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What Is N-acetylcysteine (NAC)? How Does It Work?

Updated: Oct 3


N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation. It's been used to treat cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), and drug overdoses. NAC works by helping the body detoxify harmful chemicals and reduce oxidative stress on cells. NAC's most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and fever.


Antioxidant NAC

What Is N-acetylcysteine (NAC)?


N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a chemical that can be used to treat certain conditions. It is a prodrug, which means it must be converted into another chemical before it can work.


Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD) and NAC


If you have the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), N-acetylcysteine may be a promising treatment option. NAC is a prodrug that becomes L-cysteine in the body, and L-cysteine is an amino acid that acts as an antioxidant.

NAC has been used to treat respiratory diseases like COPD because it helps reduce lung inflammation. As a supplement, it can be bought over the counter at many pharmacies or online.


Cystic Fibrosis and NAC


Cystic fibrosis is a chronic genetic disease that causes severe damage to the lungs and other organs. It's caused by a mutation in one of the CFTR genes—the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene. This gene makes a CFTR protein (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator). It regulates the flow of salt and water across cell membranes throughout your body.


What Happens Without NAC?


Without NAC, mucus builds up in your airways and causes infections that can be life-threatening. Inhaling more germs into your lungs increases inflammation, which damages tissue and leads to scarring across all parts of the respiratory tract (your nose, throat, windpipe, bronchial tubes, etc.). The damaged tissue won't function properly anymore because it doesn't behave like normal lung tissue should: it has too much mucus production or not enough mucus clearance from air sacs called alveoli; there are fewer alveoli available for exchanging oxygen with carbon dioxide; breathing becomes difficult because some muscles cannot contract as well as they should; inflammation causes swelling inside or outside airways; clogging may occur in small blood vessels within tissues that leads to poor blood supply; bacteria may cause pneumonia.*


Drug Overdose and NAC


NAC helps to detoxify the body.

NAC can help reduce the risk of death from overdose.

NAC can be used to treat drug overdoses.

NAC can be used to treat drug addiction.


Inflammation, Detoxification, and Antioxidant Activity


Many of the effects of NAC are related to its antioxidant activity. It's been shown to reduce inflammation in the body due to lowering oxidative stress and increasing glutathione levels. While this isn't necessarily a problem for everyone, it can cause problems when you have too much inflammation throughout your body.


NAC may also help detoxify by breaking down molecules that need to be eliminated from the body so that they can be excreted through urination or feces. This is important because these molecules can build up if they're not broken down quickly enough, causing health issues like fatigue and muscle cramps.


Side Effects of NAC


NAC is generally safe. However, it can cause side effects in some people. The most common side effects include nausea and vomiting, a burning sensation in the mouth, diarrhea, and headache. In rare cases, NAC might cause liver problems if you take more than 1 gram daily for two weeks or more. Talk to your doctor if any of these symptoms bother you or don't go away after two weeks—you may need to stop taking NAC until you figure out what's causing them.


N-acetylcysteine is an amino acid with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation. It's been used to treat cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, and drug overdoses.


N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation. It's been used to treat cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, and drug overdoses.

NAC is a prodrug metabolized into the body's L-cysteine (an amino acid). L-cysteine helps the body synthesize glutathione—an antioxidant that helps fight inflammation.


Conclusion


N-acetylcysteine is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight inflammation, detoxify the body, and protect against disease. It has been used to treat cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, and drug overdoses. However, this supplement does have some side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and headaches, which can lead to needing more water than usual.

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