Has cold and allergy season worn you down with a runny nose, postnasal drip, and a phlegmy cough? If you’ve been leaning on mucolytics like Mucinex and Dayquil a little too much lately, why not try another, more natural one that comes with a variety of other amazing benefits?!
N-Acetyl-Cysteine is a mouthful you most likely won’t remember, but this amino acid supplement (usually shortened to NAC) is one of the best multi-tools available in the supplement aisle. NAC is an amazing mucolytic very similar to the over-the-counter guaifenesin. It helps thin mucus, making it less thick and sticky and therefore easier to cough up or clear out of your nasal passages.
While guaifenesin is often packaged with food coloring, methyl and propyl parabens, and other questionable ingredients, NAC is available in a pure, unadulterated form. Because of its overall safety and efficacy, NAC is well recognized for its ability to clear out thick mucus and improve the health of lung tissue.
NAC’s mucolytic properties just scratch the surface of its capabilities. It is regularly used to treat acetaminophen overdose, which can happen when someone takes more than the recommended dose, doubles up on products containing acetaminophen, takes extended release forms back to back, or takes it for too many days in a row.
NAC also has a rather unique role as the precursor for L-Cysteine, which is itself a precursor for glutathione, a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants protect our cells by slowing down or stopping oxidation, or damage, by free radicals. Glutathione is naturally produced in the cells of our body, particularly in the liver from a combination of L-cysteine and two other amino acids (glutamine and glycine). Although the body does create glutathione on its own, the conditions have to be right. The body not only needs sufficient dietary amounts of these three amino acids, but glutathione production can also be impacted by chronic disease, stress, infection, and age.
Although the conversion rate of NAC into glutathione is not known with absolute certainty, NAC provides the body with the amino acid most commonly deficient in the production of glutathione: cysteine. Cysteine is considered a semi-essential amino acid, because the body can create it from other amino acids (namely methionine and serine), or can obtain it through high-protein foods like poultry, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and legumes.
One other thing that NAC shows a lot of promise in is fertility. NAC has been widely studied for its ability to induce ovulation, particularly in patients with PCOS, and longstanding, unexplained infertility. The mechanisms of action here are a little uncertain, but it is hypothesized that NAC’s ability to induce ovulation and improve overall fertility rates may be due to a combination of its action as an insulin sensitizer and antioxidant. The most profound fertility benefits seem to come from a combination of NAC supplementation during IUI cycles.
So tell me… can your over the counter mucolytic do all that? I didn’t think so!
Stop by your favorite Peoples Rx and chat with a Wellness Specialist about how NAC can support your body during colds and allergies, as well as its other benefits. We have several different brands and strengths of NAC and would love to help find the best fit for your needs!
Lindsey Wilder Flatt is a Wellness Specialist at Peoples Rx, passionate about alternative and herbal medicine. She is in her final year of a Master’s program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at AOMA in Austin, and will be pursuing her Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine beginning in 2020. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, she grew up in an environment steeped in natural and alternative medicine. Since entering her Master’s program, which has a strong emphasis on biomedical practices, her appreciation for alternative healing practices has been informed by an improved understanding and respect for the respective roles of Modern Medicine and Traditional Medicine in improved patient well-being.
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