N-acetylcysteine is both an antioxidant supplement and a pharmaceutical drug. It is also referred to as N-Acetyl Cysteine or NAC. NAC comes from the amino acid L-cysteine, and it is a precursor in the formation of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione plays a key role in regulating the immune system and many cellular functions in the body, and it can protect against a wide range of health problems. Glutathione cannot cross the cell membrane, but NAC can cross and be converted to glutathione and reduce cell damage.
NAC is used as an antidote for both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, it is used as a cough medicine to break up mucus, and to treat neurodegenerative conditions (nerve related health problems). It is used in the treatment of autism, bronchitis, COPD, cirrhosis, cystic fibrosis, high cholesterol, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and HIV and AIDS. NAC is important for the brain, liver and lungs; it supports normal detoxification in the liver, protects the kidneys, and protects blood flow to the heart. NAC may aid in diabetes management and help treat polycystic ovary syndrome.
In summary, NAC is an extremely powerful antioxidant that may affect a wide range of health issues. This is because many of these health conditions are caused by free radicals that damage our cells. NAC is one of the most effective ways to help the body get the antioxidant army into each of the cells to fight off the scavenging free radicals.
NAC may interact with nitroglycerin and increase the effects of the medication. It also may affect some blood pressure meds, meds that suppress the immune system, some cancer drugs and drugs that treat chest pain.
NAC may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. It also may increase blood homocysteine levels, so this should be monitored. Seldom, it may cause rashes, fever, headache, low blood pressure, drowsiness and liver problems.