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I’ve been reading a lot about a supplement called NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) lately.

If you google it, the first thing you’ll see is that it’s used to loosen mucus and treat Tylenol overdoses. But keep reading, and you’ll se it has all kinds of uses — including helping to treat cancer and manage Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Read further still and you’ll find research has shown NAC to be effective in treating some psychiatric disorders. That’s where our interest comes in. NAC can help to treat schizophrenia and depression. It can help combat drug addiction, too

The way it works is multi-pronged.

One mechanism is NAC’s antioxidant properties. As we breathe, our bodies produce molecules called free radicals that can damage  cells in the body, especially the brain. That damage is called “oxidative stress,” and it has been shown to play a role in psychiatric disorders. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, reducing oxidative stress. We can get antioxidants by eating fruits and vegetables, but a supplement could help too.

Another pathway for NAC’s effectiveness is its anti-inflammatory properties. Various mental illnesses have been tied to inflammation in the brain. NAC can fight that inflammation, leaving you mentally healthier.

The other ways NAC works are in cell health: It helps nerve cells and new neurons grow and it reduces cell death and dysfunction.

So NAC is great for a lot of things, and it’s over-the-counter, so it’s easily accessible. If you’re experiencing depression or another mental health problem, let’s talk about supplements you could be taking. They could be helpful.

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