The benefits and uses of NAC in Australia
The benefits and uses of NAC in Australia
What are the Benefits and uses of NAC? Firstly, lets understand what NAC is. NAC, also known as N-acetyl cysteine, is a super nutrient with many benefits. In our clinics in Perth and across Australia we use NAC regularly to assist in detoxification and to support a range of functions in patients. NAC is made from L-cysteine, an amino acid and has been shown to have a wide range of health benefits. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it has the potential to:
- reduce thyroid antibodies
- support liver function
- clear out heavy metals
- promote intestinal health
- eliminate pathogenic bacteria
- help asthma and lung related symptoms
- enhance bone formation
- reduce free radical damage
- prevent oxidative stress and chronic inflammation 
Let’s find out more…
What exactly is NAC?
N-Acetyl-l-Cysteine (NAC) is a derivative of the dietary amino acid l-cysteine. Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid which means that your body can produce it from other amino acids, such as methionine and serine. It is only deemed to be essential when dietary intake of methionine and serine is low. You can find cysteine in high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of cysteine.
It has been used as a drug since the 1960s and has been employed as an antidote for poisonings by the World Health Organization for decades. In the 1970s, NAC was found to be an antidote for acetaminophen overdoses and in the 1980s, it was discovered that NAC can help prevent toxic reactions to chemotherapeutic agents.
What are the Benefits and uses of NAC?
The benefits of NAC are wide-ranging, impacting many systems in the body. Here are a few ways we can use NAC to overcome diseases, health conditions and achieve optimal health:
It acts as a powerful antioxidant
Being an antioxidant, NAC can help to prevent cell damage and inflammation. It works powerfully against free radicals and supports the body’s natural defence system by preventing oxidative stress in the body. This is vital to your overall health, as oxidative stress has been linked to a wide range of diseases and dysfunctions such as cancer and heart disease.
NAC also helps your body make other antioxidants, most importantly, glutathione, which is considered the master antioxidant. When consumed, NAC gets absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, sent to the liver, and converted to cysteine. The liver uses cysteine to produce glutathione, which then enters the bloodstream and gets distributed throughout the body. 
It reduces chronic inflammation
As an antioxidant, NAC has also demonstrated strong anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces the activity of inflammatory cytokines and macrophages whilst also increasing the enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) which fights against reactive damaging oxidative molecules, glutathione, and glutathione S-transferase (GST).
It offers protection from heavy metals
The use of NAC as a chelator of heavy metals is a promising area of medical research. With the high antioxidant content of NAC, and the fact that it stimulates glutathione production it will help to detox heavy metals and other environmental contaminants.  It also has homocysteine-lowering properties.
It protects the liver and kidneys
NAC neutralises toxins and pollutants including heavy metals that accumulate in the liver, kidneys, brain and fatty parts of the body. Restoring glutathione levels with NAC supplements makes liver cells more able to protect themselves from ongoing damage caused by fatty accumulation (fatty liver), viral infections, drug induced damage, alcohol excess or autoimmune inflammation.
NAC can help to protect the kidneys against contrast dyes by acting as an antioxidant in the kidneys, dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow. Taking an NAC supplement before and after having a diagnostic scan can help to minimize harm to your kidneys. 
It improves gut health
NAC reverses intestinal tissue damage in people with leaky gut by enabling the body to tighten the junctions within the intestinal wall.
It is also known as a biofilm disrupter that can heal the gut and promote a healthy gut microbiome. When there is bacterial overgrowth in the gut, (dysbiosis), if there aren’t healthy levels of good bacteria, NAC is useful to supplement as it can permeate the biofilm and naturally eradicate the overgrowth.
It supports a healthy thyroid
Research has shown that NAC helps to reduce thyroid antibodies. It also supports our detoxification pathways (which are usually impaired in Hashimoto’s), as well as gut function. Additionally, it can help asthma, osteoporosis, oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and other concerns often seen in those with Hashimoto’s. 
It can reduce symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects many women and studies have shown that women who took supplemental NAC reversed their endometriosis and no longer required surgery.
It boosts brain health
It’s also possible that NAC will prove beneficial for neurodegenerative conditions.
The brain neurotransmitter glutamate is involved in a broad range of learning, behaviour and memory actions. Glutathione helps reduce oxidative damage to brain cells associated with aging. Because NAC helps regulate glutamate levels and replenish glutathione, it can help people with brain and memory ailments.
Alzheimer’s disease slows down a person’s learning and memory capacity and research demonstrates NAC may slow the loss of cognitive ability in people with Alzheimer’s.
Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by the deterioration of cells that generate the neurotransmitter dopamine, can also be treated with NAC. As both oxidative damage to cells and a decrease in antioxidant ability contribute to Parkinson’s disease, NAC supplements improve both dopamine function and disease symptoms such as tremors. 
It helps improve respiratory health
By acting as an antioxidant and an expectorant, NAC is powerful for respiratory issues. It helps replenish glutathione levels in your lungs and reduces inflammation in your bronchial tubes and lung tissues, whilst also loosening mucus in your air passageways.
NAC supplements have been used to improve symptoms in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD can cause people to experience long-term oxidative damage and inflammation of lung tissue, which causes airways to constrict which in turn, leads to shortness of breath and coughing.
Bronchitis occurs when the mucous membranes in the lungs’ bronchial passageways become inflamed, swell and shut off airways to the lungs. Those with chronic bronchitis can also benefit from NAC. It thins the mucus in the bronchial tubes and boosting glutathione levels, NAC may help decrease the severity and frequency of wheezing, coughing and respiratory attacks.
In addition to relieving COPD and bronchitis, NAC may improve other lung and respiratory tract conditions like cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung disease, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion due to allergies or infections. 
It improves fertility
NAC has been found to improve fertility in both men and women. In one study, NAC oral supplementation may improve sperm parameters and oxidative/antioxidant status in infertile males.  And for women, a study showed that it improved oocyte and embryo quality in women with (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common hormone disorders and causes of infertility in women. 
It treats addiction
NAC has been studied for gambling, cocaine and nicotine addictions and research shows that it can be a potential alternative treatment for substance abuse and addiction. 
There are many other health problems NAC has been known to treat successfully, including:
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Bipolar disorder
- Carbon dioxide poisoning
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Colorectal cancer
- Cystic fibrosis
- Heart disease
- Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Lung cancer
- Post-traumatic distress syndrome (PTSD)
- Preterm labour or miscarriage
- Unstable angina
Although the above list seems almost too good to be true, the wide-ranging benefits and uses of NAC makes it a great tool to reduce symptoms in individuals who have not had success with traditional medicine methods. At Advanced Functional Medicine, our health professionals will investigate your health issues and ascertain if supplementing with NAC is the appropriate course to take.
How to use NAC and get the benefits
Every day, we consume about 150 milligrams of glutathione from our average diet, mainly from fruits and vegetables. However, most glutathione is manufactured within the cells of the body, especially within liver cells.
For people with severely depleted levels of glutathione in their body, taking glutathione intravenously would be best, but this is impractical and expensive. This is where NAC comes in – it’s a practical solution that will help our bodies to produce glutathione.
NAC comes in a variety of supplemental forms, often in varying quality. It’s important to seek guidance on which supplements are best for you and in what dosage.
NAC is safe to use for most people, however, it can interact with some medications so its important to seek medical advice before use. It can also cause an upset stomach, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea if taken on an empty stomach, so it should be taken with food.
How we can help – Benefits and uses of NAC
There is still a lot of research being undertaken in regard to the effects of NAC and we still have a lot to find out about the effects of this powerful nutrient. But what we understand so far is promising as it can offer us a wide range of benefits that will enable us to use it as an alternative to pharmaceutical medications, for many different disease states.
At Advanced Functional Medicine, we can support you with identifying a need to supplement with NAC, which supplements to use and with what dosage. Our team of functional medicine professionals will understand if it’s the right solution for you and assist you in combatting your symptoms and supporting your health.