The Power of NAC

It’s that time of year again – the dreaded stuffy nose, cough, sneezing, itchy throat, headache, and fatigue.


Unfortunately, no matter how much we try to avoid getting sick, it happens. And, you know what else? Life goes on. We have kids to take care of, chores to finish, work to do! Sometimes the only thing we can control is how we prepare our immune systems for the inevitable viral exposure. There are so many things we can do to help decrease our chances of becoming ill, or lessening the severity of illnesses. 


Of course getting exercise, plenty of sunshine, drinking water, getting enough sleep, lessening stress, and eating healthy are SUPER important! But, supplementation during the cold months is also incredibly important if you aren’t a fan of getting colds or the flu. 


Antioxidants are important for cellular immunity and required for a host to fight a viral infection. One of the most important antioxidants is Glutathione. As we age, our Glutathione levels drastically decrease, which causes dysregulation of immune responses. 


N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor of the antioxidant Glutathione, does several beneficial things for our bodies. It helps to boost our Glutathione levels, and as a result increases our immune response to viral infections, suppresses viral replication, and reduces inflammation. It also has been used to loosen thick mucus in the lungs and treat acetaminophen overdoses for decades. Despite these valuable features, NAC has been mostly overlooked throughout the SARS-Cov and MERS-Cov epidemics, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic. 


Several studies have shown incredible benefits of the use of NAC. In 1997, De Flora et al demonstrated that oral administration of NAC (600mg bid) significantly improved cell-mediated immunity. NAC treatment significantly decreased the frequency of influenza, as well as the severity and duration of most symptoms. Only 25% of virus-infected subjects in the NAC group developed flu symptoms, contrasting with 79% of the subjects in the placebo group. As a result, NAC may improve compromised cellular immunity and prevent development of certain respiratory viruses. 


N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is inexpensive, has very low toxicity, has been FDA approved for many years, and has the potential to improve therapeutic strategies for respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. It can be administered intravenously, orally, or by inhalation. This powerful, mucus busting, antioxidant would be a great addition to anyone’s supplement regimen!