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NAC: How it can help your immune system

Nutrition Watch
NAC: How it can help your immune system

Many people with HIV use N-acetylcysteine (NAC) without under standing it and how its use affects the immune system.

What is NAC?

Cysteine is one of the three amino acids making up glutathione, a molecule important in immune function. Cysteine is required for the transport of other amino acids into cells so chemicals such as interferons and antibodies can be made. It has been found to be severly deficient in people who are HIV-positive.

More than six years ago, NAC stimulated interest as a possible treatment for people with immune suppression. In people who are HIV-positive, glutathione levels are decreased by an average of 30 percent in the blood and 60 percent in lung tissue. It is known that supplementation with nac will cause glutathione levels to rise.

In early l99l, Dr. Alton Meister of Cornell University Medical College reported the spread of the virus was reduced up to 90 percent by using nac. Since then, numerous studies have shown promising results for NAC.

When used in combination with Interleukin-2 (Il-2), use of NAC resulted in markedly enhanced immune cell proliferation and function. One NAC study demonstrated a significant T4 cell increase. Another demonstrated that HIV replicates easier when glutathione levels are low and that NAC replenishes glutathione levels. Low cysteine levels also appear to orrelate with elevated TNF (tumor necrosis factor) and B-2-M (beta-2-microglobulin) levels, both of which signify an increase in viral activity.

Two formulations available Cysteine is available in two forms:
L-cysteine and N-acetyl-cysteine.

A history of research has been performed on the NAC form. To date, no research has been done evaluating the immune effects of L-cysteine. In my practice, I have utilized both forms.

In patients who are not on any antiviral, I use NAC. L-cysteine is used because it will break down mucus and is beneficial in cases of sinusitis, lung congestion and other upper respiratory infections or inflammations. NAC has the same effect on mucus, but is more costly. Knowing that the beneficial immune effects of NAC are due to the increased cysteine levels, there appears no reason why L-cysteine could not be used in place of NAC.

The doses used in studies on people who are HIV-positive were 1,800 to 2,000 mg per day in three doses of 600 mg or four doses of 500 mg. As an amino acid it is much better to take it on an empty stomach with either water or fruit juice (the sugar in the juice enhances absorption). One commonly read HIV treatment book states to take it with food, but that is completely wrong! Other foods will compete with the uptake of cysteine and you will be wasting your money. (This is an example of why it is important to have a knowledgeable person in charge of your nutrition.)

In summary, 1,800-2,000 mg of either form of cysteine on an empty stomach per day will benefit your immune system and suppress viral activity. In my protocols, it is one of the "star performers."

Dr. Brian A. Smith, a chiropractic doctor in private practice, has specialized in treating immune-suppressed individuals for more than eight years. He teaches in the HIV Nurse Clinician Program at usc School of Medicine and is a board member of AIDS research Alliance. Readers with questions or suggestions for articles may call him at (213)656-2652.

Source: http://www.apla.org:80/apla/9506/nutrition-watch.html

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