Who’s Afraid of Cold and Flu Season? Not NYBC!

As the days get shorter and we approach the end of October, here in the Northern Hemisphere many worry about the Cold and Flu Season. Colds and flus aren’t fun for anyone, and people with compromised immune systems may be especially vulnerable. Here are some recommendations from NYBC, both in the prevention department and in the symptom alleviation department. Using these supplements, we believe, can make the Cold and Flu Season a lot less scary!

Vitamin D. According to some recent thinking, the “cold and flu season” may actually be the “Vitamin D deficiency season.” As the days grow shorter, people get less sunshine, leading to a decline in the body’s levels of this vitamin, which is essential to good health in many more ways than we used to think. Taking Vitamin D during the winter may therefore be one of the most effective ways to prevent colds and flu. Many researchers who’ve studied Vitamin D now recommend at least 2000 IU/day, but those with a known deficiency may be advised to supplement at even higher levels. There’s a simple test available to check for Vitamin D deficiency – ask your doctor.

Cold Away. This blend of Chinese herbs from Health Concerns is designed to “clear external heat and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.” A key component of this formula is the herb andrographis, which in several recent US studies was found to significantly decrease cold symptoms and the duration of a cold; it may also be useful for prevention. (NYBC stocks over 20 varieties of Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, by the way.)

Vitamin C. Many good studies have shown a decrease in cold symptom duration, but no benefit for prevention. According to a guide to natural products published by the American Pharmacists’ Association in 2006, taking between one and three grams of Vitamin C per day may decrease cold symptoms (sore throat, fatigue, runny nose) by one to 1½ days.*

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supports respiratory and immune system function. It has been studied extensively for chronic bronchitis. NAC is also the antidote for acetaminophen poisoning, now the leading cause of liver disease in the US. (Acetaminophen’s best-known tradename is Tylenol®, but it’s also found in many other drugs, so it’s become all too easy to overdose–especially when you’re fighting cold or flu symptoms.)

One popular way to take NAC is to use PharmaNAC, notable for its careful quality control, pleasant “wildberry” flavor, and effervescent fizz!

Botanicals. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus is used for chronic respiratory infections, for colds and flu (both prevention and treatment) and for stress and fatigue. It contains complex sugar molecules called polysaccharides, which some studies show stimulate virus-fighting cells in the immune system. Researchers at the University of Texas and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have turned up evidence that astragalus boosts immune responses in lab animals, and in human cells in lab dishes.

Probiotics. They say the best defense is a good offense, so consider upping your intake of the beneficial bacteria found naturally in such things as kefir (the lightly fermented milk beverage) and yogurt: they boost the flora in your intestinal tract, which is where an estimated 80% your immune system resides. Also note that NYBC stocks several varieties of probiotic supplements, including Jarrow’s Ultra Jarro-Dophilus, which has helped many maintain healthy digestive function, always a key to getting proper nutrition into your system and thus supporting immune strength.

And this just in: See posts on this blog for Beta Glucan, which, according to very recent research reports, may be of substantial benefit for fighting colds.

*Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Health Care Professionals, ed. Karen Shapiro. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists’ Assoc. (2006), “Cold and Flu,” pp. 173-192.

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PharmaNAC: Phase II trials for cystic fibrosis

Some may know that Stanford University researchers have been running Phase II clinical trials on PharmaNAC (an effervescent N-acetylcysteine tablet especially manufactured to maintain high potency) for cystic fibrosis. While a Phase I clinical trial is meant to assess just the safety of a drug, Phase II trials move on to look at the best dosage and how effective the drug is for a given condition.

In particular, a Phase IIA trial is generally designed to assess dosing requirements, while a Phase IIB trial seeks to measure efficacy (how well the drug works at various prescribed doses).

The Stanford research, supported by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and by federal funding, has already concluded the Phase IIA study. In the words of a study report, this phase of the research “demonstrates excellent safety and tolerability of 0.9g tid oral PharmaNAC in Cystic Fibrosis patients and suggests real anti-inflammatory effects.” (That’s 3 tablets a day of PharmaNAC, which is 900mg or .9g per tablet.)

A scientific presentation of the Phase IIA results was accessed by us at:

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/47758049/Cystic-fibrosis-(mucoviscidosis)

The Stanford team is now (Spring 2011) concluding the Phase IIB clinical trial. This is a multi-center trial, so there are groups of participants in a number of states:

http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00809094

You can read more about PharmaNAC, and purchase through NYBC’s nonprofit co-op at:

http://nybcsecure.org/product_info.php?products_id=258

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.

Source: http://bastyrcenter.org/content/view/1007/

PharmaNAC at NYBC

PharmaNAC, an effervescent tablet formulation of NAC (N-acetylcysteine), has been available from the New York Buyers Club for several years. We are pleased to offer this formulation, both because it’s a high quality preparation with careful manufacturing controls and protective packaging, and because ongoing research on NAC has continued to point to its usefulness in many fields, from respiratory and immune system support to serving as an antidote to acetaminophen (common tradename: Tylenol) overdose.

Here are some product details from the manufacturer:

N-acetylcysteine or “NAC” for short, is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine, which is an essential precursor used by the body to produce glutathione. Glutathione is an important and powerful antioxidant produced by the body to help protect against free radical damage, and is a critical factor in supporting a healthy immune system.

PharmaNAC:
• Certified European Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) grade NAC.
• Effective way to help boost glutathione levels.
• Effervescent, quick-dissolving tablets allow NAC to enter cells readily, ensuring rapid absorption.
• Quality controlled according to pharmaceutical guidelines.
• Compliant to the standards of European Pharmacopoeia and United States Pharmacopoeia.
• Individually wrapped tablets in a 4-layer (paper/plastic/foil plastic) air-tight material to prevent moisture and air from degrading the NAC (a major problem with most other over the counter NAC).

For information on purchasing, see the NYBC entry at

http://nybcsecure.org/product_info.php?products_id=258

NAC for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH is funding a study at Upstate Medical University (Syracuse, NY) on the use of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) for Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This study was motivated by some promising related research in Europe, where NAC is much more widely used and investigated than in the US. Here’s an excerpt from the study description:

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease which often has debilitating and potentially life-threatening consequences. The cause of SLE is unknown and current therapies lack specificity and carry significant side effects. Existing data in the literature provide evidence that a natural antioxidant, glutathione, is depleted in T cells of patients with SLE which may be a key factor underlying abnormal activation and predisposition of T lymphocytes to pro-inflammatory cell death via necrosis. Administration of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), that serves as a precursor of GSH, improves the clinical outcome of murine lupus, and limits the toxicity of pro-oxidant/immunosuppressant medications commonly used in patients with SLE. NAC is widely available in health food stores and large doses (up to 8 g/day) can be safely administered to humans. In a one-year study of patients with inflammatory lung disease treated with prednisone and azathioprine, addition of NAC (1.8g/day) diminished disease severity and reduced drug toxicity in comparison to placebo. Moreover, oral NAC has been found to improve muscle fatigue which is reported to be the most disabling symptom in 53% of patients with SLE. Thus, establishing a dose ranging between 1.8-7.2 g/day that is well-tolerated and capable of raising intracellular GSH in lupus patients and determining its immunological and therapeutic impact in SLE appear to be well justified.

The project is reported on the NCCAM website: Abstracts of 2008 Funded Projects.

For more on NAC, see the NYBC entry for PharmaNAC. This form of NAC is manufactured to the quality standards of the European Pharmacopoeia, and provides a good way to get the dosages under study in this research on SLE.

PharmaNAC (effervescent n-acteylcysteine) and MAC-Pack (K-Pax alternative)

A few words about PharmaNAC, an effervescent NAC (n-acetylcysteine) that the New York Buyers’ Club has been supplying in the past year. This form of NAC has proven especially useful to people with respiratory conditions like chronic bronchitis. And we were interested to read recently of a person with cystic fibrosis reporting on her use of PharmaNAC.

NAC in various forms has been researched and used more widely in Europe than in the US, although some influential work on this supplement for people with HIV was conducted at Stanford back in the 1990s, and helped lead, for example, to the inclusion of NAC in K-Pax, a multivitamin antioxidant combination that showed significant enough benefit to be added to state government-financed formularies for people with HIV.

NYBC originally imported a German effervescent NAC called ACC Akut (Hexal), but we were delighted when a North American supplier began to offer the very similar PharmaNAC, which we have stocked for the past year. (PharmaNAC is actually a higher dose of NAC per tab–900mg–than ACC Akut’s 600mg, though we have been able to keep the price about the same due to lower shipping costs.)

NYBC’s mission as a nonprofit buyers’ co-op also motivated us to devise a low-cost alternative to K-Pax for those who don’t have access to subsidized versions of this product. The NYBC MAC-Pack provides a close equivalent to K-Pax, but the cost has been brought down to less than half that of K-Pax.

Note: it’s also possible to order non-effervescent NAC and ThiolNAC separately:

NAC 500mg/90 tabs

ThiolNAC (500mg NAC and 200mg alpha lipoic acid/90 tabs)

PharmaNAC at the New York Buyers’ Club

The New York Buyers’ Club stocks PharmaNAC, an effervescent form of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) produced in North America by BioAdvantex, which is also the supplier of our high-quality whey protein powder, Ultimate Balance.

PharmaNAC is a high-quality preparation of NAC, a supplement that has been studied extensively for immune system support, and for support of respiratory tract function. Currently forms of NAC (including effervescent forms) are more widely used in Europe than in North America, but this may change as its benefits are more generally recognized and studies continue.

A bit of anecdotal evidence: we have noticed some positive reviews of PharmaNAC in online forums dealing with cystic fibrosis.