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All Things Vitamin C IV Therapy

So get started, why would anybody wanna stick a bunch of vitamin C directly into your veins rather than just go get some Emergen-C from the local CVS? 

When it comes to vitamin C for immune support, the amount you take orally is quite limited depending on how sick you are, due to a concept called bowel tolerance. When you’re healthy, we don’t need as much vitamin C, so you might take 1-2g and it will give you diarrhea, vitamin C has an osmotic effect, which means it draws water from the digestive tract, resulting in loose stool. However, when you’re sick, your demand for vitamin C grows exponentially.

One packet of Emergen-C contains 1g of vitamin C, while one IV bag contains up to 75g of vitamin C, and if you tried to drink 75 packets of Emergency-C, you’ll likely experience the symptoms mentioned above, as opposed to an IV that is administered intravenously.

an IV bag hangs from a pole, the nutrients making the liquid inside bright yellow

What does a high dose of vitamin C do for immune function?

If done through an IV, 25g and above is considered a high dose of vitamin C. Below 25g, vitamin C is an antioxidant, but above 25g, it turns into a pro-oxidant and has anti-viral properties. You can achieve this through IV therapy as opposed to supplements because you can completely bypass the digestive tract by going straight into the vein, so you don’t risk diarrhea or other side effects with this dosage of up to 75g.

How effective are high-dose vitamin C bags then? 

They are pretty powerful. High-dose vitamin C bags are actually used in the integrative oncology world in conjunction with cancer treatment. We want to be very careful with the language here- these bags don’t prevent it, but we have seen how effective they are in treating symptoms of colds, the flu, and viruses. Additionally, vitamin C bags can also shorten the duration of symptoms as well. 

What are the safety considerations with so much Vitamin C?

First of all, you have to do some testing. The reason our naturopaths require tests is for the safety of the patient because we are putting more nutrients in our IVs. At Stark, every single patient has to have a screening test for an enzyme deficiency called G6PD. It’s a rare genetic deficiency, with our naturopathic team having only seen it in about 3 patients out of over 2,000. However, for those that do have this deficiency, if we were to give them a high dose Vitamin C bag, it will cause their red blood cells to literally burst, called hemolysis, which could kill them. This is the primary reason we don’t allow walk-ins for IVs- they must be under our care.

How are IV lounges and other IV services able to offer walk-ins?

First off, they are not doing any testing. In most cases, they aren’t even checking vitals, which can still cause problems. In the case of uncontrolled hypertension, I wouldn’t add more fluid to an already pressurized system. They are also not checking for G6PD, liver function, or kidney function.

This means they can’t administer high doses of vitamin C, and they have less nutrients in their bags. It’s mostly just saline, which does help with hydration, but if you want a therapeutic dose of nutrients, you have to do additional testing.

IV lounges can only give maybe 12g of vitamin C in their bags, as opposed to 25-50g in one of ours. 12.5g is the ceiling for untested patients, but that’s only half the recommended dose needed for immune support, especially if you’re already sick.

What types of things can Vitamin C bags help with?

Well, plenty of issues, but I can touch on a few of the most common. As mentioned before these bags can help minimize and shorten the timeframe of symptoms in patients with colds, the flu, and viruses. In the case of poor gut function, whether they are struggling to properly absorb nutrients from their food or supplements, then IV therapy is key to bypassing the gut so that the body has access to these nutrients.

Sometimes we will use it to help someone with high blood pressure, and it’s not a whole bag, but we will give them magnesium to help with vasodilation to open things up and decrease pressure. Of course, there are also patients who come in for “hangover” bags after a night of heavy drinking since IV hydration can help shorten that hangover period. 

Dr. Alice formulating an IV bag

Can you tell us what exactly goes into the IV bags?

We actually formulate the bag depending on the person. Typically there is vitamin C, although the dosage depends on what we are treating, the G6PD results, and other blood work. Then we can add the nutrients you are short on, and omit the nutrients you don’t need more of. It really is that simple.

For more information on IV therapy, you can hear the full conversation between Todd and Dr. Alice on the latest Stark Naked Radio episode here!