I feel a bit Trumpy…because whenever someone says ‘N-acetyl cysteine’, I want to reply, “Big fan, I’m a big fan”. And yes that’s an uncomfortable awareness. But unlike he
who shall not be mentioned, I can qualify my statement and provide supportive evidence, both of the research and real-world varieties. So, of course, can so many of you as well. I know of fertility specialists who place it in PCOS patients’ preconception prescriptions and respiratory specialists who regard it highly in COPD, CF and a range of other conditions. And I am a signed up supporter of its adjunctive use in many psychiatric conditions. Then there’s the biofilm-breaking buffs…
This is where non-believers might be tempted to call ‘Snake-oil!’
How can one very simple tricked-up amino acid possibly contribute to the health of so many systems? Oh, just via the chameleon qualities of its chemistry of course! As a rate limiting ingredient and precursor of GSH, as well as a potent mucolytic agent and and and…we get it. We surrender! But I want us all to back up here just a few steps. As a mucolytic agent…renowned for biofilm busting…hmmm. I prescribe a lot of NAC for a lot of people for a lot of days-weeks-months….because all the research in mental health points to it being a long-term intervention. I’ve heard Professor Michael Berk say, that patients still on it at 2 years had even more improvements than they had experienced at the 6 month mark and of course mental health, for most, is a chronic illness, so no one is surprised.
But we can’t contain its chameleon chemical qualities. Given orally, it will be having effects within the gut of these individuals on the way through…and not all biofilms should be busted, right?!
So what to do? Well thankfully, NAC is not something that patients rely on for short term acute effects, that would then make missing doses problematic – like pharmaceutical psychiatric medications, and some CAM options as well potentially, like SAMe and SJW. So a regular sNAC break is likely to be free from negative impact for those with mental health issues and in fact, beneficial long term. With all this in mind, we’re now using a dosing model of taking weekends off from this supplement – which works for most. Do we have any concrete research to say this makes sense and doesn’t compromise efficacy yet? Well no, and don’t hold your breath, because research can be very reductionistic (you heard it here first LOL) and there is a lack of consideration of the effects on an individual as a whole. The psych researchers are not measuring the impact of all interventions on the microbome of patients (yet!) and the gut researchers not always monitoring the mind. But we clinicians can pioneer the path, fuelled by two old buddies of mine: first do no harm & least medicine, best medicine, right?
Oh and has anyone managed to open a tub of NAC and not accidentally snort some?…I don’t have anything else to add or a solution, I am genuinely asking if this is humanly possible 😂
“There are few complementary medicines that come onto the market with such a bang, opening up genuinely new therapeutic options for the effective management of such a broad range of health complaints. N-acetyl cysteine stands out for this reason and has changed the way I practice” Rachel Arthur
Want to learn more about its diverse applications? Check this out