NAC for respiratory/lung support

The Bastyr Institute, which is the largest natural health clinic in the Northwest US, provides a number of good information sheets about supplements on its website. Here is an excerpt from Bastyr’s review of evidence about the use of NAC (N-acetylcysteine) for respiratory/lung support. The studies mentioned are all quite recent, within the last 10 years, and are large enough and well-designed enough to point to a substantial benefit for those with lung conditions.

Many have noted that, since NAC is readily subject to oxidation, it’s important to find a format that is carefully quality controlled and carefully packaged to obtain the most benefit from supplementation. That’s the case with PharmaNAC, which has consistently been one of the best selling supplements at NYBC’s nonprofit buyers’ co-op. (Please follow link for more details.)

N-Acetylcysteine Beneficial for Chronic Lung Disease

Supplementing with N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) can reduce the need for hospitalization among people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study in the European Respiratory Journal (2003;21:795–8). The findings of this study provide new hope for individuals suffering from this incurable and often debilitating disease.

COPD is a common condition that consists of a combination of chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the airways) and emphysema (damage to, or destruction of, lung tissue). Symptoms include weakness, shortness of breath, weight loss, and recurrent lung infections. People with advanced disease frequently require supplemental oxygen and have great difficulty performing activities of daily living. Treatment consists of anti-inflammatory drugs, medications that dilate the bronchial passages, and antibiotics to treat infections.

NAC is a compound that is converted by the body into the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine. […] NAC also can break up trapped mucus and enhance its clearance from the bronchial passages, thereby improving the flow of air in and out of the lungs in people with COPD. In addition, NAC is the precursor of glutathione, one of the major antioxidants in lung tissue. Although the mucus-clearing effect of NAC occurs mainly when the compound is administered by inhalation, oral NAC has repeatedly been shown to prevent flare-ups in people with chronic bronchitis.

In the new study, 1,219 people who had been hospitalized for COPD were observed for an average of nine months after they were discharged from the hospital. Those who were prescribed NAC were approximately one-third less likely to be readmitted to the hospital, compared with those who were not given NAC. The risk of hospitalization decreased with increasing doses of NAC. Excluding those who were prescribed less than 400 mg per day, treatment with NAC was associated with an 85% reduction in the rate of readmission.

[…] Long-term use of NAC has the potential to increase the requirement for zinc and copper. Some doctors, therefore, advise people who are taking NAC also to take a multivitamin-mineral preparation that provides approximately 15 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper per day.