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Top 7 benefits of NAC Supplements and When NOT to Take N-Acetyl Cysteine

by Veronica Hughes

We explain the benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine, how to eat more of it, how to choose the best NAC supplements and who should avoid it. 

Top 7 benefits of NAC Supplements and When NOT to Take N-Acetyl Cysteine

N-Acetyl Cysteine or NAC is a simple but powerful food supplement that’s currently taking the UK by storm. We explain its many benefits, how to eat more of it, how to choose the best NAC supplements and - most importantly - who should avoid it. 

What is NAC or N Acetyl Cysteine?

Cysteine is an amino acid that we can get from certain foods, or make in our bodies from digested protein-rich foods that we eat. It contains sulphur so it naturally has a faint eggy smell. It goes by many names, including N-acetylcysteine, acetyl cysteine, N-acetyl-L-cysteine and NAC. 

The Top 7 Benefits of NAC

NAC has wide-reaching benefits in the human body. Some are well-proven, while others are still being researched. 

1 - NAC Can Clear Thick Mucus with Colds and Coughs

Feeling bunged up? Top of the list of NAC benefits is that it can dissolve mucus, making it marvellous for unblocking stuffy noses and helping to clear chesty coughs. This use of NAC is so effective that doctors even prescribe it for long-term lung diseases including COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. 

2 - N-Acetyl Cysteine Detoxes Paracetamol

NAC is widely used by doctors in emergency situations to save people who have had a paracetamol overdose. It helps your liver process paracetamol without reducing its effectiveness as a painkiller, making it a handy detox companion if you’re taking a lot of paracetamol to get you through the flu or a nasty cold. 

3 - NAC the Workout Buddy for Better Muscle Recovery and Growth

By boosting Glutathione, NAC can reduce oxidative muscle damage during intense exercise. It also helps build muscle after a workout. 

4 - NAC The Miracle Hangover Cure

Some people harness the alcohol detox benefits of NAC supplements by taking one NAC capsule before going to bed, and another in the morning, to fend off a hangover. How does this work? Our bodies get rid of alcohol by first turning it into acetaldehyde, which is great except too much of that causes a hangover. This then binds with cysteine so it’s deactivated and we can pee it out. If you have ever tried a sketchy but cysteine-rich hangover cure that included raw egg, you can now try a far less stomach-turning alternative!

5 - Fertility Benefits from NAC Supplements

Scientists claim to have found that NAC can encourage more regular ovulation in women by balancing luteinising hormone, and help male fertility by improving sperm quality and motility.

6 - Antioxidant Support from N-Acetylcysteine

NAC is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in the body. By boosting glutathione levels, NAC brings benefits to all our body cells by helping to combat oxidative stress and neutralise free radicals. This is important during infections, intense exercise and times of stress. 

7 - Can NAC Beat Cravings for Cigarettes, Vapes and Recreational drugs?

NAC is being widely researched for its beneficial ability to take away cravings for a long list of recreational drugs, from nicotine in cigarettes and vapes to cannabis and cocaine. It’s thought that this works by taking away the “buzz” that they trigger. 

Natural Sources of Cysteine

The best food sources of Cysteine are eggs, dairy foods and meat. It’s also found in garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Older people, smokers and regular drinkers need more of it, and many vegans only eat small amounts. We also struggle to get enough natural cysteine when exercising hard or fighting off infections. 

Who is NAC Not Suitable For? 

  • If you are taking ANY blood-thinning medication (Warfarin for example), don’t take NAC without first asking your doctor if it’s safe for you. 
  • NAC can trigger asthma attacks in some people who suffer from asthma. 
  • If you have gastritis or a stomach ulcer, NAC is likely to be unsafe for you. NAC thins mucus, and this includes the protective mucus that lines the stomach. 

Tips when taking NAC Supplements

The safe and effective daily dose of NAC is 600mg daily. Store NAC in an airtight container to protect it from moisture. 

Take it with water, and with food if you find it makes you feel nauseous or gives you heartburn. Some people finds it's gentler on the stomach if they twist open the capsules and stir them into water or a drink. If you dislike the natural eggy smell, you can leave your NAC capsules in the open air for a while before you take them, or mix them with juice to disguise the smell. 

by Veronica Hughes

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