Without fail, the transformation of warm summer breezes into chilly, biting winds means that flu season is on its way. Informally called the flu, influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract that can lead to severe or life-threatening secondary infections. Ranging from controversial vaccinations to wearing a mask in public, people engage in all sorts of activities to avoid coming down with the flu. However, an increasing number of people are learning that supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a simple and effective strategy for defending against influenza.
Influenza is a costly and sometimes fatal disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, up to 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. Even though Western medicine has concocted several medications to lessen the flu’s impact, their effectiveness is limited. While the flu shot is purported to be 70 to 90 percent effective in preventing influenza, it can fail when researchers incorrectly predict the season’s viral strains or when viruses become resistant to antibodies included in the seasonal vaccine. Significant side effects make the currently available antiviral medications used to lessen flu symptoms less than desirable. Thus, many people turn towards natural immune system builders for increasing their body’s protection against the flu.
NAC is an amino acid and a powerful antioxidant which, when supplemented, is transformed into glutathione – your body’s principal antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and detoxifies harmful substances in your body. Glutathione, when taken orally, dissolves in your stomach and offers you very little if any nutritional value. Therefore supplementing with NAC is highly recommended, especially for those with liver concerns, because a compromised liver has difficulty producing glutathione on its own.
Aside from its importance to your liver and immune system, NAC is also a mucolytic – meaning that it breaks down lung-clogging mucous in respiratory disorders. Chemists appoint NAC’s mucolytic properties to its abundance of free sulfhydryl groups, which breaks down the disulfide bonds of mucous – a process that actually thins mucous out.
Traditionally, NAC’s characteristics of being safe, a potent antioxidant and a mucolytic have indicated its use for:
- liver disorders by helping detoxification
- lung ailments by reducing congestion
- immune diseases by scavenging free radicals
- cancer prevention by scavenging free radicals
However, researchers in Italy demonstrated that NAC also exhibits a statistically significant ability to reduce the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of the flu.
NAC Flu Research
Silvio De Flora, M.D., of the Institute of Hygiene and Preventive Medicine at the University of Genoa, Italy, enrolled 262 subjects in a randomized, double-blind study to determine how NAC affects the flu virus. Details of the study are as follows:
- Subjects were given either two placebos or two 600 mg NAC tablets daily for six months during the wintertime flu season.
- All of the participants kept a daily log of their health and symptoms, and were tested for flu antibodies.
- Since blood tests of those taking placebo and NAC showed similar titers of flu virus, the results indicate that NAC did not prevent infection with the influenza virus.
- However, of those who had detectable flu virus in their bloodstream, only 25 percent of those taking NAC developed flu symptoms – 75% had NO flu symptoms.
- In contrast, of those who had detectable flu virus in their bloodstream, 79 percent of those taking the placebo developed flu symptoms.
- NAC treatment was well tolerated and resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of influenza-like episodes, severity and length of time confined to bed.
Thus, the researchers concluded that supplementing with NAC significantly reduces the severity and likelihood of having flu symptoms. Due to its safety and support of the immune, lung and hepatic systems, supplementing with NAC appears to be a wise alternative to Western medicine for enjoying a healthier winter season.