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Can IV Vitamin C Soothe Immune Stress?

vitamin-c-immune-stress

If you have ever struggled with a cold or flu, you know how much they can make you suffer. Imagine how much stress ongoing infections can place on your system. Conventional medicine has no treatments, but IV infusions can provide a variety of nutrients your body needs to fight both bacterial and viral infections. How is it that something so simple can be so helpful?

vitamin-c-immune-stress

IV Infusions In Practice

Let’s consider an example. Believe it or not, recent studies on intravenous infusions of vitamin C have highlighted the power of this intervention in one of the most dangerous areas of acute illness: sepsis.

In doing so, these researchers have found a new potential for IV vitamin C to be used as a novel therapeutic in the acute patient setting.

Bottom Line: Considering the use of nutrient IV infusions for helping patients in such critical conditions, what might it also be able to help with in terms of common bacterial and viral infections in the outpatient setting?

Recent Studies on Vitamin C and Sepsis

First, we need to start with a better understanding of sepsis (and what it does to your body). Sepsis occurs when an infection in one area of your body triggers an inflammatory response in the rest of your body.

Key Insight: Sepsis is a very serious condition that can lead to problematic hypotension and multisystem organ failure.

Interestingly, researchers have noticed septic patients have very depleted levels of vitamin C1.

Providing vitamin C appears to put a halt to the runaway inflammatory response, protecting against the excess of reactive oxygen species found in the septic state.

In sepsis, vitamin C appears to work through several different ways to:

    • Protect blood vessels2,3
    • Normalize heart rate and protect the heart1,3
    • Decrease need for medication to stabilize blood pressure4,1
    • Aid in the synthesis of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin5
    • Decrease inflammation and improve immune function2,3
    • Decrease organ damage2
    • Reduce mortality4,6

The clinical trials of IV vitamin C, in regards to sepsis, have been small but promising. A study of 24 patients found that those who received a higher dose of IV vitamin C had better recovery than those receiving the lower dose or placebo2.

A more recent double-blind randomized study of 28 patients saw that over 28 days, mortality in the vitamin C group was 14% compared to 64% in the control group4.

The latest study involved 94 patients. In this study, the researchers examined the medical records of an intensive care unit to compare septic patients receiving two different types of therapy.

One group of patients had received standard care. The other group had received standard care in addition to IV vitamin C combined with hydrocortisone and thiamine. The group receiving the additional IV therapy fared much better than the control group, with a mortality rate of 8.5% compared to 40.4%6.

Bottom Line: While the results might not be there in terms of quality, the initial results that we can see for IV vitamin C in treating sepsis are very promising.

History of Vitamin C IVs

Although vitamin C deficiency and scurvy might seem like a historical occurrence, vitamin C is actually a common deficiency in the United States7.

If you consider that your vitamin C requirement is increased with stress, infection, inflammation and other demands7 on your body, it likely isn’t as surprising that you might need a little more in a polluted world with high incidences of inflammatory disease and a stressful pace of life.

One of the earliest uses of IV vitamin C for the treatment of infections was in 1940s. At this time, Dr. Klenner of North Carolina reported on the use of IV vitamin C for viral infections such as polio and viral pneumonia.

Bottom Line: Since its inception, IV vitamin C has gained popularity in providing immune support for acute infections.

Interested in going beyond the history, and perhaps learning more about your body beyond vitamin C? Here is something you should definitely be considering…

The Thyroid Reset Program - Dr. Alan Christianson

How Does IV Vitamin C Work?

Although some animals can make their own vitamin C in the liver, humans must acquire their vitamin C from dietary sources.

A lot of vitamin C can actually be stored in your adrenal glands and is released under stress. In addition to this, vitamin C is needed for many reactions in our body to take place, including the synthesis of adrenal hormones.

Key Insight: When we are under certain kinds of stress, taking certain medications, or combating infection our body’s requirement for vitamin C can increase.

You can only absorb a small amount of vitamin C in your gastrointestinal tract (around 1000 mg), and intravenous infusions are an effective way to reach much higher blood levels of vitamin C3,8.

The Role of Safety

In studies of patients with sepsis (or with a variety of other acute conditions), IV vitamin C has been well-tolerated. High amounts of vitamin C can show pro-oxidant effects in cell studies, but clinical studies in humans have not demonstrated pro-oxidant effects3.

One potential side effect of IV vitamin C at high doses is calcium oxalate kidney stones. This is why one of the studies of vitamin C for patients with sepsis used vitamin C in combination with thiamine. However, it is unknown how much of a risk this actually is for short-term high-dose IV vitamin C therapy9.

Although IV vitamin C is generally given without adverse effects, those with glucose-6-phosphate deficiencies should avoid high doses of IV vitamin C. Glucose-6-phosphate deficiency is an X-linked recessive disorder that under certain conditions can lead to rupture of blood cells.

Interestingly, vitamin C is similar enough to glucose that it can cause a false blood glucose reading.10 This is something to keep in mind if you happen to check your blood glucose after receiving an IV.

Additional Benefits

IV infusions can provide a higher dose of vitamin C than you can achieve with oral forms (1). You need adequate vitamin C to prevent infections and once an infection is present, higher doses are needed to make up for the increased use of vitamin C in the body7.

Key Insight: Once the acute concern is past, an oral form may be sufficient to meet your daily needs for vitamin C (2).

In addition to helping fight infections, vitamin C plays an important role in adrenal health (3).

Imagine next time you have a big event coming up – maybe a well-earned vacation – you absolutely do not want to get sick. Think about IV Vitamin C as an easy way to prevent illnesses.

At the same time, you should also consider dialing in your nutrition, more generally. For that, there is a simple solution…

Daily Reset Packs - Complete Nutrition - Dr. Alan Christianson

Getting Treated with IV Vitamin C

Allow about 60 minutes start to finish for a treatment and bring a nice book to read. If you are a patient at Integrative Health, you can get same-day care.

If you have not been in yet, an IV can be a great way to get started. Feel free to call the team at 480-657-0003 and they can get you in quickly for a quick meet and greet with a medical resident just before your IV.

1. Carr, A. C., Shaw, G. M., Fowler, A. A. & Natarajan, R. Ascorbate-dependent vasopressor synthesis: a rationale for vitamin C administration in severe sepsis and septic shock? Crit. Care 19, 418 (2015).
2. Fowler, A. A. et al. Phase I safety trial of intravenous ascorbic acid in patients with severe sepsis. J. Transl. Med. 12, 32 (2014).
3. Marik, P. E. Vitamin C for the treatment of sepsis: The scientific rationale. Pharmacol. Ther. (2018). doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2018.04.007
4. Zabet, M., Mohammadi, M., Ramezani, M. & Khalili, H. Effect of high-dose Ascorbic acid on vasopressor′s requirement in septic shock. J. Res. Pharm. Pract. 5, 94 (2016).
5. Kuhn, S.-O., Meissner, K., Mayes, L. M. & Bartels, K. Vitamin C in sepsis. Curr. Opin. Anaesthesiol. 31, 1 (2017).
6. Marik, P. E., Khangoora, V., Rivera, R., Hooper, M. H. & Catravas, J. Hydrocortisone, Vitamin C, and Thiamine for the Treatment of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock. Chest 151, 1229–1238 (2017).
7. Carr, A. C. & Maggini, S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
8. Padayatty, S. J. et al. Vitamin C pharmacokinetics: implications for oral and intravenous use. Ann. Intern. Med. 140, 533–7 (2004).
9. Oudemans-van Straaten, H. M., Elbers, P. W. G. & Spoelstra-de Man, A. M. E. How to Give Vitamin C a Cautious but Fair Chance in Severe Sepsis. Chest 151, 1199–1200 (2017).
10. Sartor, Z., Kesey, J. & Dissanaike, S. The Effects of Intravenous Vitamin C on Point-of-Care Glucose Monitoring. J. Burn Care Res. 36, 50–56 (2015).

Written by Dr. Tiffany Turner of Integrative Health.  Tiffany Turner is a fourth-year naturopathic medical student at SCNM. Prior to moving to Arizona, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree with majors in Psychology and Biology from the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

For the last four years, she has been a part of a research team that focuses on the prevention, control, and treatment of multi-drug resistant bacteria and viruses using botanicals. Her work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals.  

Her love of botanical medicine and curiosity about infectious diseases has sparked a passion for sharing her research with others. She has presented nationally at integrative conferences including the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine Symposium, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Annual Convention, the Southwest Conference on Botanical Medicine, and the Ancestral Health Symposium as well as internationally at the International Congress on Naturopathic Medicine.

She has a special interest in endocrinology and mental health and is pursuing additional training under the mentorship of Dr. Christianson and the other doctors at Integrative Health.

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