When I first started troubleshooting my mental health eight years ago, I felt overwhelmed.
Doctors were only recommending prescription antidepressants and pharmaceuticals.
When I asked about different herbs and over-the-counter supplements, they just shrugged.
Well, I wasn’t interested in expensive prescriptions and their nasty side effects.
I wanted to treat my mental health with foundational nutrients.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is essential to mental health.
I take it regularly. Here’s why.
NAC supplements can help reduce anxiety, treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and several other conditions. (R)
NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is an amino acid derivate of the amino acid L-cysteine.
Researchers prescribe NAC for OCD and anxiety as well as a variety of other psychiatric disorders, including depression, drug addiction, bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s. (R)
NAC helps the body produce glutathione. (R)
Glutathione is a potent antioxidant.
Glutathione detoxifies the liver and reduces free radicals in the body.
NAC reduces inflammation and removes free radicals through the promotion of glutathione.
NAC (N-acetylcysteine) may help treat anxiety by balancing glutamate and GABA levels in the brain through the production of glutathione.
When glutathione levels are up, the brain is more capable of healing itself effectively.If you’ve been struggling to treat your anxiety with prescription drugs, NAC could be worth a shot.
In one case study, a 17-year-old male reported significant improvements in anxiety symptoms after 8 weeks of regular NAC supplementation.
He had previously failed with cognitive behavioral therapy and multiple types of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (R)
NAC improves foundational brain chemistry to improve overall brain function.
During successful clinical trials with NAC for OCD, participants were administered 1,587 mg/day (range, 800–3,000 mg/day) for roughly 13 weeks. (R)
Side effects were minimal, and included nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea for a small percentage of patients.
I take 1,000 mg five days a week for overall mental health. When I started taking NAC for OCD, anxiety and depression, I took 1,200 mg every day.
I’ve since tapered back. I like to give my brain a breather from the supplements I take. I do this with all of my supplements, food, exercise, and everything else that I use for mental health.
What works best for me may not work best for you. Always do extensive research, consult with professionals when you can, and find your own optimal dose.
OCD refers to a collection of conditions that are characterized by overactivity of glutamate in the brain.
Some people with OCD suffer from an uncontrollable compulsion to wash their hands or to turn a doorknob a specific number of times.
Others have more destructive habits that they can’t control, including pulling out their hair or eating inedible objects.
OCD can be debilitating and occurs in roughly 1-2% of the population.
Doctors are still struggling to understand the cause of OCD.
The following have been suggested as underlying factors: genetic abnormalities, infections, inflammation, oxidative stress, disturbances in neurotransmission in the brain, and autoimmune processes.
OCD is typically first treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
According to the journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience, researchers estimate “that 40% of patients do not achieve a clinical response from these medications, nor other augmentation strategies. In addition, SSRIs are often required at significantly higher doses than those used for depression to obtain clinical benefits, and complete functional recovery is rare.” (R)
SSRIs come with several negative side effects, including an increased risk of suicide and decreased sex drive.
The severity of the side effects from SSRIs are often so bad that treatment must be stopped.
Taking NAC for OCD offers a much safer alternative that addresses brain malfunctions caused by inflammation and oxidative damage.
Autoimmune disease, inflammation, and oxidative stress are often underlying causes of OCD.
NAC may help treat OCD by boosting glutathione levels.
Glutathione reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
Research shows that abnormal glutamate metabolism is often present in individuals with OCD. (R)
Glutamate is the primary stimulatory neurotransmitter in the brain.
Glutamate is one of the most critical neurotransmitters for mental health.
NAC helps regulate glutamate activity.
Supplementing with NAC for OCD may reduce symptoms by normalizing glutamate activity in the brain.
Researchers have had success treating OCD with NAC supplements.
The journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience recently published a report outlining the latest research on NAC for OCD.
They considered 47 different papers to be included in the report. Of these, four clinical trials and five case reports were chosen.
The selected studies lasted a mean of 13-weeks.
Participants were administered 2,400-3,000 mg/day of NAC.
The mean age of participants was 30 years.
NAC consistently reduced the severity of OCD symptoms and was generally well-tolerated with minimal negative effects.In several of the case studies, NAC was effective at reducing symptoms of OCD when antidepressants like SSRIs failed. (R)
Inositol as another critical nutrient that's shown to be effective at reducing OCD when SSRIs fail.
Over 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. 260 million of these also have an accompanying anxiety disorder.
SSRIs, which are also used to treat OCD and sometimes anxiety, are generally the first line of treatment for depression.
SSRIs provide positive results for only 30-40% of patients.
In a randomized control trial of 149 individuals with moderate depression, NAC significantly improved symptoms of OCD.
The group was treated with NAC for an eight-week period.
Before treatment, participants had a mean depression score of 19.7. Following treatment, the mean score dropped to 11.1.Participants reported improved cognitive functioning and positive mood. (R)
NAC has been successful in treating bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that’s characterized by severe shifts in mood. It’s also referred to as a manic-depressive illness.
Doctors typically treat bipolar disorder with powerful pharmaceuticals such as mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants.
NAC shows promise as a supplemental treatment for bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder has been closely linked to severe oxidative stress in the brain.Researchers think that NAC is effective at reducing symptoms of bipolar disorder through its antioxidant activity. Glutathione levels are often depleted in people with bipolar disorder.
By replenishing glutathione, NAC may help treat bipolar disorder. (R)
Emerging research demonstrates that NAC may be helpful in the treatment of substance misuse disorders.
The medical world continues to struggle to find an effective treatment for addiction.
North America is in the grips of a severe opioid overdose epidemic.
Addiction to drugs like Xanax and heroine continue to rise exponentially throughout the world.
Addiction recovery programs are expensive and often result in relapse.
There seems to be a strong connection between addiction and severe oxidative stress in the brain.
NAC may help treat addiction by reducing oxidative stress.
Early studies have shown some success in the use of NAC as a treatment for cocaine, marijuana, and nicotine addiction.
Even pathological gambling has been successfully treated with NAC.
In a study of 13 cocaine-dependent individuals, participants reported a significant reduction in withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cocaine.
The participants received 2,400 mg of NAC for two days.
Follow-up studies showed that NAC supplementation continued to reduce drug cravings. (R)
Several studies have shown that NAC may be helpful in treating autism.
The autistic spectrum covers a wide range of symptoms.
Some cases are severely debilitating, while others result in mild abnormalities in social behaviors, speech difficulties, and repetitive behaviors.
Multiple studies indicate that NAC can help reduce irritability in people with autism.
Research shows that individuals with autism have higher levels of oxidative stress and lower levels of glutathione. (R)
NAC may treat autism by replenishing glutathione stores.
NAC increases GABA levels in the brain.GABA is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. It’s synthesized from glutamate, the major excitatory neurotransmitter of the brain.
GABA reduces glutamate activity when glutamate hyperactive.
Studies show that people with autism lack the enzyme that converts glutamate to GABA. (R)
NAC supplementation has been shown to balance the activity of glutamate and GABA in patients with autism.
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease and is closely linked to oxidative stress.
As the brain ages, it endures more wear and tear due to inflammation. Alzheimer’s patients tend to be deficient in glutathione.
Glutathione levels usually decline with age.
Taking NAC supplements can help increase levels of glutathione levels in the brain.
NAC may promote cognitive health in people with Alzheimer’s by reducing oxidative stress.
In a recent study, 34 participants with mild dementia were treated with a combination of NAC, S-adenosyl methionine (Sam-e), B12, and acetyl-l-carnitine for 24 weeks.The participants in the experimental group showed improvement in some, but not all cognitive testing. (R)
NAC is an expectorant. Expectorants break down mucus in the body.
NAC can be helpful in reducing symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchitis.
NAC can also reduce the severity of asthma.
NAC decreases the frequency and severity of wheezing and respiratory attacks by boosting glutathione levels.
Glutathione thins the mucus in the bronchial tubes, allowing them to drain.
If you’re trying to start a family, NAC may be worth adding to your supplement regimen.
Oxidative stress is a known cause of male infertility.
A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Fertility demonstrates that NAC supplementation can be effective at improving semen quality. (R)
Digestive health is at the root of many mental health disorders, including anxiety, ADHD, and autism.
Chronic stress can elevate cortisol to further erode the the gut lining.
As people age, the lining of the gut can become more permeable to inflammatory toxins.
When toxins enter the bloodstream, they travel throughout the body to cause inflammation in the lymph nodes, brain, joints, and soft tissues.
NAC is an amino acid and antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
Oxidative stress and inflammation is a cause of many mental health disorders, including OCD, anxiety, and depression.
Supplementing with NAC can help treat respiratory disorders and improve digestive health.
NAC is generally well-tolerated and only occasionally causes skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation in a small percentage of people.
I take NAC for OCD, anxiety at a dose of 1,000 mg a day, five days a week.