High Dose Vitamin C Infusions
by Beth Aust, RN
How many times when you have had a cold or are feeling run-down has someone said to you, “You need some Vitamin C!”? Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is found in food and vitamin supplements, and it cannot be made by the human body. It is an anti-oxidant that helps prevent damage to cells from free radicals.
It’s no surprise that Vitamin C is the top selling vitamin, because most people know of its powerful antioxidant support when taken as an oral supplement. However, did you know high dose intravenous vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been used as therapy for bacterial infections, viral infections, and as a therapy for cancer?
Intravenous (IV) therapy is a method of feeding vitamins, minerals, and amino acids directly into the bloodstream used to correct intracellular nutrient deficiencies. Oral intake of such high doses is simply not possible due to absorption limitations from the digestive process.
High dose IV Vitamin C is used in Cancer to:
1. Improve quality of life
2. Slow cancer progression
3. Reduce cancer treatment related side effects
In general, cancer patients have a decrease in vitamin C levels and reserves in the blood, as well as cellular and tissue levels. Oral doses of vitamin C can only achieve maximum blood concentrations of 220 micromoles per liter. At this concentration, vitamin C acts as antioxidant: protecting healthy cells from oxidative stress and from some bacteria and viruses. Only with IV vitamin C can blood levels greater than 1,000 micromoles per liter be achieved, and at these levels, vitamin C becomes directly toxic to cancer cells (or pro-oxidant).
The antiviral effects of Vitamin C are seen when blood levels are around 10-15 mg/dL. This level is achievable with IV therapy, but not orally. Oral dosage typically peaks with blood levels around 1.2-4.0 mg/dL vs. IV therapy of 50-90 mg/dL.
There are very few side effects associated with high dose IV vitamin C if patients are appropriately screened before starting therapy. The most common side effect reported is lethargy or fatigue; occasionally patients may experience vein irritation, nausea and vomiting, change in mental status, or pain at tumor sites.
Lab testing (assessment of baseline complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic profile and G6PD level) is required before receiving any excess of 15 grams of high dose vitamin C per IV session. Patients with a G6PD deficiency or PNH (paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria) should not receive high dose IV vitamin C. Caution is recommended in patients with an iron overload disease, renal insufficiency or renal failure, those undergoing hemodialysis, and patients with a history of kidney stones.
High dose IV vitamin c has not been studied for use by pregnant or lactating woman, or by children.
Fingerstick glucose measurement is a surrogate marker for blood vitamin C levels. Dosing ranges from 25-75 grams per infusion, and is based on measuring pre and post glucose levels.
For further information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Puc to see if High dose IV Vitamin C is right for you, call IM of CNY at 315-741-5774.