As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am privileged with education and experience using a multitude of treatment options for my patients, including various natural medicines as well as conventional medicines. However, the exact therapy or "tool" used to treat patients is not as important as what the goal of treatment is.... That is, to treat the underlying cause of disease. In the many treatment modalities I utilize, one particular therapy I find exceptionally helpful in treating both chronic and acute conditions, using natural vitamins, minerals, botanicals, antioxidants, homeopathics, and other nutrients. The therapy I am referring to is called Intravenous Nutrient Therapy, or IVNT. There are times when various factors inhibit the body's usual ability to heal itself, such as exceptional stress, nutritional deficiencies, certain medical conditions, etc, where the immune system is unable to function at its best level. In certain situations, IVNT provides the missing link in achieving optimal health benefits from natural medicine. Before continuing to explain why IVNT is so beneficial, first we need to discuss why oral supplementation and healthy diet alone may sometimes need a boost to achieve results.
Nutrient Depletion Despite Super-Supplementation
Very often, I encounter patients who have modified their diets, are taking high quality and appropriate supplements and nutrients, yet still are not experiencing expected improvements. Sometimes they are already on these programs when they show up to my office, yet sometimes they are established patients that have not achieved desired result from treatments. Is the answer that they are taking the WRONG supplements and nutrients? Maybe. Is it possible that they are taking low quality, minimally absorbable supplements? Perhaps. Is it possible that there is something else causing their symptoms? Possibly. However, perhaps they are taking the right type of supplements and treatment plan, the diagnosis is correct, but something else going on....
The Problem of Absorption
In order to have a therapeutic effect, nutrients need to be adequately absorbed and delivered to the cell. Even with the very best, highest quality, most expensive supplements there are issues that prevent adequate absorption nutrients derived through oral supplementation and foods. For some people, these issues can be corrected over time with natural medicine, yet for others, malabsorption may be a long-term condition.
Many factors are needed to elicit optimal absorption and delivery of nutrients, including:
- Optimal gastrointestinal health: when nutrients are taken orally, the gastrointestinal track needs to break down foods and supplements to release the core nutrients, and transport those nutrients to the blood for delivery to the cells requiring them. This requires many steps and is dependent on numerous variables to be intact, including optimal enzyme activity, proper acid production, healthy gut flora, healthy gastrointestinal lining free of inflammation and irritation, absence of "bad" bacteria, healthy parastaltic tone (pumping action of the GI tract), as others.
- Healthy liver function: after the nutrients are transported to the blood, they are then delivered to the liver for filtering and detoxification before having opportunity to reach other cells in the body. This is referred to as "first pass metabolism." A compromised liver can make certain nutrients inactive, ineffective, or bound for excretion before given the opportunity to have their effect in the body.
- Healthy cell membranes: cell membranes contain energy requiring pumps to maintain proper levels of essential nutrients inside the cells. Often nutrients need to be in higher concentration inside the cells compared to outside the cell. In any mixture of substance, there is a natural predisposition for solutes (aka nutrients, minerals, etc) to flow from levels of high concentration to lower concentration, which is called the "concentration gradient." This is analogous to an overcrowded train. People in the overcrowded train will tend to move to an empty train if one is available, so there is more space to breath. However, it would take a little force to squeeze in additional people into an over packed train, requiring some shoving and pushing to make room. Similarly, in order to keep higher levels of nutrients inside the cell where they can do repair and healing, the cell membrane needs to be healthy, and have enough energy (ATP) to fuel the pumps to transport the nutrients from outside the cell (the empty train) to the inside of the cell (crowded train) against the "concentration gradient." This is called "active transport".
Most People Have Suboptimal Absorption
Nutrient, vitamin and mineral absorption from both foods and supplements are suboptimal in most people. Many essential minerals have as little as 1% absorption, and most only have 10-25% absorbed and available to the cells in healthy adults. This is often related to suboptimal functioning of the systems involved in absorption due to various causes.[i] [ii]
- Most people have some degree of gastrointestinal compromise, even when that is not their major complaint. As a naturopathic doctor, I always look to gastrointestinal health as an initial cause of disease. So many diseases and symptoms have direct correlation with gastrointestinal compromise because this leads to malabsorption of nutrients necessary to maintain health! If the body is starving for nutrition, it starts to decay and breakdown. There are numerous factors in modern society contributing to such widespread gastrointestinal dysfunction, which cannot always be avoided. Poor diet, inflammatory foods, processed foods, transfatty acids, environmental toxins (heavy metals, PCB's, pesticides, dioxins, smog), chronic medication use, synthetic hormones, bacteria, viruses, Candida, fungus, chronic stress, and so on all engender decreased gastrointestinal health. With sub-par gastrointestinal function, is it a surprise that most people are unable to absorb nutrients requiring optimal gastrointestinal function?
- We as a society tend to ascribe to the thinking of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." As a naturopath, I hope to change this thinking to "If it ain't broke, lets keep it that way!" Not as catchy. However, until this paradigm shift fully occurs, people tend to seek healthcare when they are already sick or starting to have symptoms. By that time there is already diminished function down to the cell itself, with decreased energy production causing compromised membrane function. To recall, membrane pumps require energy to bring in essential nutrients and transport out toxins. This becomes a Catch 22 situation: nutrient depletion and toxins lead to cellular dysfunction, decreased energy production and "disease"; this leads to impaired membrane pumps required to maintain optimal intracellular nutrient levels and export of toxins (the cellular trash); often the nutrients may be present in small concentration surrounding the cell; if the cell could take those nutrients inside the cell, they would help promote healing and repair; however, the cell may be too sick or energy depleted to fuel the pumps required to bring those nutrients in! This is why many people taking wonderful supplements and eating a whole food diet may not experience the improvements they expect. Their cells are not healthy enough to get healthy!!!!
Some Medicinal Effects of Nutrients Only Achieved At High Levels
Though nutrients may have numerous effects in the body, some of these effects are only attained after reaching very high levels. For example, vitamin C has been demonstrated to have an antiviral effect at high serum concentrations of 10-15 mg/dL.[iii] These levels are not achievable via oral route even in a healthy individual. The highest plasma concentration achieved through oral administration of vitamin C is 9.2 mg/dL. [iv] This means that no matter how much vitamin C someone ingests, they will be unable to raise their blood levels beyond a certain point. To put that in perspective, a standard, preventative dose of 2.5 grams/day of vitamin C will only raise the serum concentration to about 1.2-1.5 mg/dl. Even if we could achieve higher and higher serum concentrations from super dosing of vitamin C, such high oral dosing often causes disagreeable gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea and nausea. A similar effect is found with magnesium supplementation, where oral supplementation has a peak serum concentration beyond which even super-dosing with oral magnesium cannot surpass.
Playing The Game of Nutritional "Catch-Up"
Another factor hindering fast and significant improvement from healthy diet and supplementation is that by the time healthy regimens are implemented, the body may be so depleted that it needs a long time to "catch up". In addition, many people are basing adequate supplementation levels on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) guidelines, which are levels intended to avoid deficiency induced diseases, but have little to do with levels promoting optimal health. Therefore, most individuals are nutrient deficit, which requires even higher amounts and longer periods of time to "catch up". This effect is further compounded when considering the multiple factors that hinder absorption discussed above (gastrointestinal health, cellular absorption capacity, etc). Often nutrients are used therapeutically in levels over and above what are necessary for baseline function (homeostasis), so it follows that before one can achieve such benefit, they must first raise their levels to baseline. The body needs to be out of debt before it can make a nutritional profit!
Overcoming The Obstacles Using Intravenous Nutrient Therapy: A Safe, Effective, and Natural Method To Achieve Optimal Health
With so many obstacles to achieving therapeutic benefit from vitamins, minerals and nutrients, does that mean we should just throw in the towel and have a Big Mac? Absolutely not. Most of the obstacles presented can be addressed and remedied using natural medicine over time. A very effective therapy to help circumvent these obstacles is called Intravenous Nutrient Therapy, or IVNT.
While oral supplementation and diet requires adequate gastrointestinal absorption and "first pass metabolism" through the liver, IVNT delivers nutrients directly to the circulation and to the cells where the nutrients are needed. In addition, whereas oral absorption may be 1-25%, IVNT provides 100% of nutrients delivered to be available to cells for repair and health. This circumvents the problem of malabsorption, gastrointestinal disease, and liver dysfunction to allow the nutrients to have immediate and direct action promoting improved health and function.
IVNT provides a "kick start" by making nutrients more readily available and easier to transport inside the cells. By providing higher nutrient concentration in the blood than can be achieved with oral therapy, cells are no longer reliant on energy dependent mechanisms to transport nutrients inside. Nutrients can enter cells via "passive transport" requiring less energy than "active transport". Using the train analogy, IVNT supersaturates the surrounding blood, so that the inside of the cell is more like the empty train, and the surrounding blood is like the overcrowded train. The nutrients require less work to travel from high concentration (packed train, or bloodstream) to lower concentration (empty train, or inside the cell). Furthermore, nutrients delivered via IVNT can provide high enough concentrations to elicit pharmacological (drug-like) effect on cells which can only be achieved at such high levels. For example, Vitamin C can have a virus killing effect but only at very high plasma concentrations. Thus, IVNT allows for natural substances to have drug-like effect without the side effects and dangers of using synthetic and toxic drugs!
IVNT can be used as a crutch to fast track nutrient delivery which allows the body to become healthy enough to better utilize nutrients, drugs, or other therapies. As discussed, there is a therapeutic Catch 22 in cellular health, where the cells need to be healthy enough to have enough energy to bring in the nutrients required for repair, but a sick cell may not be able to do so even if those nutrients are around. IVNT provides a method of increasing nutrient absorption so that the body can become healthy enough to heal itself. For some, it is a therapy used temporarily to accelerate the healing process. For others, IVNT should be utilized long term to overcome their health challenges. Â¯
Conditions Treated with IVNT[v] [vi] [vii]IVNT is a safe and effective therapy using natural substances in high quantities which enables accelerated healing for optimal health. Most any condition can benefit from high dose nutrient therapy, from general health optimization, acute cold symptoms, to caner, migraines, and viral infections. The many conditions which benefit from IVNT include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Parkinson's Disease
- Migraine Headaches
- Macular degeneration, Cataracts and certain Retinopathies
- Autoimmune conditions
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
- Lyme Disease and other chronic infections
- Herpes Virus
- Environmental Toxicity
- Malabsorption problems (i.e. gastritis, ulcers, IBS, Crohn's, colitis, diverticulits)
- Flu symptoms
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Macular Degeneration
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Post traumatic/post operative wound healing
- Heart disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
Therapeutic Effect of IVNT
Benefits seen by patients vary and depend on the severity of the illness and individual response to treatment. The desired goals expected include:
- Stimulates and increases immune system function
- Encourages cellular repair and regeneration
- Accelerates the process of recovery
- Provides preventative immune support
- Inhibits disease progression
- Enhances treatment efficacy
- Bolsters cancer-fighting capacity
- Increases energy
- Improves circulation
- Increases cellular detoxification
- Enhances sense of wellbeing
- Decreases symptoms related to chronic or acute illness
- Alleviates nutritional deficiencies
- Hydrates the body
- Increases body's ability to heal
Natural Substances Used in IVNT
· Amino Acids
· Vitamin C
· Chelating agents
· Sodium Bicarbonate
· Herbal and homeopathic medicines
· Meyer's Cocktail (including)
- B complex
- Vitamin C
- Dexpenthanol (Vitamin B5)
Complications/side effects and safety
Intravenous delivery of nutrients, when administered by a trained and qualified doctor, is extremely safe and efficacious. Some potential short term side effects include a warm sensation due to some of the minerals, hypotension (lowered blood pressure), and changes in blood sugar. There are some rare but potential side effects that occur with any time of IV administration, such as phlebitis (inflammation of the vein), allergic reaction (rare), or minor discomfort. Overall, IVNT is a very safe therapy. It is essential to let the doctor know if you are taking any medications or have any additional health complaints that were not discussed during the office visit to rule out any possible contraindications to treatment.
Intravenous infusions of certain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, homeopathics, botanicals and other nutrients can often be the missing link in achieving optimal health. It can be used as a short term accelerator towards therapeutic goals, or longer term to provide more efficient delivery of needed substances for maximal effect. It is one treatment amongst many within the realm of natural medicine, and when used appropriately, can provide astonishing results!
[i] Turnland JR. Bioavailability of dietary minerals to humans: the stable isotope approach. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1991;30(4);387-396
[ii]  Schumann K, et al. Bioavailability of oral vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals in perspective. Arzneimittelforshcung
[iii] 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
[iv] Blanchard J, Tozer TN, Rowland M. Pharmacokinetic perspectives on megadoses of ascorbic acid. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:1165-1171
[v] Gaby A (2002). "Intravenous nutrient therapy: the "Myers' cocktail"". Altern Med Rev
[vi] Shrader W (2004). "Short and long term treatment of asthma with intravenous nutrients". Nutr J 3: 6.
[vii] Massey, Patrick B. (May/June 2007). "Reduction of fibromyalgia symptoms through intravenous nutrient therapy: Results of a pilot clinical trial". Alternative Therapies 13 (3): 32-34.