Written by: Dr. Ben Lynch
Welcome to this week’s SNPit. This is where we get down and dirty on a specific topic about your health. Today’s topic is the possible ban on NAC plus a simple, worry-free solution for you.
I'm Dr. Ben Lynch — welcome to the Dirty Genes Podcast. I hope you enjoy the episode! If you do, be sure to give a thumbs-up, rate it, leave a comment, and subscribe here.
Click the video below to watch the Dirty Genes Podcast or keep scrolling to read the transcript of Episode 9: What Happens If I Can't Get N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)?
Welcome to this week’s SNPit where we get down and dirty on a specific topic. Today's topic is two-fold: the NAC attack and what to do if NAC is indeed pulled from the marketplace and you can no longer get it. I'm Dr. Ben Lynch, and this is the Dirty Genes Podcast.
The news is that the FDA is not too pleased that N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is being marketed as a dietary supplement, even though it has been marketed as a dietary supplement for the last three decades. Amazon has said, OK, we will no longer provide N-Acetyl Cysteine. And so that's it...done.
Supplement companies like Seeking Health continue to provide N-Acetyl Cysteine for you. Like many other companies, Seeking Health is currently out of stock. Why? Because we sold months worth (many months worth) of inventory in literally two days after the news broke that NAC was being banned.
So I want to say, first off, take a breather, OK?
There is an organization out there working on all of our behalfs, called the Council for Responsible Nutrition. They are very, very active in working with the FDA, defining what N-Acetyl Cysteine is, or redefining it and saying “Hey, this has been used in the marketplace for a long time. It's extremely safe and should continue to be available for everyone who wants it and needs it. And it should be not classified as a drug only.” The Council for Responsible Nutrition is working on your behalf to keep NAC available.
Maybe you've used N-Acetyl Cysteine in your family for 10 years. I've personally been using NAC for over 20 years. I love the stuff. And I finally learned how to use it effectively. And I know when not to use it.
So, what happens if NAC is, in fact, pulled from the marketplace completely?
What happens if NAC becomes classified as a drug? You can no longer sell it. Period. Done. So, what do you do?
First things first. You need to understand what N-Acetyl Cysteine does.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) provides cysteine in the form of acetylated cysteine. Acetylated cysteine is different than regular cysteine. If you just consume normal cysteine, it's not going to do the same thing. You can actually find cysteine as a supplement out on the marketplace. It's pretty rare, though, because everybody prefers the acetylated form with the N-acetyl group attached to cysteine which facilitates the absorption of cysteine and it also protects it from stomach acid.†
There's also S-Acetyl Glutathione which protects the glutathione and helps support its absorption as well.†
When you see "acetyl" in front of some types of compounds, then you should know that it’s supporting absorption.
NAC’s job is to produce sufficient amounts of cysteine in your body.
What does cysteine do?
Cysteine is the number one amino acid for producing glutathione in your body. If you do not have sufficient amounts of the amino acid cysteine in your body, then you cannot make your body’s most important antioxidant, glutathione. Period.
There is lots of research out there showing the effectiveness of supplementing with just N-Acetyl Cysteine to help increase your glutathione levels. N-Acetyl Cysteine by itself can do that for a lot of people.†
Now, can it do it for all people? Absolutely not, because to make glutathione needs more than just N-Acetyl Cysteine. Yes, NAC is a primary ingredient. But N-Acetyl Cysteine or cysteine is not the only ingredient needed to make glutathione.
You’ve probably also heard that NAC is useful for your lungs. N-Acetyl Cysteine is beautiful for lung health. Now, are there any alternatives to NAC for the normal clearance of mucosal lung secretions? In short, I don't know.†
We tend to get coughs during the drier spells, especially if you have forced air-heat in your home. I've bought every family member in our home a humidifier for their room. You can program the humidity that you want to be in your room.
Whereas if you just get the big old-school Vicks humidifier, you just fill it up with water, put some salt in there, and it heats up and it starts spraying which emits a lot of steam. If you add too much salt, it starts spitting everywhere and you get water on your floor. You can't control the humidity and you don't worry about it because you're sick or coughing. Your kid's sick and coughing. But you look around and your windows are completely soaked and dripping and your clothes are wet because you can't control the humidity. It's like literally almost one hundred percent humidity in your room raining. That's not good.
If your humidity is above 60, you're getting dust mites.
You don't want dust mites. That's another problem. I've got our boys’ humidifiers in their bedroom set at 55. If it drops below 55, it emits a little bit of steam. You can drop some essential oils in there for added benefit. I'm no essential oil guru, but you can look up what essential oils are useful for coughs.
Now let’s get back to the primary reason why people buy N-Acetyl Cysteine...because it's an inexpensive way to support your glutathione levels.†
The problem is that NAC is one compound out of many needed to produce your body's master antioxidant, glutathione. If you think that swallowing a capsule of N-Acetyl Cysteine is going to raise your glutathione levels, you can be grossly mistaken.
In order to convert N-Acetyl Cysteine into glutathione, two specific genes are required. And those two specific genes require specific cofactors and an environment in which they can perform. There are also factors that slow these particular genes down.
We know that N-Acetyl Cysteine raises glutathione...but the question is, how?
I am going to write the word cysteine down on a piece of paper and draw an arrow. Where does it go? Well, it goes to a gene called GCLC. The GCLC gene helps make another compound, which is still not glutathione.
Then I draw another line and that helps make gamma-glutamyl-cysteine, but not so fast. How does cysteine go through GCLC? Well, it needs ATP, which is your body's primary form of energy. You also need glutamate. Few people, if any, are deficient in glutamate. In fact, if anything, your glutamate levels are probably too high. Glutamate is very easily consumed in foods. And it’s an important ingredient for making glutathione. So, you have cysteine binding to glutamate using energy to do so by using the gene GCLC.
All right, that's fine. I go through this gene GCLC. No problem. Well, hold on. If you have a genetic variation in the GCLC gene (which is actually very common in the population), it can reduce your body's ability to make glutathione by upwards of 50%. So you could have a 50 percent reduction in your ability to produce glutathione. You could take all the N-Acetyl Cysteine you want. You can eat all the cruciferous veggies you want. You can eat all the meat you want...but if you have a slower, more sluggish GCLC gene, which some of us do, including me, then, does that mean you need to take twice as much N-Acetyl Cysteine? I don't know. Possibly.
Now, let's say you do not have that genetic variation, let's say you have all the mitochondrial health and all the energy you want. You have all the cysteine you want because you're taking NAC, and you have all the glutamates you want.
Now you need to know what slows the GCLC gene down from functioning. There are two major things that prevent your body from making gamma-glutamyl-cysteine, which is the next step in making glutathione.
What do you think those two things are? When would you not want to have too much glutathione? During illness. What? Yes, during illness your body does not want too much glutathione made because if too much glutathione is available, then the illness will be able to get through your immune system because glutathione helps support a healthy immune response.†
Another major, major thing especially relevant in humid, tropical, or wet places like Seattle, is mold.
Mold reduces your body's ability to make glutathione.
And we've only been talking about one gene so far. There's another one to jump through.
The other gene is called GSS. That’s glutathione synthase. Glutathione synthase needs energy. It needs ATP to work. And if we didn't have ATP, we'd be dead. So, check, you've got some ATP.
Glycine. Now, glycine is another very, very important amino acid, which is also pretty readily available, but I believe a lot of people are deficient in it as well. Let’s say you’re taking N-Acetyl Cysteine to boost your glutathione levels. You’ve made it through the GCLC gene, but your glycine levels are low. You’re stopped. You're not making glutathione. Now, let's say you've got your glycine levels are in order. Great.
Magnesium. Everyone listening is most likely deficient in magnesium. Now, that doesn't mean you are completely out of magnesium, but the fact of the matter is that you're most likely deficient in magnesium. This begs the question: is your ability to synthesize, or make produce glutathione very good? Well, it’s not optimal, that's for sure.
What else slows down GSS?
Arsenic. Arsenic is pervasive in our environment. It's in drinking water. It's in rice. It is in apples, apple juice, and apple sauce. So moms, even if you're buying organic, this stuff is in the soil. It's in the water which feeds the apples, apple juices, apple sauces, and rice. Brown rice especially.
If you're trying to be healthy and you're eating brown rice versus white rice, you're getting even more arsenic.
There are all sorts of things reducing your body's ability to make glutathione from just supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine. My point with this education is to inform you that N-Acetyl Cysteine, yes, it can raise glutathione levels if everything else is working. But if it's not working, then all you're doing is increasing your cysteine levels, which could be helpful because cysteine goes on and does other things.
But if the primary reason that you're using N-Acetyl Cysteine is to boost your glutathione levels, then you might not be very happy.
So what do you do? Well, I would say you supplement directly with glutathione. If you want to increase your glutathione levels, take glutathione, not N-Acetyl Cysteine.† If you're thinking it's way more expensive than N-Acetyl Cysteine, you're right, but it's also way more effective than N-Acetyl Cysteine for increasing glutathione levels. Especially because supplementing directly with glutathione bypasses your need for having healthy levels of magnesium, glycine, glutamate, and ATP.†
If you have genetic variations in your GCLC or GSS genes, it doesn't matter. You bypass them all when you supplement directly with glutathione, either in capsules or liposomal form. Your glutathione levels start rising and you start doing things that you wanted to do back in the day when your glutathione levels were low.†
Your starting to think again. Your energy is back. Your moods are back. Your emotions are more stable. You're not as sensitive to smells anymore. All of these things can be attributed to glutathione. So, I recommend looking at glutathione supplementation.†
Optimal Glutathione Plus capsules contain glutathione along with additional cofactors. Cofactors are typically vitamins and minerals that help your enzymes work. Getting glutathione inside of your cells is step one. But now you need to be able to use that glutathione.
Selenium is needed for the gene glutathione peroxidase to use glutathione. If you do not have sufficient selenium, you are not supporting your glutathione peroxidase gene. Why? Because glutathione peroxidase requires selenium to work. You must have selenium to use your glutathione if you want to help get rid of or neutralize hydrogen peroxide into water.†
Yes, your body makes hydrogen peroxide. Why? That's what your immune system uses to kill pathogens and signal your immune system to work harder and faster. But you have to have a nice balance of hydrogen peroxide. If you have too much, it's a problem. If you have too little, it’s a problem. Glutathione is there to keep hydrogen perioxide in balance. Your body uses glutathione to neutralize hydrogen peroxide, and now what have you got? You have damaged glutathione.
Once your glutathione goes to war for you to neutralize that hydrogen peroxide, you're left with hurt, damaged glutathione, which is called oxidized glutathione or GSSG in research. But you can recycle that damaged, worn-out glutathione back into good, useful, go to war, glutathione for you. But yes, this requires an enzyme to do. And remember, your genes are what make your enzymes.
The gene that recycles oxidized (used) glutathione into new, reduced, and reusable glutathione is called Glutathione Reductase. It reduces your glutathione back to a usable form. It takes your oxidized glutathione and reduces it back into reduced glutathione. What does it need to do this? It needs vitamin B2 (riboflavin). If you do not have sufficient riboflavin, your damaged glutathione levels build up.†
If more than 15% of the glutathione inside your cells is damaged, they are going to die. It triggers cell death by design. That’s why you've got to have sufficient riboflavin (vitamin B2).
So, if you are one of these people, many, by the way, who do really well with N-Acetyl Cysteine but do awfully with glutathione, you might be low in selenium, you might be low in riboflavin, and I'm not done yet!
There's another compound called molybdenum, which is a mineral that’s used to process sulfites. If you take cysteine as N-Acetyl Cysteine or glutathione, what you're also doing is making extra sulfur in your body. Cysteine makes sulfites. While supplements like NAC and glutathione are good for most people, they can be a problem for those who have a hard time processing sulfur. In order to clear sulfites from your body, they go through a gene called sulfite oxidase which uses the mineral molybdenum. If you do not have sufficient molybdenum to go to bat for you, your sulfites increase. You've got headaches, you got irritability, you got nosebleeds, allergies, all sorts of stuff. By supporting your body with molybdenum, you're going to support healthier sulfur levels when you supplement with N-Acetyl Cysteine.†
I know a lot of people struggle with glutathione. I know a lot of people also struggle with sulfur. So, if you're struggling with anything sulfur-related, whether it's a supplement like MSM or N-Acetyl Cysteine, cruciferous veggies, onions, garlic, cauliflower, artichoke, kale, what have you, then it could be sulfites. And molybdenum can really, really help you. Anywhere from 75 micrograms to 500 micrograms. And we have SulphiteX at Seeking Health, which is a liquid molybdenum supplement that can really help process the sulfites.†
I also added molybdenum when I formulated Seeking Health’s Optimal Glutathione Plus which contains selenium, riboflavin, molybdenum, and PQQ to help maintain undamaged, healthy glutathione levels while helping to support oxidative stress in general, which reduces the burden on glutathione as well.†
Optimal Glutathione Plus capsules and Liposomal Glutathione Plus at Seeking Health are two very, very effective glutathione supplements that both contain supportive nutrients cofactors for your entire glutathione pathway.†
Seeking Health’s Optimal Liposomal Glutathione is a pure source of glutathione if you’re getting the nutrient cofactors elsewhere in your diet.
Wondering which glutathione is right for you? Check out our blog post:
If you are sad that N-Acetyl Cysteine might be gone from the shelves and you've been taking it for glutathione production, I think you're going to be very, very pleased by using Optimal Glutathione Plus capsules or Liposomal Glutathione Plus liquid. Now which one would you take and why? I prefer the Liposomal. What I do is I take literally a few drops of the Optimal Liposomal Glutathione or the Liposomal Glutathione Plus and I put it in my mouth and I hold it there, then I swallow it.
OK, now what should you notice? For me, I noticed it in my vision. Why? The densest amount of mitochondria in your body are located in your eyeballs. Mitochondria require a lot of energy, and so your eyes use a ton of energy to be able to constantly refocus. And by doing that, they also use up a lot of glutathione. By supplementing with glutathione, you are also supporting your eye health. So that might be the first thing that you see (pun intended).†
The other thing you will notice is a clearing of your head. A cloudy, foggy head can be supported with glutathione as well, especially liposomal glutathione.†
How do you know which one you need if you are not taking a multivitamin? If you're not taking any of the multivitamins at Seeking Health, I recommend the plus version. If you are already taking a multivitamin/multi-mineral, then I would just try the regular glutathione. They're basically around the same cost, the amount of glutathione is a bit less in order to make up for the space of the other cofactors.
So, yes, N-Acetyl Cysteine is being evaluated by the FDA, and it might be reclassified as a drug and pulled from the arsenals of various supplement companies or from your own kitchen or your first aid kit in your family.
And if it is, I hope this podcast helps you understand the alternatives that you have.
If you liked this episode, please share, subscribe, and leave a comment. I check out the comments on podcasts and do my best to respond. So you know...we transcribe all of these podcasts into written blogs at Education.SeekingHealth.com.
If you go to SeekingHealth.com, upper right corner, and click the “Dirty Genes Podcast” link, it will take you right to the transcripts, where you can read the letter from the Council for Responsible Nutrition. You can pick up some glutathione as well! You can also get N-Acetyl Cysteine when we're back in stock here shortly.
Remember, stuff is in the news all the time, try not to overreact. There's a lot of negativity out there and I hope this brings you relief that Seeking Health will continue to offer N-Acetyl Cysteine. And if we legally can’t, well, there are some fabulous alternatives for you. If, in fact, N-Acetyl Cysteine is pulled, it's not the end of the world. There are a lot of things that you can do to help as long as you understand the mechanisms of action at play. Take care, and thank you.
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‡ This information is for educational purposes only. No product results are implied.