the immune system.
NAC has also been found to modulate the immune system by increasing the production of T cells, which play a crucial role in the body’s defense against infection and disease.
NAC Supports Brain Health
The common theme of the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine is that it’s a precursor to glutathione. One of the primary functions of glutathione is to reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Oxidative stress is at the root of myriad chronic illnesses, including diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. It is also linked to a range of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
One way N-Acetyl Cysteine benefits brain health is to promote the function of several key neurotransmitters in the brain, including glutamate and dopamine, which impacts learning, memory, and mood. This may be particularly beneficial for people with conditions such as depression and addiction, which are associated with imbalances in neurotransmitter function.
To promote healthy cognitive function, I recommend NeuroLive™. I formulated NeuroLive™ to support memory, learning, and cognitive function. Not only does it contain N-Acetyl Cysteine, NeuroLive™ also contains optimal amounts of Vitamin B6 in its co-enzyme form to support optimal neurotransmitter balance and cognitive function support.
NAC Promotes Estrogen Balance
Did you know the liver is where estrogen gets metabolized? It’s also the main site for further biotransformation of them. Once the estrogens get synthesized by aromatase in peripheral tissues, including the liver, they get released into the bloodstream through the liver.
A benefit of N-Acetyl Cysteine for women is that it promotes estrogen balance by supporting liver function and reducing oxidative stress. If the liver is not functioning correctly, it cannot metabolize estrogen effectively, leading to hormone imbalances.
As I mentioned earlier, NAC supports liver function by increasing glutathione levels, which helps to protect the liver from damage caused by oxidative stress and aids in detoxification processes. This is important for estrogen balance because oxidative stress can damage the ovaries and reduce estrogen production.
Furthermore, studies have found that NAC can inhibit the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen. This can be particularly beneficial for people with conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is associated with high levels of testosterone and estrogen imbalances.
NAC is a Biofilm Disruptor
Finally, one of the amazing benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine is that it supports the health of the gut mucosa, which is the inner lining of the gut. A healthy gut mucosa is vital for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Your gut is naturally lined with mucus that lubricates and protects it. However, when inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or Candida overgrowth damages your gut wall, the mucus wall can also be disrupted. Damaged mucus creates an opportunity for bacterial biofilms to attach to the gut cell wall. There, it causes further damage and increases the likelihood of leaky gut.
Biofilm formation begins when microorganisms adhere to the surface of an object in a moist environment. Once attached, they begin to reproduce. They spread along the surface and connect to each other by secreting a slimy, glue-like substance.
The polysaccharide matrix protecting the pathogenic bacteria is tough to crack. Standard treatments such as antibiotics and disinfectants are often insufficient to eliminate these unwanted guests. This is where biofilm disruptors come in.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, N-Acetyl Cysteine is a powerful tool for disrupting a biofilm. That’s why I included it in Microb-Clear®, which offers a powerful blend of botanical extracts, minerals, and fatty acids to support microbe balance in the GI tract.
Microb-Clear® creates a favorable environment for beneficial probiotics. Because of my Microb-Clear® formula’s ability to create an inhospitable environment for parasitic microorganisms that have potentially become “dysbiotic” or imbalanced, it does a fantastic job of helping to promote the ideal environment for beneficial probiotic bacteria.
You can’t ignore the amazing benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine for optimal health. However, there is some debate surrounding this dietary supplement.
Why is NAC Controversial?
One of the reasons N-Acetyl Cysteine is controversial is because it has been used as a precursor to the production of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which has led some researchers to suggest that it may have potential as a treatment for addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
However, other researchers have raised concerns that this use of NAC may be problematic because excessive glutamate activity is linked to several neurological disorders.
Another debate is over the effectiveness of NAC. While some studies have suggested that it may be helpful for conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder, others have found no significant benefit.
It is important to note that the controversy is centered around NAC’s benefits for mental health. More research gets done every day, and it is promising. Overall, the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine are hard to ignore due to its relationship with glutathione production.
The Final Word on the Benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine
I’m so glad the FDA finally recognized the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine as a dietary supplement. NAC’s benefit of reducing oxidative damage caused by free radicals impacts many of your body’s systems, including your liver, respiratory system, brain function, and immune system.
Functional medicine has known about the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine for decades. NAC is so beneficial I’ve included it in NeuroLive™ to support brain health and Microb-Clear® to create a favorable environment for beneficial probiotics in your gut microbiome.