NMU 137 – NAC and COPD
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 137 (July 24, 2019)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: NAC Supplementation Enhances Drug Treatment of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Source: Egyptian Journal of Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis (2013)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms, such as chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema are no longer used but are now included within the COPD diagnosis. The disease is typically slowly progressive and persistent and is the fourth most common cause of death in the U.S. Eighty percent of COPD patients have a history of cigarette smoking, but 20% have no smoking history, such as many asthmatic patients.
Nevertheless, the drugs used to treat COPD are highly useful symptomatically but do not address all the root causes that produce progressive airway obstruction. In recent years studies have been undertaken that combine standard drug therapy for COPD and supplementation with a natural compound known as NAC (N-acetyl cysteine). This is because experimental studies have shown that NAC can suppress many factors that promote the COPD process. More specifically, NAC has been shown to decrease free radical damage to lung tissue, suppress lung inflammation and help break-up lung mucus in various types of scientific studies.
As such, a 2013 study put NAC supplementation to the test in a clinical trial involving 45 acute exacerbation COPD patients. The study showed that compared to the placebo group and the group receiving low-dose NAC supplementation, the group who ingested 1200 mg per day of NAC (3 divided doses of 400 mg per dose), showed decreased lung inflammatory markers (IL-8) decreased free radical markers (MDA) and they demonstrated significantly improved pulmonary function (FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC) and increased partial pressure of oxygen in their blood (PaO2), after only 10 days of NAC supplementation. These are highly impressive findings. This means that they were breathing more easily, and more oxygen was able to diffuse through the lungs into the bloodstream, which is the ultimate goal in COPD management. The results suggest that when added to standard drug therapy for COPD, NAC supplementation can help arrest and even reverse some key aspects of this disease.
It is well established that lung inflammation and free radical damage promote the progression of COPD, making it a potentially lethal condition for those who are afflicted. As well, thickened mucus secretions are a common problem in COPD and are known to make the disease worse, as it makes the lungs an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses to thrive. Thus, anything that can decrease lung inflammation and free radical stress (oxidative stress) and help break up mucus in the lungs and suppress bacterial and viral proliferation in the airways is bound to be an important adjunct in COPD management. NAC supplementation, at 400 mg, three times per day has been shown to provide these benefits in the short-term COPD clinical trial cited in today’s research update.
I have included the reference for this study in the text below.
Hafiz AM, Wakeel LM, Hady, Mourad AR. High dose N-acetylcysteine improves inflammatory response and outcome in patients with COPD exacerbations. Egyptian Journal of Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis. 2013, 62 (1): 51-57 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0422763813000253
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