Benefit # 14 – IV Therapy using Vitamin C

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This is installment #14 of our “14 Proven Benefits of IV Therapy” Series.

Vitamin C (also known as Ascorbic Acid), a water-soluble vitamin, has been known for decades to be one of the most popular antioxidants, protecting against free radicals that can build up and contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Deficiency of Vitamin C, also known as scurvy, is very rare and is characterized by weakness, anemia, bruising, bleeding and loose teeth. Vitamin C is not naturally produced in the body, therefore must be consumed via diet or supplementation. Food sources naturally high in Vitamin C include citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.

Oral Vitamin C has been known for some time to fight against the common cold, aid in wound healing and the absorption of iron, repair/maintain cartilage and bones, and collagen production, but the use of IV Vitamin C started being studied in the 1970s and 1980s. While oral Vitamin C is known for its many antioxidative effects, IV Vitamin C when given in extremely high doses (10GM-100GM) has been shown to have pro-oxidative effects. High-dose IV Vitamin C (HDIVC) has primarily been studied in cancer research and has shown to be even more effective when used in adjunct with chemotherapy. HDIVC becomes an oxidant at high doses whereas it functions as an antioxidant at low doses. This is because Vitamin C interacts with oxygen and iron to cause the formation of high concentrations of peroxide in tissues. Peroxide is used by immune cells to kill foreign invaders and cancer cells while preserving healthy cells. Vitamin C also causes DNA damage to foreign invader cells. 

While HDIVC has been shown to overall be very safe, some precautionary measures have been identified: 

  • Properly functioning kidneys due to a slight increased risk of developing kidney stones
  • A rare hemolysis can occur in patients with a G6PD deficiency so screening for the enzyme is necessary before any therapy begins
  • Localized pain at the IV site can occur if the infusion rate is too fast
  • May decrease calcium, chloride and potassium levels and cause shakiness and chills, so adding these ingredients is necessary to prevent these symptoms
  • Watch for patients who are at risk for fluid overload as they are receiving an increased amount of IV fluid
  • May cause a temporary lowering of blood sugar (hypoglycemia) so it is important that patients are well hydrated and nourished before treatment

Since 2006 there has been an increasing number of studies and trials done regarding HDIVC. Many have shown very promising results but some are still conflicting, therefore this therapy is still controversial and has yet to be approved by the FDA. Although HDIVC has been shown to have few side effects it is still important each individual discuss this treatment with their own health care provider and/or oncologist.