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NAC for hangovers

Evidence based

Is NAC Good For Hangovers?

Afterdrink Author Dewey Jhon
Dewey Jhon

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  1. This article is based on currently available scientific evidence at the time of writing and fact checked.
  2. All referenced studies and research papers are from reputable and relevant peer-reviewed journals or academic associations.
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Evidence based

Is NAC good for hangovers? In this article, we’re going to take a detailed look at whether NAC can be used to support hangover recovery.

If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you already know a thing or two about NAC and are looking to learn more about using it for hangovers.

NAC, which is short for N-Acetyl- Cysteine is an amino acid that’s found in dietary supplements and used as a medicine in hospitals.

It’s particularly known for its detoxifying properties. So naturally, you may be wondering if NAC also helps with hangovers.

And that’s what we’ll be focusing on today. First, we’ll take a detailed look at what NAC is and examine its potential health benefits. Then we’ll take a closer look at whether NAC is good for hangovers or not.

So, with the introductions out of the way, let’s start taking a closer look at NAC for hangovers.

Table of contents

What is NAC?

NAC has a few different names:
– N-acetyl-cysteine
– Just “acetylcysteine”
– Acetyl-L-Cysteine

However you want to call it, it’s all the same thing.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of cysteine. Cysteine is found in most high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds, and legumes.

NAC is an amino acid that is best known for its role in replenishing glutathione levels. And glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants in our bodies.

Glutathione is made from three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamine.

The reason why cysteine is the most important of the three is that you need to get some of it from your diet. That’s why it’s considered semi-essential because your body can produce it from other amino acids, namely methionine, and serine. It becomes essential only when the dietary intake of methionine and serine is low.

On the other hand, glycine and glutamine are non-essential amino acids because your body can make it if needed.

Next up, we’ll take a closer look at what the causes of a hangover are before seeing if NAC can help prevent or treat them.

NAC is the supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. It’s a “semi-essential” amino acid that is important in the production of glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant.

Causes of a hangover

Before we get into whether NAC is good for hangovers or not, we’ll first need to understand how alcohol causes hangovers.

Although dehydration is one of the main causes of a hangover that everyone knows about, it’s not the only one:

It’s true that alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes your kidneys flush out extra water. Clearly, NAC isn’t going to help with hangover related dehydration because only water can solve that problem.

Aside from this, the by-products of alcohol metabolism are another reason why we get hangovers. When alcohol is broken down in your liver, toxic substances such as acetaldehyde are formed. These are highly reactive and damage the cells they come into contact with causing inflammation.

Antioxidants, such as glutathione, neutralize some of these by-products before they cause damage.

And this is where it’s thought NAC could help with hangovers.

Is NAC good for hangovers?

So, now on to the all-important question, is NAC good for hangovers?

Unfortunately, there are no good human studies that have shown NAC is good for hangover prevention. It’s the same case with most natural ingredients as the interest in natural hangover remedies is limited.

And for good reason. It’s because the best way to prevent hangovers is to drink less alcohol. There’s an obvious solution.

With that said, there are some animal studies that have shown that NAC can reduce alcohol-induced inflammation. This is by increased the amount of glutathione your liver produces which neutralizes free-radicals.(1)(2)

In fact, NAC is used in hospitals around the world to prevent liver damage from acetaminophen overdose in the same way – By boosting glutathione levels.

In summary, it’s not known whether NAC is good for hangover prevention or not because it’s not been researched. However, there’s a lot of interest in NAC because of its well-known detox properties.

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Does NAC protect the liver from alcohol?

The answer to this question is, absolutely not.

NAC will not protect the liver from alcohol. In fact, nothing in the world exists that can protect the liver from alcohol.

NAC side effects

As with most supplements, side effects with NAC are uncommon. But they do happen. These include:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • a skin rash
  • vomiting

Side effects are more commonly seen when NAC is given in hospital at high doses with an IV infusion.

Anything else to consider

Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve been drinking too much alcohol for your liver to handle. Taking NAC to prevent hangovers is the wrong approach.

The best way to prevent hangovers is to drink less alcohol. Second, to this, making sure you eat before going out and keeping well hydrated are also important.

Sticking to lighter colored drinks may also help. That’s because they contain fewer congeners which have been shown in studies to make hangovers more severe. You can read more about this in our article about congeners.

NAC for hangovers – Final verdict

That brings us to the end of our look into NAC for hangovers.

There are many hangover prevention supplements on the market that include NAC in their formula. However, the benefits of NAC for hangovers is anecdotal at best.

What is certain is that NAC will not protect the liver from the damaging effects of alcohol.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out our article on the best supplements for hangovers.

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