Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. N-acetyl-cysteine, or NAC, is derived from the amino acid L-cysteine. NAC is used to help treat many conditions. Some of these conditions include flu, dry eye, cough and other lung conditions, kidney disease, and Tylenol overdose. N-acetyl-cysteine is also important in the production of antioxidants. One of the body’s most important antioxidants, glutathione, helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and tissues within the body. NAC helps to replenish the glutathione in our bodies, which, in turn, is essential for immune health and for fighting off damage at the cellular level. It is also thought that N-acetyl-cysteine may improve psychiatric disorders and addictive behaviors as well. One of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain is called glutamate. NAC helps in the regulation of glutamate. Some conditions, such as bipolar disorder and depression, may see decreased symptoms and improved overall functionality while using N-acetyl-cysteine. In conditions, such as addiction, NAC can help decrease withdrawal symptoms and relapse. As stated previously, NAC can help treat respiratory conditions as well. N-acetyl-cysteine acts as an antioxidant and expectorant by loosening the mucus in your airways and reducing the inflammation in your bronchial tubes and lung tissue. This is very important for those with COPD, asthma, or even bronchitis.
N-acetyl-cysteine is the supplemental form of cysteine. Cysteine is an antioxidant that is found in high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and legumes. Getting the adequate intake of cysteine and NAC is very important to our health.
N-acetyl-cysteine is indicated in patients with:
- – Respiratory conditions, such as COPD, asthma, and bronchitis
- – Kidney and liver disease
- – Psychiatric disease, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and OCD
- – Addictive behavior
- – Infertility
- – Influenza
- – Dry eye
Some side effects are rare, but may occur when taking N-acetyl-cysteine. These include:
- – By mouth: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
- – Intravenously (IV): rash, fever, headache, drowsiness, low blood pressure, and liver problems
- – By inhalation: swelling in the mouth, runny nose, drowsiness, clamminess, and chest tightness
Dosages depend on the patient’s condition and should be discussed with your healthcare provider. It is always important to follow your physician’s instructions when taking this medication.
N-acetyl-cysteine is generally safe for most adults. Always speak with your doctor when taking any new medication to discuss the possibilities. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding are also typically safe when taking NAC, but should always speak with their healthcare provider before taking.
Some drugs may interact with N-acetyl-cysteine. One major interaction is with nitroglycerin. Nitroglycerin dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow. NAC tends to increase the effects of nitroglycerin, possibly causing increased side effects, such as headache, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Another drug that moderately interacts with NAC is activated charcoal.
For any questions or concerns about any new medications, always speak with your healthcare provider. Be sure to always bring a current list of the medications, supplements, or herbal products you may be taking as well.