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N-Acetyl Cysteine
( NAC )

The compound called N-acetyl cysteine or NAC is derived from the acetylation of the amino acid cysteine; this compound is synthesized in the human body - the amino acid is also sourced from proteinaceous foods consumed in the diet. One principal role played by NAC is the chemical break down or degradation of mucus inside the body. The consumption of NAC supplements has been found to result in improved physical symptoms during double blind trials conducted on people affected by bronchitis and related respiratory illnesses.

Inside the body, n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) also helps in the synthesis of the important antioxidant compound known as glutathione - thus, it can be said to have a distinct role as an antioxidant. Indeed, the antioxidant action of NAC in the body of all animals protects the liver from several toxic chemicals that find their way there as part of the detoxification process in the body. The toxic effects of the compound acetaminophen are also blunted by n-acetyl cysteine (NAC). In fact, high doses of NAC are employed in hospitals for this specific reason.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is basically employed to neutralize poisoning by carbon monoxide and acetaminophen (Tylenol). In addition, this compound is also used to treat unstable angina (chest pain), Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), an infection of the eye known as keratoconjuntivitis, blockage of the bile duct in small children as well as allergic reactions to phenytoin (Dilantin) - an anti-seizure medication. Besides these conditions, N-acetyl cysteine is used to lessen the perils of stroke and heart attack in people suffering from acute kidney ailment, lower the level of a cholesterol called lipoprotein (a) and levels of homocysteine (a potential risk aspect for the heart).

A number of people also employ N-acetyl cysteine to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, head and neck cancer, a lung condition known as fibrosing alveolitis, lung cancer and hay fever. In addition, this compound is also used to cure specific types of epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as CFS), infection of the ears, complications related to kidney dialysis, an autoimmune problem known as Sjogren's syndrome, augmenting immunity to H1N1 (swine) flu and also for detoxifying heavy metals, including lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.

N-acetyl cysteine also augments emission of zinc as well as additional essential minerals when it is taken for a prolonged period of time. Hence, if you are taking N-acetyl cysteine, it is compulsory to appendage copper, zinc as well as other trace minerals. This compound is also used to avoid liver damage owing to excessive consumption of alcohol; for lessening the toxicity of doxorubicin and ifosfamide - medications that are used for treating cancer; for shielding from ecological contaminants, such as chloroform, carbon monoxide, certain herbicides and urethanes; in the form of a remedy to get over hangover; for treating HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and also to avoid any damage to the kidneys owing to specific dyes used during X-ray.

Healthcare providers also administer N-acetyl cysteine intravenously to treat overdose of acetaminophen, poisoning caused by acrylonitrile, kidney failure in people enduring liver ailment called hepatorenal syndrome, for curing Lou Gehrig's disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), heart attack in conjugation with streptokinase and nitroglycerin, to assist in avoiding multi-organ failure that often results in death, and treating chest pain together with nitroglycerin.

Occasionally, N-acetyl cysteine is also breathed into the lungs (inhaled) or provided by means of a tube placed inside the throat for treating specific lung ailments, for instance, bronchitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, emphysema and a number of other conditions.

It is known that glutathione assists in transporting nutrients to phagocytes and lymphocytes - the two main categories of immune cells, as well as to safeguard the cell membranes from any potential harm. Although decontaminated glutathione can be availed in the form of a dietary supplement, its absorption by the body is poor. In such a situation, N-acetyl cysteine is believed to be a superior means to perk up the levels of cellular glutathione. Presently, scientists are examining N-acetyl cysteine to determine its usefulness in treating AIDS.

It may be note here that N-acetyl cysteine severs disulfide bonds by changing them into two groups of sulfhydryl. This action of N-acetyl cysteine leads to the disintegration of mucoproteins present in the lung mucus, thereby lessening the lengths of the chains as well as reducing or loosening up the mucus that helps to improve certain conditions like flu and bronchitis. A double-blind study has discovered that dietary supplements containing N-acetyl cysteine helped to improve the symptoms as well as avoided the reappearances in individuals suffering from chronic bronchitis. Taking a daily dose of 1,200 mg of N-acetyl cysteine facilitates in keeping away from the infection that causes influenza, lessens the symptoms of the prevailing influenza infection as well as reducing the period of the influenza infections.

It has been proved that N-acetyl cysteine helps to diminish the propagation of specific cells that form the lining of the colon and may perhaps also lessen the chances of developing colon cancer in individuals suffering from recurring polyps in their colon. The action of N-acetyl cysteine in the form of a precursor of glutathione, in addition to an antioxidant may possibly also add to a defensive action against cancer.

Sources of NAC

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) cannot be found in foods as it is a derived compound. However, the amino acid cysteine, from the biochemical conversion of which NAC is ultimately derived is sourced from foods that are protein rich.

Deficiencies and susceptibility

There are no deficiencies associated with the compound NAC in the human body, and are believed to be nonexistent as it is a derived compound and deficiencies will only be connected to the scarcity of the base amino acid cysteine from which it is synthesized in the body. In HIV positive patients, levels of the amino acid cysteine are often at such levels that one can consider them to be deficient in this amino acid.

Usual dosage

Supplements of n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) are not required by all healthy individuals of any age group. The supplemental level of NAC that can be considered to be optimal remains unknown, though doses of about two hundred fifty to one thousand five hundred mg a day are often used in the course of clinical research.

Side effects and cautions

Certain side effects have been known to be associated with the use of oral n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) supplements, in a particular clinical trial subjects have suffered from persistent nausea, vomiting, as well as headache, a dry mouth, spells of dizziness, as well as intense pain in the abdominal region. In this clinical trial, these physical symptoms affected approximately nineteen per cent of all the subjects. The appearance of these physical symptoms may be peculiar to that one study as such side effects have not been observed by many other researchers on a consistent basis.

The destructive capacity of n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) was also noticed in a small study where it was found that consuming about 1.2 grams or more of NAC per day could lead to oxidative damage of the cells. Moreover, even the base amino acid cysteine, from which NAC is derived, was found to have toxic effects on the nerve cells of rats - when it was administered to the test animals in extremely large doses.

The excretion of the essential mineral zinc in urine also seems to be enhanced by n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), as regular doses of this compound are always linked to zinc loss from the body. For this reason, when a long period of NAC is contemplated, it should invariably be done alongside the consumption of large quantities of supplemental zinc and copper. This will prevent the loss of essential minerals from the body.

It is advisable that if you are taking n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), you should also take twice to thrice as much vitamin C simultaneously. In case you do not take vitamin C, it may lead to further damage than taking n-acetyl cysteine owing to the long-drawn-out existence of the oxidized variety of L-cysteine. In addition, vitamin C also assists the glutathione which is turned out from the cysteine in its condensed variety in order to enable it to work in the form of an antioxidant.

Comments

From Maria - 2010
I'm taking NAC supplements because I have pulmonary fibrosis and let me tell you, is doing wonders for me, now I can breath a lot deeper and I don't have to use my oxygen that much. The only side effect I have is gas in my esophagus, but I can take care of that by drinking hot water. I hope this helps somebody, by the way I haven't told my doctor, she probably won't approve it because most of them go by the book and don't believe in any kind of remedy.
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