Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 15 percent of women and is the leading cause of infertility due to chronic anovulation—a lack of ovulation (1).
Various interventions are used to promote regular, ovulatory cycles in women with PCOS. In this article, we’ll review a supplement called N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) for PCOS, how it may improve menstrual cycles, fertility, and other PCOS symptoms.
Related Post: What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
What is N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)?
NAC is a powerful antioxidant that works to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when you have an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals, which causes toxic and damaging effects to your cells.
NAC promotes antioxidant activity by increasing the production of glutathione, one of the most important and naturally occurring antioxidants.
By raising glutathione levels, NAC helps reduce inflammation and protects your tissues and cells from damage. NAC is also known for its ability to loosen and thin mucus secretions in your airways and other parts of your body (2).
NAC for PCOS: How Does it Work?
Through its powerful antioxidant benefits, NAC may help treat the root cause of PCOS in a few ways.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance is a common underlying cause of PCOS and affects up to 70 percent of women with this condition (5).
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas after eating a meal containing carbohydrates. Insulin’s job is to lower your post-meal blood sugar levels by moving the sugar from your blood into your cells to be used for energy.
Insulin resistance occurs when your cell receptors do not properly respond to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar and insulin levels.
Fortunately, supplementing with NAC can improve insulin resistance in women with PCOS. In fact, one study showed that NAC reduced fasting insulin to a greater degree than Metformin, a drug commonly used to treat PCOS (6, 7).
NAC may also improve cholesterol and fasting blood sugar levels.
NAC Lowers Androgens
Hyperandrogenism—or high androgen levels—is common in women with PCOS and is one of three criteria for a PCOS diagnosis.
Testosterone is the main androgen often elevated in women with PCOS. High testosterone levels can cause symptoms like acne, facial hair, and hair loss.
Taking NAC for PCOS can greatly increase your chances of getting pregnant.
A large study showed that women taking NAC with PCOS were 3.5 times more likely to become pregnant. What’s more, the NAC group also had a greater likelihood of having a live birth and a reduced risk of preterm delivery (1, 9).
Fertility doctors often prescribe Clomid to women with PCOS to achieve ovulation and pregnancy. However, up to 40 percent of PCOS patients may be resistant to Clomid. Fortunately, using NAC for PCOS in combination with Clomid considerably increases both ovulation and pregnancy rates. Clomid can negatively affect cervical mucus, but taking NAC may also improve cervical mucus quality and create a better environment for conception (2, 10).
NAC Regulates Menstrual Cycles
Normalizing your period is key to optimizing fertility and getting pregnant with PCOS. However, if getting pregnant is not your health goal at this time, it is still crucial to regulate your menstrual cycle because fertility is a sign of optimal health.
NAC can help regulate your menstrual cycle by reducing testosterone levels, promoting ovulation, and improving liver detoxification.
Dosing and Safety of NAC
Most of the studies assessing NAC for PCOS use dosing between 600-1800 milligrams per day. Thankfully, NAC is considered very safe and tolerated by most people (2).
NAC can be purchased over-the-counter; however, it’s important to recognize that many supplements are not regulated, so it can be difficult to know what is actually in them.
It’s important to purchase high quality, professional-grade supplements from a trusted company. This way, you know that what you’re purchasing and taking is true NAC and free from harmful additives.
We offer high quality, professional-grade supplements, like NAC, through our Root shop. Shop NAC from our Root Shop here.
Using NAC for PCOS
NAC has impressive benefits for women with PCOS thanks to its powerful antioxidant activity. It can reduce insulin resistance, lower testosterone levels, improve fertility, and regulate your period.
As much as we wish NAC could be a simple fix, we know that PCOS is a multifaceted condition requiring a deep look into root causes, like inflammation, gut health, and thyroid functioning to find true healing.
Our PCOS Nutrition Program helps you get to the root cause of this condition and will determine if NAC (or other supplements and interventions) can help you achieve your health goals.
We also included NAC in our most frequently recommended PCOS supplements in our programs here: