In very recent research, I have found a new supplement approach to reducing the duration and intensity of winter coughs. In the past 2 weeks, there appears to be a surge of illness, after a quite mild fall season. If you or your family have been struggling with long-lasting coughs and congestion, this supplement may be of great benefit to you.
N-acetyl cysteine, also known as “NAC”, is a slightly modified version of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine. It has been used in conventional medicine for years, mainly as a mucolytic (mucous-thinning) agent to manage conditions such as cystic fibrosis. NAC also has a property of increasing intracellular levels of the natural antioxidant glutathione.
It has been shown effective in treating acute respiratory conditions, namely:
- productive (wet) cough
- acute bronchitis
The way that NAC works, is that it thins mucous allowing it to clear more easily, and also stimulates activation of the immune system. Reducing thick mucous is important in shortening the duration of coughs, reducing the severity of coughs, minimizing shortness of breath, and also in preventing pneumonia.
Specifically to the flu, NAC has been shown in studies to:
- decrease the severity of influenza-like episodes
- decrease the incidence of specific local and general influenza-like symptoms
- decreased the length of time spent in bed due to influenza-like symptoms
N-acetyl cysteine is generally tolerated very well. Side-effects are rare:
- Occasional (1–10% of patients): Gastric events (nausea), intestinal events (diarrhea) and dyspepsia (heartburn)
- Rare (<1% of patients): Urticaria/itching, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal distension and dizziness/malaise.
- Children, age 2-12 years: 200-600 mg daily for 10 days during acute illness (dosage depends on age, weight and illness severity).
- Adults: 600 mg 1-2x daily for 10 days during acute illness.
**Please contact the clinic, or your naturopathic doctor for correct dosages**.
- Do not use with asthma, a past history of bronchospasm or other serious respiratory insufficiency, as NAC may increase obstruction of the respiratory tract or induce bronchospasm. This includes children with ‘reactive airways’, who need puffers with coughs.
- Do not use with history of peptic ulcers or esophagus varices, as oral NAC may induce vomiting and can aggravate these conditions.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: do not use NAC supplements as there are insufficient studies proving safety.
(Many of you may already be familiar with this supplement, as it is often part of my treatment plan with fertility, specifically related to egg quality, and also issues with cervical mucous. NAC is also a potent anti-oxidant supplement which raises glutathione levels.)
If you would like more information about immune boosting, flu prevention or strategies to improve your immune system function, please ask at your next appointment.