What is NAC?
NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is a supplement form of the amino acid, L-cysteine. This cysteine is used to synthesise an antioxidant, glutathione.
NAC is highly touted for its role in glutathione production, which is essential to facilitate an immune system response and fight free radical damage to cells. This makes it crucial to support heart, brain, and liver health.
Here, we will focus on how NAC tackles mass formations and conditions like thyroid nodular growth, by fighting oxidative stress.
We will also discuss how this supplement can be used in conjunction with Chinese herbs for an added health boost!
Benefits of NAC
Additionally, NAC can…
- Fight thyroid inflammation and prevents thyroid nodular growth
- Fight endometriosis and boosts fertility
- Prevent formation of cysts and tumours
Seems like NAC has a “NAC” (knack) for fighting diseases!
First, a Bit on Ageing and Oxidative Stress...
We’ve written about oxidative stress and the action of antioxidants in our other articles.
Oxidative stress = imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to neutralise them with antioxidants. ROS, a type of free radical, is usually released as a byproduct during respiration, from the mitochondria.
ROS levels can increase with age due to...
As mitochondria age, they may become less efficient and produce more ROS as a byproduct of their energy-generating processes, due to electron leakage.
Over time, cells and tissues accumulate damage from exposure to environmental stressors, metabolic processes, and DNA damage. This increases ROS production and decreases antioxidant defences, contributing to oxidative stress.
Reduced antioxidant defences:
Ageing is associated with a decline in the body’s antioxidant defences, including enzymes like superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. Thus, an imbalance between ROS production and neutralisation is formed, creating oxidative stress.
Ageing is also associated with a chronic low-grade inflammatory state known as inflammaging. Inflammation can stimulate ROS production as part of the immune response, contributing to oxidative stress.
ROS causes tumours and cysts…
ROS are highly reactive molecules that contain oxygen and can damage cells by oxidising cellular components like DNA, proteins, and lipids. This oxidative damage can lead to mutations in genes that control cell growth and division, potentially contributing to the development of tumours.
Additionally, ROS can activate signalling pathways that promote cell proliferation and survival, which may further contribute to the growth of mass formations!
4. NAC for Uterine Fibroids
One type of fibroid that may require mucus-thinning medicine to treat is the submucosal fibroid. This type of fibroid grows into the inner cavity of the uterus and can cause heavy menstrual bleeding and other symptoms. Mucous-thinning medications, such as hormonal treatments like GnRH agonists or progestins, may be used to help reduce bleeding associated with submucosal fibroids. These medications can help regulate menstrual bleeding and reduce the amount of mucus-like discharge that may be associated with these fibroids.
Since NAC has mucolytic properties, it seems that submucosal fibroids may be a potential target for this supplement.
5. NAC for Fibrocystic Breast Change
Fibrocystic change is the most common benign lesion in breasts of a woman in her reproductive age. It is an outcome of oestrogen excess due to sex hormone imbalance. Fibrocystic breast changes lead to the development of fluid-filled round or oval sacs, called cysts. When a woman has fibrocystic breasts, she may experience pain, tenderness, and swelling in her breasts. She may also notice lumps in one or both breasts.
The study showed that NAC could mitigate cyclical mastalgia – breast pain that is associated with the menstrual cycle due to hormonal variation often associated with breast swelling, tenderness, and lumpiness and generally bilateral in nature.
Supporting liver health for proper detoxification and elimination of excess oestrogen is also important. This study states that NAC, as an enhancer of glutathione biosynthesis, is one of the frequently used antioxidant drugs for treatment of liver disorders.
If the liver is not functioning correctly, it cannot metabolize estrogen effectively, leading to hormone imbalances.
NAC supports liver function by increasing glutathione levels, which helps to protect the liver from damage caused by oxidative stress and aids in detoxification processes. This is important for oestrogen balance because oxidative stress can damage the ovaries and reduce oestrogen production.
Furthermore, studies have found that NAC can inhibit the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen. This can be particularly beneficial for people with conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is associated with high levels of testosterone and estrogen imbalances.
Hence, by preventing hormone imbalance, NAC can help prevent fibrocystic change caused by excess estrogen.
6. NAC for Breast Lipoma
Breast lipomas are benign (noncancerous) tumours that develop from soft tissue cells known as mesenchymal cells. These cells help form and support vital tissues such as your bones, muscles, nerves, joints and adipose tissue.
Lipomas in the breast tend to be slow-growing tumours that sit just underneath the skin. They are not made of breast tissue but of mature fat cells encased within thin, fibrous capsules.
There is insufficient research to support the notion that NAC helps with lipomas, as lipomas are made of fat cells.
However, the general idea is that lipomas form due to an overgrowth of adipocytes within a fibrous capsule.
This overgrowth of adipocytes could be due to uncontrolled cell proliferation. This connects to the topic of ROS, where ROS could cause DNA damage and hence mutations in genes involved in cell division.
Hence, NAC, through its role in scavenging these ROS, could potentially prevent the overgrowth of these adipocytes.
7. NAC for a Fertility Boost
If cervical mucus is too thick or hostile to sperm (female infertility), the mucolytic action of NAC may enhance sperm motility and their ability to reach the egg.
In women with PCOS, a condition that can affect fertility, NAC may boost ovulation. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance and elevated androgen levels. NAC has been studied for its ability to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce androgen levels, potentially helping regulate menstrual cycles and promote ovulation.
Dosage for NAC
NAC can be administered orally, intravenously, or by inhalation, being commonly safe and well tolerated, even in high doses. Studies have shown that for respiratory diseases, a dosage of up to 3000 mg/day of NAC is safe and well tolerated.
Another study postulated that going beyond 3000 mg/day may be effective for severe cases of OCD.
NAC + DIM? Is It Safe?
It seems there are a number of people who take Diindolylmethane (DIM) together with NAC for greater efficacy, for reducing breast cancer and prostate cancer.
However, it is controversial, as taking DIM is usually not recommended for those wanting to get pregnant. This is because DIM acts like estrogen in some way, causing hormone modulation effects.
Do Not Combine NAC With...
1. Nitroglycerin and isosorbide, which are used to treat chest pain (angina) and heart failure. They belong to a class of drugs called nitrates, which work by dilating blood vessels, increasing blood flow, and reducing the workload on the heart.
Taking nitroglycerin together with NAC can potentially lead to an interaction that affects blood pressure. Both nitroglycerin and NAC can cause blood vessel dilation, and when taken together, they can have an additive effect, leading to a significant drop in blood pressure. This can result in symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, or even more severe complications.
2. Activated charcoal is sometimes used in emergency settings to treat certain types of poisoning. It can reduce the effectiveness of NAC when taken together, so they should be spaced apart if both are needed.