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Supplement Sunday: NAC

This is the first week of my SUPPLEMENT SUNDAY'S and I am excited to start it off with NAC!

This powerful supplement has been used in:

  • liver detoxification

  • immune function

  • respiratory conditions

  • blood sugar regulation

  • fertility

  • brain health and cognition

NAC stands for N-acetyl cysteine.

NAC is the precursor for our queen antioxidant: Glutathione

Why is glutathione the queen? Because our cells REQUIRE it for many of their functions.

  • low glutathione has been associated with cardiovascular, immune, metabolic, inflammatory and neurologic diseases as well as cancer

Many of NAC's effects are due to it's powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Let's take a closer look:

Liver Detox:

  • when our body is put under stress we produce things called free radicals. These free radicals produce OXIDATION. Which is where the term anti-OXIDANT comes from… finally make sense? These free radicals need to be dealt with or “neutralized” in order to protect our body. NAC is able to do so both directly, and indirectly by increasing glutathione levels

  • the liver is one of our main detoxifying organs. It constantly gets damaged by things such as: alcohol, pesticides, drugs including Tylenol, infections, and much more. NAC has been shown to increase liver detox and protect it from such damage

  • remember the Dirty Dozen? Well studies have looked at NAC's ability to protect us from the damage these pesticides cause in our body and specifically our liver

Immune function:

  • NAC and glutathione are crucial in our body’s defence mechanism

  • NAC can be considered an "immunomodulator" for it's ability to modulate our immune system. It has the ability to balance our immune cell response: including stimulating certain immune cells when needed

  • it is also anti-viral: it inhibits the replication of various viruses in our body

  • Supplemental NAC reduced the frequently of influenza like episodes in multiple studies

Blood Sugar Regulation:

  • insulin sensitivity is a term we talk about often. It describes our body’s ability to:

eat sugar --> recognize the spike of glucose in our body --> release insulin from the pancreas --> our cells responding to insulin --> our cells taking in glucose and storing it (in our liver, muscle, fat and other areas) as a future energy source

  • insulin sensitivity describes how well the cells will respond to insulin and remove glucose from the blood to store for future energy use

  • without this insulin sensitivity, our body doesn’t take up or store insulin and instead it stays in our bloodstream = high blood sugar

  • NAC has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and therefore decrease blood sugar levels

Respiratory conditions:

  • there are many lung conditions that have shown benefit from the use of NAC including bronchitis, COPD and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

  • this is due to not only the antioxidant properties but also the mucolytic properties: it’s ability to break down mucous in the respiratory tract. Oh and remember it is also anti-viral? NAC supports our lungs in many more ways than one..

  • for those that don’t have lung conditions but do tend to test their lung capacity with exercise: NAC has been shown to decrease the fatigue our lungs experience during heavy exercise


  • fertility can be affected by many factors. One of the most common female reproductive disorders is PCOS. NAC has been shown to improve lipid profiles as well as blood sugar regulation which commonly affects women with PCOS

  • it can also improve ovulation rates leading to improved fertility

  • it has more recently been studied in conjunction with other pharmaceuticals used in fertility treatments and has shown promising effects!

Brain health and cognition

  • just like our liver, our brain needs protection from inflammation and free radical damage. Without it, our brain may be at risk for many neurological conditions as well as cognitive decline. NAC has been shown to decrease inflammation as well as increase glutathione levels in our brain

  • this is why it is being studied extensively in traumatic brain injuries (otherwise known as concussions) to reduce the effects of inflammation and oxidation on markers such as cognition: attention, recognition, understanding, perceiving, memory and more

and there you have it.. the many abilities of NAC


  • Ballatori, N., Krance, S. M., Notenboom, S., Shi, S., Tieu, K., & Hammond, C. L. (2009). Glutathione dysregulation and the etiology and progression of human diseases. Biological chemistry, 390(3), 191-214.

  • Blasi, F., Page, C., Rossolini, G. M., Pallecchi, L., Matera, M. G., Rogliani, P., & Cazzola, M. (2016). The effect of N-acetylcysteine on biofilms: Implications for the treatment of respiratory tract infections. Respiratory medicine, 117, 190-197.

  • Chen, G., Shi, J., Hu, Z., & Hang, C. (2008). Inhibitory effect on cerebral inflammatory response following traumatic brain injury in rats: a potential neuroprotective mechanism of N-acetylcysteine. Mediators of inflammation, 2008.Dhouib, I. E., Jallouli, M., Annabi, A., Gharbi, N., Elfazaa, S., & Lasram, M. M. (2016). A minireview on N-acetylcysteine: an old drug with new approaches. Life sciences, 151, 359-363.

  • De Flora, S., Grassi, C., & Carati, L. (1997). Attenuation of influenza-like symptomatology and improvement of cell-mediated immunity with long-term N-acetylcysteine treatment. European Respiratory Journal, 10(7), 1535-1541.

  • Fan, J., Shek, P. N., Suntres, Z. E., Li, Y. H., Oreopoulos, G. D., & Rotstein, O. D. (2000). Liposomal antioxidants provide prolonged protection against acute respiratory distress syndrome. Surgery, 128(2), 332-338.

  • Fraternale, A., Paoletti, M. F., Casabianca, A., Oiry, J., Clayette, P., Vogel, J. U., ... & Millo, E. (2006). Antiviral and immunomodulatory properties of new pro-glutathione (GSH) molecules. Current medicinal chemistry, 13(15), 1749-1755.

  • Hui, D. S., & Lee, N. (2013). Adjunctive therapies and immunomodulating agents for severe influenza.Influenza and other respiratory viruses,7, 52-59.

  • Javanmanesh, F., Kashanian, M., Rahimi, M., & Sheikhansari, N. (2016). A comparison between the effects of metformin and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) on some metabolic and endocrine characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecological Endocrinology, 32(4), 285-289.

  • Kelly, M. K., Wicker, R. J., Barstow, T. J., & Harms, C. A. (2009). Effects of N-acetylcysteine on respiratory muscle fatigue during heavy exercise. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, 165(1), 67-72.

  • Landini, G., Di Maggio, T., Sergio, F., Docquier, J. D., Rossolini, G. M., & Pallecchi, L. (2016). Effect of high N-acetylcysteine concentrations on antibiotic activity against a large collection of respiratory pathogens. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 60(12), 7513-7517.

  • Mata, M., Morcillo, E., Gimeno, C., & Cortijo, J. (2011). N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) inhibit mucin synthesis and pro-inflammatory mediators in alveolar type II epithelial cells infected with influenza virus A and B and with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Biochemical pharmacology, 82(5), 548-555.

  • Mostajeran, F., Tehrani, H. G., & Rahbary, B. (2018). N-Acetylcysteine as an Adjuvant to Letrozole for Induction of Ovulation in Infertile Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Advanced biomedical research, 7.

  • Nemati, M., Nemati, S., Taheri, A. M., & Heidari, B. (2017). Comparison of metformin and N-acetyl cysteine, as an adjuvant to clomiphene citrate, in clomiphene-resistant women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of gynecology obstetrics and human reproduction, 46(7), 579-585.

  • Pandya, J. D., Readnower, R. D., Patel, S. P., Yonutas, H. M., Pauly, J. R., Goldstein, G. A., ... & Sullivan, P. G. (2014). N-acetylcysteine amide confers neuroprotection, improves bioenergetics and behavioral outcome following TBI. Experimental neurology, 257, 106-113.

  • Pizzorno, J. E., Murray, M. T., & Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). Bronchitis and pneumonia. The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine, 147.

  • Pizzorno, J. E. (2014). Glutathione! Integrative medicine: a clinician’s journal 13(1): 8–12.

  • Poole, P., Sathananthan, K., & Fortescue, R. (2019). Mucolytic agents versus placebo for chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (5).

  • Shirani, M., Nouri, M., & Askari, G. (2019). Effect of N-acetylcysteine supplementation on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) in infertile women: A systematic review of clinical trials. Clinical Excellence, 8(3), 1-10

  • Skvarc, D. R., Dean, O. M., Byrne, L. K., Gray, L., Lane, S., Lewis, M., ... & Marriott, A. (2017). The effect of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on human cognition–A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 78, 44-56.

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