Vitamin C therapy is once again in the spotlight with its reported use in various clinical scenarios during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. The use of Vitamin C in traditional medicine has been a widely discussed topic ever since it was first proposed by Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize scientist, in the 1950s. Over the years its purported uses ranged from treating the common cold to stubborn cancer cases. There have been miraculous case reports of using high doses of intravenous (IV) Vitamin C when other treatments have failed, and as such, it has garnered a mystical status.
What is so special about Vitamin C and why is it not more commonly used? Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid and ascorbate, is an essential vitamin, meaning that the body cannot produce this nutrient and it must be supplemented. It is also a water-soluble vitamin, which means that any excess gets excreted. These properties are crucial as they explain many of the observations and inconsistencies with Vitamin C research over the years.
How does it work
Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant, neutralizing toxins and free radicals that would otherwise cause damage to the body. It functions in many bodily processes, but perhaps, best known for its role in immunity and collagen production. Our body’s defense mechanism needs this vitamin to combat bacteria and viruses to keep us healthy. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body which makes up our skin, nails, hair, and gives structure to our internal organs. To highlight the example, a decrease in collagen from Vitamin C deficiency results in wrinkled skin, brittle hair, and weak nails. As such, Vitamin C is central to maintaining wellbeing and form.
Where does it come from
Most people think of citrus when they think of Vitamin C, and rightfully so, as these are packed with the essential nutrient. There are many other excellent sources such as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, peppers and a variety of other fruits. Because of its availability, deficiency is rare with a balanced diet.
Vitamin C supplements are also widely commercially available in the form of capsules, tablets and powders. The major drawback in taking this supplement is due to gastric intolerances, especially in high doses. Other ways to take in Vitamin C include the use of IV therapy or with intramuscular administration which effectively bypasses the gut, delivering the nutrient straight into the body.
What happens if there’s not enough
Deficiency results in a disease called Scurvy, characterized by bleeding gums, impaired healing, and joint pain. As previously mentioned, Vitamin C is required for the body to produce collagen which forms the structure of blood vessels and is crucial for wound repair.
Due to its properties, Vitamin C has been the subject of significant investigation. There have been many reports that suggest Vitamin C intake is correlated with positive cardiovascular profile, lower risk of developing diabetes, dementia, certain types of cancer, and a resiliency against infections.
One of the most common criticisms of Vitamin C claims is that the results are frequently hard to replicate and at times contradictory. Frequently the studies that are inconsistent are based on less rigorous scientific reporting, relying on test subject recall versus actual blood measurements. The other main limitation is related to its water-solubility property. Because any excess gets excreted, it is virtually impossible to raise the blood concentration of Vitamin C by oral supplementation. This is where IV Vitamin C therapy comes into play, because it has the ability to transiently supersaturate the blood Vitamin C concentration, which is otherwise not achievable by oral supplementation. This high concentration is what is commonly observed with therapeutic benefits.
What are the benefits
Vitamin C will not prevent the general population from contracting an illness; however, through its anti-oxidant and immune related properties, it has been demonstrated to reduce severity and duration of the common cold (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782). The referenced study also suggested that Vitamin C supplementation reduces incidences of colds in people that experienced stress which taken together with shorter and less severe symptoms may appear as preventative effects.
A recent clinical trial conducted in China on coronavirus patients demonstrated that high dose IV Vitamin C therapy decreased duration of hospital stay by about 3-5 days (http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v16n18.shtml). Three to five days may not seem like a long time, but it is well known that the sooner a patient can be discharged, the lesser the chance of inpatient related complications. Furthermore, all subjects receiving IV Vitamin C therapy survived complications from COVID-19.
Based on those findings, Vitamin C infusion protocols are now gaining momentum and being widely utilized in other health systems due to its life-saving effects (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8149191/New-York-hospitals-treating-corona-patients-6000-milligrams-VITAMIN-C.html).
Even though the results are preliminary, the implications are profound. The referenced studies enrolled subjects with moderate to severe disease. This brings to question as to whether there would be a benefit applying the same treatments to asymptomatic patients or helping people suffering mild disease to prevent progression. Further studies are warranted to ascertain the utility of this preventative measure which if proven, may help keep people out of hospitals and decompress an already overstretched healthcare system.
Mainstream medicine focuses a lot of resources on disease treatments, but not enough on preventative health. Numerous studies have demonstrated that preventative health initiatives have the highest return on investment. High dose Vitamin C IV drips are extremely safe with minimal side effects and long been established in therapies such as the Myer’s cocktail.
Why high dose IV Vitamin C therapy
For the aforementioned reasons, IV delivery of high dose Vitamin C, has the potential benefit for a broader audience. One other important benefit not discussed is the hydration benefits of IV therapy. IVs directly introduce fluids into the body, effectively flushing the system, and help establish equilibrium. This can be thought of as the equivalent of handwashing internally. And, when fortified with high dose Vitamin C, it has a synergistic effect by delivering potent anti-oxidants to detoxify stress radicals and supplying much needed nutrient for the immune system to combat invading germs such as the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented societal changes and awareness. During this time there has been a lot of focus on proper hygiene, universal safety precautions, but it shouldn’t require a contagion for people to emphasize this basic practice. The same thing goes for preventative health. As the term suggests, this is a fundamental doctrine to maintaining wellbeing, and nutrition is core to that.
The year 2020 will be recorded in history as a wake-up call; one that results in more awareness for people to take control of their own lives. The globalized world we live in is one with endless possibilities made attainable by the democratization of healthcare. Never before has preventative health been made so available. This is the future of wellness. Go and live beyond limits.