Intravenous Vitamin Infusions: When a Great Diet isn’t Enough

The most widely used nutrient in IV therapy is vitamin C.

Chances are that if you are reading this article, you are conscientious about your health. You are aware that certain foods have proven health benefits, and you probably try to consume them on a regular basis. You may also be aware that the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in those foods are essential to the normal functioning of your body. These nutrients are necessary for growth, vitality, and general well-being. They are involved in regulating metabolism, converting carbohydrates to energy, and assisting in the formation of soft tissue and bone.

However, there are certain instances when even the best diet may be insufficient at meeting the nutritional requirements of your cells. Poor nutrient absorption, increased cellular demand, and inherent genetic deficiencies are all reasons why your diet may not be sufficient. Those who suffer from poor digestion, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, cancer, food sensitivities, stress, and chronic illness are particularly at risk for nutritional deficiencies. People experiencing any of these conditions may need higher levels of certain nutrients than the general population.

Intravenous (IV) therapy involves the administration of nutrients in high concentrations to rapidly improve cellular healing. Normally, cells in the digestive tract facilitate the absorption of nutrients. However, in IV therapy the digestive tract is bypassed with the direct infusion into the bloodstream. This allows the cells to rapidly obtain nutrients needed to repair, regenerate, and regain strength. The IV method of administration also allows much higher doses to enter the cells than would be possible through ingestion alone. For example, some people will experience digestive upset if they take several grams of vitamin C orally. These negative effects can be avoided through the IV method. “Megadoses” achievable by IV have demonstrated both antiviral and anticancer effects.[1]

Myers’ Cocktail and IV Vitamin C

While some may dismiss IV therapy as a new-age health trend, this therapy has been successfully used with patients for several decades. Approximately 50 years ago, John Myers, a Baltimore physician, treated many health conditions such as fatigue, infections and depression with his injectable “Myers’ Cocktail,” a combination of B6, B12, magnesium, and vitamin C, amongst others. After the passing of Dr. Myers, Dr. Alan Gaby, M.D. offered a modified Myers’ Cocktail to his patients. He saw dramatic improvements in many with asthma, migraines, fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, upper respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, and seasonal allergies. Over an 11-year period, Dr. Gaby administered over 15,000 infusions of the Myers’ Cocktail and reported his clinical experiences at more than 20 medical conferences to several thousand physicians worldwide.[2]

While conventional medicine regularly dismisses the use of IV nutrients (the Myers’ Cocktail is included in Quackwatch’s index of questionable treatments), a significant body of evidence highlights the value of IV therapy for many health conditions. Recently, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Myers’ Cocktail in individuals with fibromyalgia was conducted by the Yale University School of Medicine. The results of the study demonstrated significant reduction in tender points (places that are exceptionally sensitive to touch in people with fibromyalgia), as well as pain, depression, and improvement in quality of life directly following treatment.[3] Several scholarly articles have also been published documenting the successful use of IV magnesium for the treatment of acute asthma and headaches of various types.[4,5] IV administration of vitamin B12 was found to improve intellectual functions, memory, emotional functions, and communication skills in people with Alzheimer-type dementia in a Japanese study.[6]

However the most widely used nutrient in IV therapy is vitamin C, which has been studied for its beneficial actions in cancer treatment for over 25 years. It has been shown that at high doses, vitamin C is preferentially cytotoxic (destructive) to tumour cells, yet spares healthy tissue. A recent 2013 article demonstrated the safety and efficacy of high-dose vitamin C therapy in patients with pancreatic cancer who were concurrently receiving chemotherapy medications.[7] The IV therapy protocol group had a survival time that was double that of standard treatment alone!

Also, this therapy has been shown to improve quality of life for breast cancer patients [8] and reduce inflammation markers, which is important for a better prognosis.[9] The same trial showed that IV vitamin C decreased tumour markers in 77% of prostate cancer patients and 73% of breast cancer patients.

It is therefore evident that IV therapy can be effective in many situations depending on the specific combination and dosage of ingredients. When our cells are given the nutrients they need, they are able to function optimally and thus allow the restoration of our body’s inherent healing mechanisms. IV vitamin and mineral treatments have been used safely by physicians for several decades and all components of the solution are compounds natural to the body and generally pose no health risks. That being said, the treatments must be administered by a qualified doctor who is specifically trained in the use of IV nutrient therapy. In Ontario, naturopathic doctors undergo specialized training, including a stringent examination process, in the use of IV nutrient therapy. Those naturopathic physicians who obtain their IV certifications are also required to maintain them through yearly continuing education courses.

While the potential for side effects is very low, some patients may experience a mild flushing sensation or a taste of vitamins that is very temporary. The only actual side effect may be a slight irritation of the vein as with any needle. It is also important to note that although several clinical trials have indicated that IV vitamin C is safe to use alongside various chemotherapy regimens, patients should always consult with a doctor who is knowledgeable about potential interactions.

Depending on the specific condition being treated and the nutrients used, treatment protocols for IV therapy normally call for a series of infusions dosed at least once a week and up to four times per week. The interval between treatments can then be gradually increased, and eventually the injections are no longer necessary. Some patients may require regular injections on an ongoing basis in order to control their medical problems. In such cases, continued IV therapy may be necessary because a disease state is too advanced to be reversible. Periodic use of IV therapy may also be encouraged for healthy people in order to prevent disease, and increase energy and well-being.

References

[1] Harakeh, S. et al., “Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus replication by ascorbate in chronically and acutely infected cells.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1990;87:7245-7249.
[2] Gaby, A.R., “Intravenous Nutrient Therapy: the ‘Myers’ Cocktail’.” Alt Med Review. 2002; Vol 7, Number 5: 389-403.
[3] Ali, A. et al., “Intravenous micronutrient therapy (Myers’ Cocktail) for fibromyalgia: a placebo-controlled pilot study.” J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Mar;15(3):247-57.
[4] Mauskop, A. et al., “Intravenous magnesium sulfate rapidly alleviates headaches of various types.” Headache. 1996;36:154-160.
[5] Okayama, H. et al., “Bronchodilating effect of intravenous magnesium sulfate in bronchial asthma.” JAMA.1987;257:1076-1078.
[6] Ikeda T. et al., “Treatment of Alzheimer-type dementia with intravenous mecobalamin.” Clin Ther. 1992 May-Jun;14(3):426-37.
[7] Welsh, J.L. et al., “Pharmacological ascorbate with gemcitabine for the control of metastatic and node-positive pancreatic cancer (PACMAN): results from a phase I clinical trial.” Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;71(3):765-75.
[8] Vollbracht, C. et al., “Intravenous vitamin C administration improves quality of life in breast cancer patients during chemo-/radiotherapy and aftercare: results of a retrospective, multicentre, epidemiological cohort study in Germany.” In Vivo. 2011 Nov-Dec;25(6):983-90.
[9] Mikirova, N et al., “Effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C on inflammation in cancer patients.” J Transl Med. 2012 Sep 11;10:189.

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