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NAC and Asian Flush / Glow

By February 27, 2024No Comments

If you suffer from the Alcohol Flush Reaction aka “Asian Glow” or “Asian Flush,” then you probably look up solutions or cures for it regularly. It’s awful to have one drink and turn bright red. It’s even worse to also feel hungover after barely consuming any alcohol. This is why you need to know about the benefits of n-acetylcysteine (NAC) and Asian Flush / Glow.

What is NAC?

NAC is a supplement form of cysteine, which comes from the amino acid L-cysteine. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants that we have access to and has a ton of health benefits. It’s uses have also been widely studied and published across several medical journals. Many of them used NAC to treat alcohol-related issues such as hangover prevention and alcohol addiction. So, it’s no surprise that we talk about NAC and the prevention of Asian Flush / Glow.

What Happens When you get the Asian Flush / Glow?

The formal term for Asian Flush / Glow  is Alcohol Flush Reaction. Alcohol Flush Reaction primarily happens to individuals with an inherited deficiency in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). In order to understand why this is an issue, let’s look at the actual process of alcohol metabolization in a normal person.

Ethanol (alcohol) is metabolized first by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) into acetaldehyde. From there, acetaldehyde is metabolized to acetate (which is not toxic to the body) by the enzyme ALDH2. However, when folks have a deficiency in the enzyme ALDH2, their body cannot properly break down the toxic byproduct of alcohol (acetaldehyde). This results in a histamine response and oxidative stress. This causes facial flushing and other symptoms like a pounding headache, nausea, racing heartbeat, feeling hot, itchy, hives, etc. While most people who suffer from the Asian Glow are of East Asian descent, anyone can experience it or have this genetic mutation.

NAC and Asian Flush / Glow

As mentioned above, the buildup of acetaldehyde is what’s causing the symptoms related to the Asian Flush. So, in theory, to solve the problem, we just need to help the body breakdown acetaldehyde to make up for enzyme deficiency. This is where NAC and glutathione comes in.

NAC has been used in many studies involving alcohol. From these studies, it’s theorized that NAC is used by the liver to produce more glutathione. Glutathione is an amazing antioxidant that helps the liver break down ethanol (alcohol) and is known as the master antioxidant to help remove free radicals from the body. Since those who are lacking the ALDH2 enzyme have a build up of acetaldehyde that causes oxidative stress (significantly reducing antioxidants), glutathione is depleted quickly. Unfortunately, the liver can take 8-24 hours to make more glutathione.

Fortunately, we have access to both NAC and glutathione as supplements. There are tons of published studies with some amazing results to review and consider. One study showed that when NAC was given to rats with alcohol, there was an increase in glutathione levels. A separate study pretreated rats with NAC prior to ethanol ingestion. They found that the rats had decreased oxidative stress on the liver and that NAC provided a hepatic protective effect.

Solution for Asian Glow Prevention

While there are no existing studies on NAC and Asian Flush / Glow, the data from those studies are still promising. There is no cure for the ALDH2 enzyme deficiency, but there are solutions that can help to prevent the symptoms. My best recommendation is to use Glowess alcohol flush patches, which contain both Glutathione and NAC as two of their main ingredients. I use these patches every single time I drink and they work so well. There’s even a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re one of the ~7% of people they don’t work for, so they’re worth a shot!