• Dr. Randi Brown, ND

What is IV-Therapy All About?



You may have heard of it from celebrities on TV, or professional athletes looking for an extra edge, but what is IV therapy and what is it all about? There is a ton of information (or misinformation) on the internet about IV therapy, all of which seems to be conflicting and largely opinion-based. My hope is to help clarify any questions you may have about IV therapy and its potential benefits, uses, and limitations.


What is IV nutrient therapy?

IV nutrient therapy has been around since at least 1984, and was originally used and created by a medical doctor in Baltimore, Dr. John Myers, who treated many of his patients with an intravenous vitamin-mineral formula(1). Since this time, intravenous therapy has largely evolved but the basic theory and application persists. Like it sounds, IV therapy is essentially infusing nutrients such as vitamin C, B, and other minerals and amino acids directly into the bloodstream via intravenous access. The premise here is that these nutrients get directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system to get quick, high-doses of essential nutrients into the cells and around the body for immediate use(1).


What are the potential benefits of IV-Therapy?

The premise is essentially this - by bypassing the digestive system, intravenous administration of nutrients can achieve higher serum (blood) levels of nutrients than oral administration can(2). This is largely because food and nutrients must first be broken down by various digestive enzymes and released from food particles, then absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. The absorption of these nutrients in the digestive system can be limited by the cellular transporters available which can become saturated (overloaded). The availability of these nutrients will then be halted ultimately limiting the absorptive capacity of these nutrients at any one time. For example, high doses of oral vitamin C or magnesium can overwhelm the digestive capabilities and cause loose stool and diarrhea, an undesirable side effect, ultimately limiting systemic absorption and thus use. Additionally, the speed of which some nutrients reach the blood has an impact on their therapeutic potential (by effecting pharmacokinetics)(2). Vitamin C, for instance, has been demonstrated to have an anti-viral and anti-histamine effects at high concentrations in the serum that cannot be reached by oral supplementation(2). Therefore, IV vitamin C has a greater therapeutic potential for viral illnesses (pesky colds) and allergic diseases such as seasonal allergies than oral supplementation alone (note: this is also true for high-dose Vitamin C in cancer therapy, though outside the scope of this discussion)(2,5,6,7). Additionally, magnesium given intravenously has been demonstrated to have a better ability to get inside the cells (where it lives), and exert its therapeutic action when given intravenously thus having greater utility in heart-related conditions(3,4). Again, oral doses do not accomplish this task as efficiently and require frequent dosing (which becomes a compliance issue), and potentially experiencing the odd loose stool as a side effect. Zinc as well, which is required for adequate immune system function and wound healing, can cause severe nausea when supplemented orally, which can be avoided by intravenous administration. Lastly, many drugs either impair or inhibit nutrient absorption when taken concurrently, such as medications for heartburn and aspirin can both inhibit vitamin C and folic acid absorption and some diabetes medications can inhibit B12(8,9). Supplementing individuals on these drugs with IV or IM nutrients may help lower the oral doses they need to take, thus lowering any unwanted side effects.


Overall, IV micronutrients have been used in conjunction with other therapies to treat the following conditions:

 - Unexplained fatigue and CFS (12,16)

 - Viral infections (4,18)

 - Shingles (17)

 - Heart failure (3,12,14)

 - Asthma (10,11,13)

 - Migraines (19)

 - Fibromyalgia and chronic pain (20)

 - Athletes & Professionals (15)

 - Adjunctive cancer therapy (High dose IV vitamin C) (21)

 - Sepsis (in hospital) (22,23)

 - Parkinson’s disease (Intravenous glutathione) (24,25)

 - ICU patients (26)



It’s important to note that to get maximal benefits from IV nutrient therapy it is best used in conjunction with other therapies and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and adequate exercise. So, while IV therapy may not be the magic cure some celebs claim it to be, it can be a useful therapeutic tool when used in combination with a well-rounded treatment plan under the guidance of medical supervision.


What are the side effects, risks, and limitations of IV-therapy?

The most commonly experienced side effects from IV nutrient therapy include some mild injection site discomfort, flushing, inflammation and irritation of the vein itself, lightheadedness and fainting (in some needle-phobics)(1,18). With any therapy, there is always the potential for more serious side effects, and there are some individuals in which it would be considered unsafe to perform this therapy. This is why it is always important to first talk to your ND or health care provider about your previous health history and any current medication and allergies you have.


How do you know it’s right for you?

It’s important to understand the potential benefits and risks before initiating any sort of therapy, so you can ultimately make an informed decision for yourself with the help of your health care provider.


The Take-Home Message:

 - IV nutrients reach greater concentrations in the blood than oral supplementation does altering their pharmacokinetics, which can enhance their therapeutic effects

 - Oral absorption of nutrients and supplements can be blocked or decreased by poor digestive function, alcohol, and other pharmaceutical drugs limiting their benefits, which is bypassed by IV administration

- IV-therapy may be particularly useful for athletes, individuals with fatigue, chronic pain, allergic diseases, and viral infections.

 - Both IV and oral supplementation can have unwanted side effects, especially at higher doses

 - Both IV and oral supplementation should be used in conjunction with other therapies such as healthy lifestyle changes

- IV-therapy is not for everyone and you should always consult your health care provider before initiating therapy


If you are interested in trying IV therapy or want to know more you can call the clinic at 250-598-3314, or contact me at drrandibrown@gmail.com


Yours in health,


Dr. Brown



References


1. Gaby, A. R. (2002). Intravenous nutrient therapy: the" Myers' cocktail". Alternative Medicine Review7(5), 389-403.

2. Blanchard J, Tozer TN, Rowland M. Pharmacokinetic perspectives on megadoses of ascorbic acid. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:1165- 1171.

3. Malkiel-Shapiro B. Further observations on parenteral magnesium sulfate therapy in coronary heart disease: a clinical appraisal. S Afr Med J 1958;32:1211-1215

4. Browne SE. Intravenous magnesium sulphate in arterial disease. Practitioner 1969;202:562- 564. 5. Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ, Pauling L. Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus replication by ascorbate in chronically and acutely infected cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1990;87:7245-7249

5. Uchida K, Mitsui M, Kawakishi S.Monooxygenation of N-acetylhistamine mediated by L-ascorbate. Biochim Biophys Acta 1989;991:377-379.

6. Anah CO, Jarike LN, Baig HA. High dose ascorbic acid in Nigerian asthmatics. Trop Geogr Med 1980;32:132-137.

7. Meletis, C. D., & Zabriskie, N. (2007). Common nutrient depletions caused by pharmaceuticals. Alternative & Complementary Therapies13(1), 10-17.

8. Bradford, G. S., & Taylor, C. T. (1999). Omeprazole and vitamin B12 deficiency. Annals of Pharmacotherapy33(5), 641-643.

9. Okayama H, Aikawa T, Okayama M, et al. Bronchodilating effect of intravenous magnesium sulfate in bronchial asthma. JAMA 1987;257:1076-1078

10. Brunner EH, Delabroise AM, Haddad ZH. Effect of parenteral magnesium on pulmonary function, plasma cAMP, and histamine in bronchial asthma. J Asthma 1985;22:3-11

11. Frustaci A, Caldarulo M, Schiavoni G, et al. Myocardial magnesium content, histology, and antiarrhythmic response to magnesium infusion. Lancet 1987;2:1019.

12. Rowe BH, Bretzlaff JA, Bourdon C, et al. Intravenous magnesium sulfate treatment for acute asthma in the emergency department: a systematic review of the literature. Ann Emerg Med 2000;36:181-190.

13. Mauskop A, Altura BT, Cracco RQ, Altura BM. Intravenous magnesium sulphate relieves migraine attacks in patients with low serum ionized magnesium levels: a pilot study. Clin Sci 1995;89:633-636.

14. Demirkaya S, Vural O, Dora B, Topcuoglu MA. Efficacy of intravenous magnesium sulfate in the treatment of acute migraine attacks. Headache 2001;41:171-177.

15. Mauskop A, Altura BT, Cracco RQ, Altura BM. Intravenous magnesium sulfate relieves cluster headaches in patients with low serum ionized magnesium levels. Headache 1995;35:597-600.

16. Manuel y Keenoy B, Moorkens G, Vertommen J, et al. Magnesium status and parameters of the oxidant-antioxidant balance in patients with chronic fatigue: effects of supplementation with magnesium. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:374-382.

17. Toraman F, Karabulut EH, Alhan HC, Dagdelen S, Tarcan S. Magnesium infusion dramatically decreases the incidence of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting. Ann Thorac Surg. 2001;72(4):1256-1261.

18. Ince C, Schulman SP, Quigley JF, et al. Usefulness of magnesium sulfate in stabilizing cardiac repolarization in heart failure secondary to ischemic cardiomyopathy. Am J Cardiol. 2001;88(3):224-229.

19. Nutritional modulation of exercise-induced immunodepression in athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. A Moreira, RA Kekkonen, L Delgado Journal of clinical nutrition, 2006

20. Clague JE, Edwards RH, Jackson MJ. Intravenous magnesium loading in chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet 1992;340:124-125.

21. Schencking, M., Vollbracht, C., Weiss, G., Lebert, J., Biller, A., Goyvaerts, B., & Kraft, K. (2012). Intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of shingles: results of a multicenter prospective cohort study. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research18(4), CR215.

22. Ewer, T., & Lewis, G. (2011). Intravenous Vitamin C and the Treatment of Infections. Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine30(1), 8.

23. Demirkaya, Ş., Vural, O., Dora, B., & Topçuoğlu, M. A. (2001). Efficacy of intravenous magnesium sulfate in the treatment of acute migraine attacks. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain41(2), 171-177.

24. Gaby, A. R. (2004). Effective magnesium regimens for fatigue/fibromyalgia... Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, (247-248), 28-30.

25. Fritz, H., Flower, G., Weeks, L., Cooley, K., Callachan, M., McGowan, J., ... & Seely, D. (2014). Intravenous vitamin C and cancer: a systematic review. Integrative cancer therapies13(4), 280-300.

26. Galley HF, Davies MJ, NR W. Ascorbyl radical formation in patients with sepsis: effect of ascorbate loading. Free Radic Biol Med 1996;20:139-43.

27. Wilson, J. X. (2013). Evaluation of vitamin C for adjuvant sepsis therapy. Antioxidants & redox signaling19(17), 2129-2140.

28. Hauser, R. A., Lyons, K. E., McClain, T., Carter, S., & Perlmutter, D. (2009). Randomized, double‐blind, pilot evaluation of intravenous glutathione in Parkinson's disease. Movement Disorders24(7), 979-983.

29. Holmay, M. J., Terpstra, M., Coles, L. D., Mishra, U., Ahlskog, M., Öz, G., ... & Tuite, P. J. (2013). N-acetylcysteine boosts brain and blood glutathione in gaucher and Parkinson’s diseases. Clinical neuropharmacology36(4), 103.

30. College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand. High Dose Intravenous Vitamin C Treatment in Critically Ill Patients in New Zealand: College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand, 2010.

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Dr. Brown is a member in good standing with the British Columbia Association of Naturopathic Doctors (BCNA), the College of Naturopathic Physicians in BC (CNPBC) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND). She has pharmaceutical prescribing authority, and also holds certificates in acupuncture, IV and injection therapy, and has advanced cardiac life support training.

As a naturopathic doctor serving the communities of southern Vancouver Island, I acknowledge that land on which I practice naturopathic medicine is within the traditional territories of the Lkwungen (Esquimalt and Songhees), Malahat, Pacheedaht, Scia'new, T'Sou-ke, and WSANEC peoples.