Although not so well known, N-acetylcysteine – or NAC for short – is a natural compound that I LOVE and use regularly in my practice.
NAC is a slightly modified version of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine. When taken internally, NAC replenishes intracellular levels of the natural antioxidant glutathione (GSH), helping to restore cells’ ability to fight damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS).
NAC has been used in conventional medicine for more than 30 years, primarily to manage conditions such as cystic fibrosis, in which mucous is abnormally thick and tenacious – NAC acts to break down mucous. Beyond this particular application, NAC has remained a relatively obscure and poorly understood compound until quite recently. Scientists all over the world are now beginning to understand the potential role of NAC as a frontline defence against many of today’s most pressing health concerns.
NAC and Mental Health
NAC has shown promise in treating the following areas:
Pathological nail biting
Pathological skin picking
In these roles, NAC may be a useful monotherapy or augmentation strategy for psychiatric disorders. Preliminary case reports and clinical trials appear promising. Only further research will clarify appropriate dosing ranges, duration of treatment, and any unforeseen risks with long-term NAC administration. For further details about NACs role in psychiatric disorders click here.
Some of NAC’s broad-spectrum benefits include:
Replenishes levels of the intracellular antioxidant glutathione (GSH), which is often deficient with advancing age and in chronic illness.
Regulates expression of scores of genes in the pathways that link oxidative stress to inflammation.
Protective against common seasonal flu symptoms.
Reduces the frequency and duration of attacks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and may slow the clinical course of pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Protects tissues from the effects of exercise-induced oxidative stress, adding value and safety to your workout.
Improves insulin sensitivity in people with some of the most difficult-to-treat metabolic disorders.
Blocks cancer development at virtually every step in the process, and through multiple mechanisms, making it an important cancer chemopreventive agent.
Fights the stomach infection Helicobacter pylori on several fronts – by inhibiting the organism’s growth (by disruption of the protective biofilm) and by reducing production of inflammatory cytokines that can lead to gastritis and cancer.
May be protective of thyroid function.
May be beneficial in promoting female reproductive health and assisting to improve pregnancy outcomes.
May assist in improving semen parameters in infertile men.
Supports hepatic detoxification.
(Life Extension Magazine May 2010)
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