IV therapy is a relatively new method of delivering medicine to patients, with its popularity taking off in the 1950s. It is a quick, effective way to administer fluids as well as medications and has helped saved lives by rapidly administering life-saving drugs, such as antibiotics. It has been utilized widely with cancer patients in the form of chemotherapy which can be very harsh on the body. While it attacks cancerous cells, chemo can affect healthy tissues such as hair follicles and the GI tract lining, causing its well-known side effects of hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and the list goes on. With the emergence of IV nutrient therapy, there has been much research to help increase benefits of standard treatment, reduce side effects, and increase quality of life after treatment is finished.
IV Nutrient Therapy
IV nutrient therapy is a safe way to administer high doses of vitamins or minerals to the body. Since they enter the bloodstream, they can be delivered right away to the body’s cells which can uptake them for use. In contrast, when a nutrient is taken into the body by mouth, it is broken down in the stomach and absorbed by the small intestine and then enters the bloodstream. Vitamins are not absorbed 100% in the GI system. The percentage absorbed goes down with any level of GI dysfunction; low stomach acid, bacterial dysbiosis, malabsorption, or inflammation. On top of the potential GI dysfunction, our world is more toxic today than ever before. We are exposed to constant insults like poor food quality, infections, chemicals, pollution, alcohol, and heavy metals, not to mention chemotherapy. The body has an increased demand for vitamins and minerals so it can detoxify these pollutants and regenerate healthy cells. Mega doses of nutrients can be given safely through IV therapy and the body can be rapidly repleted. This helps the body deal with stress, detoxification, immune function, cellular functions, life extension, and regeneration. All of this becomes even more depleted when going through the stress of cancer; the physical treatment, the emotional, mental, social, and financial burden of cancer that can further stress the body.
IV Vitamin C
IV Vitamin C, or ascorbate, therapy is probably one of the more well-known therapies for cancer patients. It all can be considered “high dose” as standard oral therapy is usually around 1000 mg or 1 gram by mouth. However, IV Vitamin C can be given at low doses of 5 grams up to 20 grams, or higher doses of 20 grams and up, usually maxing out somewhere around 125 grams depending on the practitioner. The IV route of Vitamin C is the only way to achieve plasma concentrations high enough that have shown clinical benefit for cancer patients. Vitamin C has been shown to have downstream effects on repairing DNA damage, mitochondrial damage, and stimulate apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Additionally, Vitamin C has a positive effect on inflammation markers which can fuel abnormal cell division. Cancer patients have been shown to have lower concentrations of plasma ascorbate levels upon diagnosis. While IV Vitamin C is not contraindicated in any cancers, it has more research showing its effectiveness in certain types of cancers, like ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Additionally, Vitamin C can be synergistic with certain chemotherapeutic agents, which would increase their efficacy. While IV Vitamin C therapy is not curative for cancer, it has been shown in multiple studies to improve quality of life measures, such as fatigue, pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Another IV therapy is Poly-MVA, or lipoic acid mineral complex (LAMC). It contains complex molecules that can enter a cell and work on the mitochondria to create energy. Like Vitamin C therapy, this therapy has multiple benefits. It has been shown to be protective for the neurologic and cardiac system, which some classes of chemotherapies can cause adverse effects in these systems. It has anticancer benefits as it helps create energy in healthy cells and does not feed cancerous cells. It also promotes DNA repair and protects cells against toxins, which makes it great to use after chemotherapy and radiation. Again, this IV therapy helps improve quality of life measures. Because it helps produce energy in the cells, it helps with fatigue levels and overall well-being. It is a great addition after standard treatments because it can benefit pain and neuropathy.
Glutathione is an effective treatment following chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant and has an affinity for the neurological system. Since chemotherapy and radiation can cause lots of oxidative stress, glutathione is easily depleted after these types of treatments. It can help repair and regenerate cells and tissues in the body, specifically if neuropathies are present. Since standard treatments can also deplete many other nutrients, it is best to give glutathione with a nutrient IV. Many nutrients are necessary cofactors to help the body recycle glutathione, which makes it more effective.
It is known that cancer and its treatment can cause malnourishment due to increased need for nutrients and a decreased intake due to loss of appetite. Having proper nutrients will help with quality of life measures such as energy, pain levels, mental functioning, and decreasing side effects of any standard treatment. These formulas are also rehydrating as well. Nutrient IV formulas can vary widely depending on the practitioner. Many nutrient IVs are labeled as a “Myers cocktail”. This was pioneered by Dr. John Myers, MD. He used a standard mixture of nutrients to help a variety of complaints successfully. Nutrient IVs can include any and all the following nutrients: B complex including B12, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, trace minerals, Selenium, and amino acids. These can be administered at any time of a cancer diagnosis: before treatment to build a strong foundation, in between rounds of chemotherapy to minimize side effects and strengthen the body, or after treatment for repletion.
Standard treatment for cancer is hard on the body, not only physically but mentally draining as well. Many of the therapies offered by oncologist address the pathology but do not address the whole person and many of the side effects that come with these treatments. IV nutrient therapy can support a person safely through their cancer journey. While none of these therapies are a replacement for standard treatment or curative, there are many studies demonstrating the efficacy of these treatments in supporting the body. IV therapy is a great addition to care during cancer treatment for building a strong foundation to minimize side effects and overall improve quality of life during and after care.
Dr. Carissa Fioritto, ND, RN is a licensed Naturopathic Physician practicing at Collaborative Natural Health Partners, LLC. She is an in-network provider with most major health insurance providers and is accepting new patients. Please call 860-533-0179 to schedule an appointment.