IV nutrient therapy - IV Vitamin Therapy

IV Vitamin Therapy

IV nutrient therapy 300x200 - IV Vitamin Therapy

 

Have you heard of IV lounges?

 

These are clinics where you can get IV vitamin therapy for a variety of reasons.

 

Clinics that promote IV vitamin infusions say they can support adrenal fatigue, are anti-aging, boost immunity, improve energy levels, whiten your complexion or even treat hangovers.

 

IV vitamin drips have gained popularity over the years and, not surprisingly, have gotten a real PR boost from celebrities including Jane Fonda, Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Adele, Chrissy Teigen, Brad Pitt and more. They all swear by them.

 

As with all wellness fads, it begs the question ‘is there any evidence for their claims?’, and ‘at the very least, are they safe?’.

 

Most conventional health professionals categorically dismiss them without consideration of what, if any, research has found. The usual refrain is, ‘that’s just stupid’, or ‘why would you need to put nutrients directly into your circulation, that’s what digestion is for?’.

 

Of course, that’s not an informed opinion. Medicine, by nature, goes against the norm in that we routinely bypass or hijack ‘natural’ processes for the improvement of health and well-being. To answer the question of effectiveness, you have to look at the research, and luckily there is some.

 

Want to save this article? Click here to get a PDF copy delivered to your inbox

What is IV therapy?

IV therapy itself isn’t new. It’s been used in the medical profession for decades. In hospitals, it is commonly used to hydrate patients and to administer essential nutrients via “Total Parenteral Nutrition”, or TPN, if there is an issue with gut absorption, or long-term difficulty eating or drinking due to surgery.

 

TPN can provide total nutrition: protein (amino acids), fat (lipids), carbohydrate (dextrose), vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes (potassium, sodium, chloride, etc).

 

Single nutrient deficiencies like vitamin B12 or iron can also be treated in hospitals with infusions under medical supervision but the delivery of nutrients in IV vitamin lounges is new.

What is IV vitamin therapy?

An IV vitamin infusion (or any nutrient for that matter, such as minerals, etc.) is just what it sounds like; a method of administering vitamins, minerals, and other therapies directly into the bloodstream via a needle that goes directly into your vein.

 

Why the vein?

 

Proponents state that by ‘mainlining’ your nutrients, you can maximize absorption by bypassing digestion and absorption via the digestive tract and by sidestepping what’s called ‘first-pass metabolism’. The latter refers to the digestive process where something is taken by mouth (food and the nutrients it contains, or a supplement), absorbed into the bloodstream and taken to the liver before entering the general circulation.

 

When it comes to medications, they can be metabolized, broken down and excreted before even entering your circulation via first-pass metabolism.  This reality is always taken into account when medication dosages are determined. An appropriate dose is needed to take into account anything that might be lost by first-pass to ensure a therapeutic dose is provided.

 

The same thing happens to nutrients to some degree; IV infusions will circumvent all of this as well.

 

By using an IV delivery, it’s possible to achieve much higher blood concentrations of nutrients than ever could be achieved using the oral route. This is especially true for vitamin C which, as we’ll see, matters when it comes to treating cancer, viral infections, sepsis and more.

What are the claims for IV therapy?

When it comes to IV vitamin therapy benefits, there’s no shortage of claims.

 

Many practitioners assert that we’re just not getting the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. This is actually supported by the Canadian Community Health Survey, and similar surveys from other countries. IV infusions can help to fill the gap.

 

But they feel it’s more than just an issue of not getting enough from our food, proponents of vitamin and mineral drips point to other barriers to optimal nutrient status and intake such as:

  • Poor digestion and absorption
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Chronic diseases

Because of this, IV treatments may be warranted to help people improve their healing and well-being they say.

 

But that’s not all, other benefits include:

  • Improved hydration
  • Improved athletic/training recovery
  • Stronger immune system
  • Treating cancer and colds/flu
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved energy
  • Cure hangovers
  • Help with stress, jetlag or better sleep

Common IV treatments

IV vitamin drip therapy is all about the right mix for the right goal. The Myers Cocktail vitamin and mineral formula that consists of magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin C is a common starting point.

 

The Myers’ cocktail IV has been purported to treat a range of health conditions but is often used as a base preparation where ‘extra’s (topped up with vitamin C, herbs, etc) are added depending on the goal.

 

Typical issue-based formulations include:

Adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue formulations are designed to address the adrenal glands’ nutritional needs as it relates to regulating the stress response including the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin.

 

Most IV formulas include nutrients purported to support adrenal function including calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, manganese, potassium, copper, vitamins B-complex with extra B5, B6, B-12, and vitamin C.

Anti-aging

Factors that lead to what we call aging include shorter telomere length, increased whole-body inflammation, stress, advanced glycation end products, and oxidation, wear and tear, and more.

 

IV vitamin therapy is leveraged to address these very things. These formulas are supposed to boost collagen production, give anti-inflammatory support, prevent oxidation, reverse sun damage, reduce the risk for skin cancers, negate smoking and pollution-related damage, and more.

 

Nutrients include glutathione, B-vitamins, extra B3 (niacinamide), selenium, zinc, vitamin C, amino acids, and NAC or n-acetyl cysteine.

High-dose vitamin C

High-dose vitamin C (5000 mg to 100,000 mg, or 5 g to 100 g per treatment) tends to be the bread and butter for IV lounges. Higher amounts of vitamin C can be added to other formulations, typical with Myers Cocktail, or as a stand-alone treatment.

 

Vitamin C drips are typically used for viral infections, cancer treatment, and for general antioxidant support.

Immune-boosting

Factors that impact immune function include poor sleep, stress, smoking, poor diet and suboptimal intake of nutrients (this has been known for decades).

 

Vitamin drips are marketed to enhance the effectiveness of your immune system, even if it’s functioning normally, during certain times of the year.

 

Immune drips typically contain the usual vitamins and minerals found in the Myers’ cocktail along with extra vitamin C, zinc and often homeopathic ingredients and herbs such as echinacea.

Multivitamin

This is another staple which typically is based on the Myers’ cocktail which includes vitamins B5, B6, B12, magnesium, and vitamin C, electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

 

As the name suggests, these formulas are truly a multivitamin and minerals which are promoted for general health, stress reduction, fatigue, and more.

Mood-boosting

Building on the fact that nutrition plays a huge role in mental health, mood, including depression, mood-boosting formulas provide a handful of nutrients involved in mental health.

 

IV nutrient therapy for mood-boosting often contains vitamin B12, magnesium, glycine, niacin and more.

Athletic recovery

Marketed as a way to way to speed up post-exercise recovery and boost athletic performance, for both elite athletes and everyday people involved in moderate to vigorous exercise, to repair muscle damage, boost collagen production in cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, and replace electrolytes.

 

Key nutrients include vitamin C, amino acids, calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and extra bicarbonate. Glutathione for inflammation and B vitamins to restore energy levels.

Skin rejuvenation

Skin aging occurs due to extrinsic factors (sunlight, pollution), and intrinsic (decreased collagen and elastin production, alcohol, smoking, high intakes of sugar and refined carbohydrate, oxidation, hormone changes).

 

IV nutrient infusions claim to help address many of these variables. These drips will emphasize extra vitamin C (collagen production, antioxidant), zinc, and B vitamins including biotin and niacin, and often glutathione.

 

Glutathione is called the master antioxidant and all skin rejuvenation and/or skin whitening formulations will have lots of glutathione as part of their ingredients.

Detox

Detox treatments lend themselves well to vitamin drips. They are recommended as a way to increase the body’s detoxification pathways in the liver and kidneys as a potential therapy for optimal health.

 

These mixtures include vitamin C, N-acetyl-cysteine or NAC, glutathione, selenium, and B-vitamins. These are particularly popular in Hollywood and with celebrities where they’re known as the “Party Girl Drip” to treat hangovers, and for hydration.

Other treatments include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Fungal infections
  • Vision support
  • Sport performance
  • PMS
  • Migraine prevention
  • Menopause
  • High blood pressure
  • and more

Is there any evidence they work?

One of the more common retorts when it comes to using supplements is that they’re worthless and just give the user expensive urine.

 

It’s a curious statement. It suggests that the nutrients you take in supplemental form (capsules, tablets, tinctures or powders) are simply absorbed, not used and pissed out. What people don’t realize is the same can be said for all nutrients regardless of where they come from.

 

Whenever you eat or drink, some of the nutrients and other compounds don’t get absorbed and are lost in your poop. A great example of this are minerals; only a fraction is absorbed. Take calcium, for example, whether it’s from food or a supplement, we only absorbed about 20-25% of whatever we consume.

 

So does that mean it’s wasted? Does that also mean that most of the calcium we consume or take as a supplement only gives us expensive poop?

 

Of course not.

 

Different nutrients are absorbed differently. For example, almost 100% of all dietary fat that’s consumed is absorbed but that isn’t true for carbohydrates. Some carbs in the form of starch pass through undigested, about 10% of the total starches we eat face this fate.

 

As mentioned, mineral absorption is far less than 100%, whereas vitamins are better absorbed.

 

Why? It all depends on how they’re transported into the lymph system or your bloodstream. Some easily diffuse, others need a specialized transport protein. Also, how much of a nutrient will be absorbed also depends on your nutrient status of a given nutrient.

 

For example, if your ferritin/iron stores are low, your body will absorb more iron from the food you eat, provided you’re getting good sources of it. Once the ‘tank is full’, you’ll absorb less, and a lot of it ends up in the toilet.

 

The other thing to consider is that just because a nutrient is absorbed doesn’t mean it will be taken up by your cells adequately. That’s because they’re whipping around in your bloodstream and cells are trying to grab whatever they need but sometimes won’t grab enough.

 

The result? Those absorbed nutrients are peed out. If you did a FULL urinalysis, your pee would be full of unused nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytonutrients, etc), as well as, metabolic byproducts and waste, along with ‘used’ up vitamins, etc. The report would be massive.

 

The point is, we are always consuming nutrients, partially absorbing nutrients and losing unused nutrients.  Remember, the body IS NOT a closed system; things go in, things come out and one of the goals of nutrition, healthy eating, and nutritional therapy is to give your body all the nutrients it needs in optimal amounts. It will take what it can, what it needs, used what it needs and excrete the rest.

 

This happens when you eat and no one is saying that eating just gives you expensive urine.

 

The underlying assumption, of course, is that food automatically gives you all the nutrients you need in optimal amounts or that getting higher amounts of certain nutrients offers no benefit, or that that delivering nutrients via an IV is equally ineffective.

 

While IV therapy (TPN) has been shown to ‘work’ in that it can be used as a  sole source of nutrition in hospital, almost all IV vitamin therapies. like the common treatments listed above. are not supported by current scientific evidence only most have not been studied.

 

With the exception of high dose vitamin C, there have been no clinical studies or trials to show vitamin/mineral/herbal/homeopathic injections of this type offer any health benefit.

 

In fact, there are very few studies that have looked at their effectiveness at all. One review on the use of the Myers’ cocktail for various health conditions but it’s a collection of case studies and anecdotal reports which are both one of the lowest levels of evidence, albeit hypothesis-generating (1).

Fibromyalgia and chronic pain

One trial looked into the effectiveness of IV vitamin therapy in reducing symptoms of 34 people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia. No significant differences were found between those who received the “Myers’ cocktail” once a week for eight weeks and those who did not (2).

 

In fact, the authors noted a strong placebo effect; many people said their symptoms improved when they were only injected with a “dummy” cocktail (in all fairness, this can be true for any placebo-controlled trial when subjects get ‘something’ like a pill, capsule, etc). Regardless, there weren’t any statistically significant differences (improvement) in the group treated with the Myers’ cocktail.

In another study that examined IV vitamin use in fibromyalgia patients did not include a placebo group. and it involved just 7 patients and showed only short-term improvement in symptoms (3).

Asthma

There is a published study that examined IV vitamin therapy use for asthma, but that study was of even poorer quality making it impossible to draw any conclusions (4).

Are there any health conditions that might benefit from vitamin drips?

The answer might surprise you. For most health professionals, it will be a resounding, categorical dismissal but there’s some research out there. Does that mean we change clinical practice? Of course not, but it does mean we have to look at this critically and consider the results. Some interesting findings include:

IV vitamin C and SARS

One of the first anecdotal case reports was during the SARS outbreak. SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is a respiratory illness caused by a subtype of coronavirus.

 

An Aukland farmer, Alan Smith, was admitted to the ICU with full infiltration of his lungs. On x-ray, his imaging showed solid white, meaning his lungs were filled with fluid making the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide impossible. Doctors had decided there was nothing left to do and advised the family to take Alan off of life support.

 

His family advocated for high dose IV vitamin C and according to reports, convinced the hospital and the attending doctor to allow the IV vitamin infusion. After two days of getting 25 g (25,000 mg) per day, his x-rays showed stark improvement. When another doctor took over Alan’s case, he stopped the intravenous vitamin C therapy and Alan’s condition worsened. Alan’s family convinced the new attending doctor to restart the vitamin C treatment but he only approved 10 g per day.

 

After several days, Alan’s condition improved and he regained consciousness. Once he stopped his IV treatment, he switched to liposomal vitamin C, a form of vitamin C that is wrapped in liposomes which increase intracellular levels better than regular supplements. He took 6 g of lypo spheric vitamin C a day thereafter and had a full recovery.

 

This is but one case report and was highlighted on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Vitamin C. The Miracle Swine Flu Cure

IV vitamin C for cancer

IV vitamin C has been studied as supportive therapy for cancer and some have looked at it as a possible cancer treatment. For this reason, its commonly considered by terminal cancer patients.

 

The use of pharmacological ascorbic acid (vitamin C) for cancer treatment and/or support has been debated for years but more rigorous research has shown that there are significant blood concentration differences when vitamin C is given intravenously compared to oral dosing which lends support to a role of IV therapy for delivering the nutrient.

 

A single dose of 1250 mg of oral vitamin C can raise blood levels to 135 micromol/L (+/- 20 micromol/L) compared to 885 micromol/L when the same 1250 mg dose is given by IV (5).

 

For the maximum tolerated oral dose of 3 g every 4 hours, pharmacokinetic modeling predicted peak plasma vitamin C concentrations of 220 micromol/L and 13,400 micromol/L for a 50-g intravenous dose. Peak predicted urine concentrations of vitamin C from intravenous administration were 140-fold higher than those from maximum oral doses (5).

 

Why does this matter? At higher blood concentrations, there’s some interesting evidence to show that vitamin C may slow tumor growth and kill cancer cells (6). The hypothesis is that vitamin C breaks down easily, generating hydrogen peroxide, a reactive oxygen species, that can damage tissues and DNA. Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells are much less capable of removing the hydrogen peroxide because they lack sufficient amounts of the enzyme catalase needed to do to this.

 

According to study author Garry Buettner, “this explains how the very, very high levels of vitamin C used in our clinical trials do not affect normal tissue but can be damaging to tumor tissue.” However, not call cancer cells are the same and some do have adequate amounts of catalase, so IV vitamin C therapy isn’t necessarily applicable to all tumors; “our results suggest that cancers with low levels of catalase are likely to be the most responsive to high-dose vitamin C therapy, whereas cancers with relatively high levels of catalase may be the least responsive,”

 

A review of IV vitamin C studies in patients with cancer at varying doses ranging from 50-150 g per treatment, found reported improvements in fatigue, pain, and mood while receiving ascorbic acid (7).

 

Overall, there were 86 patients who received a total of 3034 doses of IV ascorbic acid ranging from 50 to 150 g per dose. Of those 86, 32 patients received only ascorbic acid as part of their cancer management (1197 doses), whereas 54 patients received ascorbic acid in conjunction with chemotherapy (1837 doses) (7).

Chemotherapy-related fatigue

Similar findings on chemotherapy-related fatigue and quality of life have been noted with IV vitamin C (8).

 

A number of Phase I clinical trials have shown that high-dose IV vitamin C is safe and well-tolerated in cancer patients, either as a monotherapy (910) or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents (11, 12).

 

Although direct anti-cancer effects of IV vitamin C have not yet been confirmed by these small studies, there is consistent evidence that IV vitamin C can improve cancer patient’s QOL (13, 14, 9, 15) and decrease multiple aspects of fatigue (22, 23).

 

Many have suggested that antioxidants like vitamin C should be avoided during chemotherapy as vitamin C will interfere with the chemo’s effectiveness (24, 25, 26, 27). This is because some chemotherapy treatments act as prooxidants and vitamin C, being an antioxidant, in theory, could negate this action. However, different chemotherapeutic agents act via different mechanisms and only some act as oxidative agents (25). For this reason, it’s argued that vitamin C is contraindicated in only those chemo treatments that elicit a pro-oxidant.

 

To be on the safe side, because of these theoretical concerns it’s generally recommended to take an approach that allows for clearance of IV C before chemotherapy administration. Because vitamin C has a relatively short half-life of <2 h in circulation due to rapid renal clearance, IVC is typically administered the day before or after chemotherapy administration (28).

IV vitamin C and sepsis

Septic shock remains a real and leading cause of complications and death in critically ill patients. Several nutritional supplements have been explored in ICUs without success. Usual treatment includes intravenous fluid replacement, timely antibiotic therapy, and surgical source control.

 

Despite this, vitamins are still being explored as therapeutic options in septic patients including vitamins C and D.

 

Antioxidants as adjuvant therapy in critically ill patients have been described for many decades, mainly as immune nutrition to restore deficits in severe illness.

Proposed effects of vitamin C in sepsis

In critically ill patients, vitamin C is markedly decreased (29, 30).

 

Therefore, the rationale for parenterally administering vitamin C is to supplement an enhanced metabolic turnover of vitamin C in severe sepsis and septic shock (31).

 

Vitamin C improves and reverses many of the complications seen in sepsis including micro-vascular function, endothelial cell proliferation, smooth muscle mediated vasodilation and endothelial barrier permeability (32, 33, 34, 35, 36).

Clinical studies on vitamin C in sepsis

For critically ill patients, neither do we know an optimal vitamin C plasma concentration nor is it known whether supernormal plasma concentrations are more beneficial (37, 38).

 

However, a number of studies demonstrated that parenteral administration of intravenous ascorbic acid is more effective to increase plasma levels and reduce multi-organ failure.

 

In several smaller studies, vitamin C reduced the extent of multiple organ failure, and injury biomarker levels, prevented the development of pulmonary morbidity and organ failure, shorten ICU length of stay, and reduced the need for vasopressor and overall reduced mortality (39, 40, 41).

 

Burns are associated with enormous inflammation, followed by endothelial leakage. In a prospective RCT in 37 severely burned patients, the administration of high-dose vitamin C during the first 24 hours of injury significantly reduced fluid requirement and was associated with higher urine output and less wound edema (42, 43).

IV vitamin C and viral infections

Ascorbate has long been promoted for colds and the flu because of its demonstrated anti-viral properties and because, as an antioxidant, it helps to neutralize the increase in reactive oxygen species seen with influenza and viral infections that both kill pathogens but that can harm the host (44, 45, 46).

 

The most extensively studied human viral infection is the common cold. Linus Pauling is the father of vitamin C and common cold movement and to this day, the idea that vitamin C may help still persists.

 

Early research didn’t take into account vitamin C’s pharmacokinetics so it was no surprise that vitamin C wasn’t found to be beneficial.

 

Many studies gave smaller doses, once a day, and we now know that to be effective, multiple doses of vitamin C need to be given throughout the day to maintain therapeutic concentrations (47, 48, 49, 50).

 

When higher doses are given throughout the day, some studies have found benefit.

 

Two controlled trials found a statistically significant dose-response, for the duration of common cold symptoms, with up to 6–8 g/day of vitamin C. Therefore, the negative findings of some therapeutic common cold studies might be explained by the low doses of 3–4 g/day of vitamin C (51).

 

Three controlled trials found that vitamin C prevented pneumonia. Two controlled trials found a treatment benefit of vitamin C for pneumonia patients. One controlled trial reported treatment benefits for tetanus patients (52).

 

Some research has looked at other viral infections such as shingles. A study of 67 patients found 7.5 g of vitamin C given intravenously resulted in decreased herpes-zoster related pain scores (53).

 

In a study of IV vitamin C in doses ranging from 7.5 g to 50 g and Epstein-Barr viral (EBV) infection showed a reduction in EBV EA IgG and EBV VCA IgM antibody levels over time, during the IV therapy that is consistent with observations from studies that showed higher millimolar levels of ascorbate hinder EBV infection and replication in vitro (54).

Coronavirus and vitamin C IV therapy

Mention nutrition support for coronavirus and people lose their shit (writing this on March 28, 2020).

 

It’s amazing to me how so-called health professionals are either unable or unwilling to do their homework or revisit the very science they like to brag about studying during undergrad. Once they’ve finished their course work, rarely do they stay on top of the basics: biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy.

 

Nutrition plays a huge role in immunity and considering most people don’t meet the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals on a consistent basis, the use of evidence-informed supplementation in addition to a food-focused approach not only makes good sense but is also good ‘medicine’.

 

As mentioned above, a high dose vitamin C drip isn’t as far fetched as some would have it out to be where viral infections are concerned. Given the history of treating influenza with a vitamin C injection, researchers naturally wanted to see if IV vitamin C might benefit COVID-19.

 

Is it biologically, mechanistically, biochemically plausible that ascorbic acid might support your body in its fight against the coronavirus, including secondary infections such as  pneumonia, like it can with other viruses? Yes.

 

At the very least, vitamin C will likely help manage many of the symptoms of a highly active immune system including quelling the free radicals (reactive oxygen species). IV vitamin C may help to reduce/prevent the cytokine storm often seen with bacterial and viral infections and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) (55).

 

This is exactly what’s being done in China where there are several high dose IV vitamin C trials for the treatment of COVID-19.

 

China is conducting a clinical trial of 12,000 to 24,000 mg/day of intravenous vitamin C to treat patients with coronavirus and severe respiratory complications. Participants will receive IV vitamin C for 7 days straight at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University (56).

 

A second clinical trial of intravenous vitamin C was announced in China on Feb. 13th. In this second study, researcher Dr. Cheng reports that the plan is to give 6,000 mg/day and 12,000 mg/day per day for moderate and severe cases respectively.

 

Similarly in the US, medical teams at Northwell Health Facilities are giving COVID-19 patients IV vitamin C in doses of 1500 mg every 6 to 8 hours or a total of 4500 to 6000 mg in a 24 hour period (57).

 

Dr. Andrew Weber, a critical-care specialist affiliated with Northwell Health states that those who received vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C. Using IV vitamin C builds on and is being used because of the confirmed benefit of ascorbic acid has by shortening length of stay in Intensive Care Units (58).

 

Finnish and Australian researchers carried out a review that found 12 trials with 1766 patients taking vitamin C reduced length of ICU stay on average by 7.7%. Is six other trials, regular oral vitamin C in doses of a paltry 1-3 g (1000 mg to 3000 mg) per day reduced ICU stay by 8.6%. In another three trials in which patients needed mechanical ventilation for over 24 hours, vitamin C shortened the duration of being on a ventilator by 18.2%.

 

If these results were due to a drug, these results would be all over the news and shouted from the rooftop but because it’s a vitamin, it’s downplayed as being too good to be true and because as a society, we’ve been convinced that only pharmaceutical medications could boast these kinds of results.

 

Vitamins, minerals, nutrition, etc just IS NOT a sexy therapy. This folks is the reality of conventional wisdom, orthodoxy, and dogma.

Vitamin C background information

For more general information on all things vitamin C, consider reading the following two amazing documents. In fact, any health professional who loves to parrot useless statements that there’s no plausible reason to consider higher intakes of vitamin C or who think the current RDA of 70-90 mg per day is settled science needs to update their knowledge base save looking like just another talking head.

Ascorbate – The Science of Vitamin C

Ridiculous Dietary Allowance – A Challenge to the RDA for Vitamin C

Are there risks of IV vitamin infusions?

For those with a rare genetic disorder called phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PDD), vitamin C can be tricky. It is an inborn error of metabolism that predisposes one to red blood cell breakdown (hemolysis). For those with this disease, high dose vitamin C can lead to hemolysis and should be avoided.

 

IV vitamin C is very safe with few reported side effects, adverse events and no toxicity (55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 15).

 

But generally speaking, as with anything, there’s some risk with IV vitamin infusion, most obviously, infection. Anytime you break the surface of the skin, you run the risk of infection but no more than you would, going for routine blood work.

 

You would need to sterilize (alcohol wipe) the injection site skin and use properly prepared products. IV nutrition bags are prepared in licensed compounding pharmacies with appropriate regulation in place, at least in Canada.

 

IV vitamin therapy side effects aren’t something to be overly concerned about. It’s important to work with an IV-therapy licensed and regulated practitioner who will manage this risk.

 

Some are concerned about getting too much of a good thing. Because IV therapy bypasses digestion and the regulation of absorption, some feel that it’s possible to overload the body. While this sounds obvious, studies haven’t shown this to be a problem and in the case of vitamin C, this is the very goal of treatment; to get higher concentrations for a therapeutic result.

 

This isn’t to say that people should take a reckless approach to this modality.

 

Those using IV vitamin therapy could be unknowingly receiving large amounts of nutrients which could have health implications, particularly if someone were to have these intravenous nutrient injections on a regular basis.

 

Certain conditions such as kidney disease should avoid IV therapy due to the risk of over-hydration or high levels of certain nutrients like potassium which would be harmful.

 

Compared to the dietary/food or supplement route, far less is known about appropriate dose levels or combinations and about the potentially toxic effects if the gut is bypassed but anecdotally, there aren’t reports of IV therapy-related deaths.

 

Want to save this article? Click here to get a PDF copy delivered to your inbox

Bottom line

IV therapies have been used for decades as a form of medical support. These include hydration, TPN, and treatment for clinical deficiencies.

 

The new kid on the block is IV vitamin therapies which are promoted to boost nutrient levels in a way that food and regular supplements can’t.

 

Proponents of IV nutrient infusions recommend them for a variety of health conditions and benefits which, for the most part, have never been adequately studied.

 

One exception is IV vitamin C which has limited research in specific settings such as the ICU and cancer support with some impressive benefits.

 

As with any treatment, you need to be aware of any possible risks and if you have any kind of medical condition, be sure to speak with your doctor before trying any new treatment.

 

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, and mental health.  Follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Write a comment