The condition can cause endometrial tissue to grow on pelvic organs,
There’s no cure for endometriosis, and treatment focuses on improving symptoms. Current treatments include hormonal therapy, surgery, or a mix of both.
Recently, research on N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) has uncovered its potential as a prospective treatment for endometriosis.
This article reviews NAC and whether it helps with endometriosis symptoms.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a nutritional supplement that comes from the amino acid L-cysteine.
NAC is a powerful antioxidant with strong free radical-scavenging activity.
Aside from being an antioxidant, NAC promotes detoxification and
For this reason, NAC
Dosage and safety
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is available to purchase over-the-counter as a dietary supplement.
The typical dose is 600–1,200 mg per day, but consider talking with a healthcare professional before using NAC to be sure that you’re taking a safe dose and that no medicines you take interact negatively with it.
For most people, side effects are uncommon and usually very mild.
NAC hasn’t been well-studied in children age 12 and under, so check in with a provider before giving NAC to a child in your care.
Medical therapy for endometriosis
As mentioned before, current treatments for endometriosis include:
- Hormonal therapy: focused on managing endometriosis-related pelvic pain by suppressing estrogen production, which inhibits ovulation, menstruation, and reduces inflammation.
- Surgery: aimed at removing out-of-place endometrial tissue, also known as cysts or lesions.
- In vitro fertilization: used to help people conceive if their fertility has been affected.
Here’s how NAC may help with endometriosis symptoms, according to research:
NAC may reduce inflammation, a cause of endometriosis pain
For this reason, it is believed that antioxidant compounds like NAC could be used as safe and efficient treatments for endometriosis.
It may reduce high estrogen levels, which are associated with endometriosis
Estrogen is a sex hormone produced mainly by the ovaries. Because endometriosis
Since aromatase is an enzyme needed for estrogen synthesis, by blocking the activity of COX-2, NAC indirectly leads to estrogen reduction.
It may decrease cyst size and growth
After 3 months, 24 of the 47 people in the NAC-treated group canceled scheduled surgical procedures meant to alleviate their endometriosis — 14 of them due to decreased cyst size and 4 due to disappeared cysts.
In the group that did not take NAC, only 1 person canceled their surgery.
Nevertheless, despite the promising results, human studies evaluating the effectiveness of NAC in endometriosis are still limited. Thus, further research is needed.
Living with endometriosis
Endometriosis can be a difficult diagnosis to receive. And since chronic pain and other symptoms associated with the disease can affect your quality of life and emotional outlook, it’s important to have a strong support group around you.
Consider reaching out to the following organizations to find support groups near you or to connect with online communities.
People with endometriosis could benefit from the following recommendations:
- Ask about
oral contraceptives. Contraceptive pills help reduce estrogen production by slowing or reducing your periods. Evidencealso suggests that they may be effective in reducing the frequency of the disease, with the advantage that they can be consumed for a long time.
- Ask about GnRH antagonists. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists have
long been usedto treat endometriosis because they reduce estrogen levels. However, low doses of GnRH antagonists may offer a faster wayto achieve the same effect while maintaining low estradiol levels, which helps reduce unwanted side effects.
- Ask about aromatase inhibitors. Inhibiting the enzyme aromatase eliminates all estrogen production. Aromatase inhibitors
seem tosuccessfully treat pelvic pain and significantly reduce cyst size.
- Ask about anti-angiogenic therapy. The growth of newly formed blood vessels — known as angiogenesis — seems to be a key factor for cyst growth. Thus, its
inhibition(or anti-angiogenesis) may offer a new non-hormonal therapy for the treatment of endometriosis. However, human researchis still in its early stages.
- Eat foods rich in cysteine and anti-inflammatory compounds. While NAC
is not foundin natural food sources, cysteine — the amino acid from which it’s derived — is presentin chicken, turkey, eggs, garlic, yogurt, wheat germ, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Also, eating anti-inflammatory foods, such as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids and resveratrol, may loweryour risk of disease,
- Avoid pro-inflammatory foods. Consider avoiding high intakes of alcohol, red meat, and trans fats, which are
consideredrisk factors that may increasethe risk of endometriosis due to increasing inflammation in the body.
Learn more about ways to manage endometriosis pain here.
Here are some questions people often ask about NAC and endometriosis.
How does NAC affect your hormones?
Does NAC get rid of inflammation?
As a powerful antioxidant itself that also stimulates the production of the antioxidant glutathione, NAC
Can NAC cause menstrual bleeding?
NAC is a low cost nutritional supplement that shows promising beneficial effects for treating endometriosis.
According to research, it may be a potential non-hormonal alternative to current hormonal treatments due to its reductive effect on inflammation, estrogen levels, and cyst size and growth.
In addition, it seems to have virtually no adverse effects. Yet, human research is still in its early stages, and further studies are needed to validate it.