Rationale for Parenteral Vitamin and Mineral Therapy
By the time symptoms of disease have made their appearance, it is sometimes too late for oral vitamins and minerals to make much difference. Nevertheless, these same vitamins and minerals, given intramuscularly or intravenously, can benefit many diseases. At first glance, this looks like a contradiction. If nutrients can be used to handle disease, it should not matter by which route they enter the body. However, there is a good reason why it does matter.
It is a fact of biology that all life, except for viruses, is composed of cells and cell products. When we attempt to bring a disease under control, what we are really trying to do is provide cells with all the nutrients they need to get the job done. If the cells are not healthy, we are not healthy, since our bodies are composed entirely of cells and cell products.
So we approach the problem of curing disease as a problem of "the cell." We think of the health of a single cell to clarify our thinking, understanding "the cell" is actually billions of cells. We want to provide the cell what it needs to exist in a healthy condition. What the cell needs to be maximally healthy is always found in nature and is never found in a pharmaceutical lab test tube.
However to work, these nutrients must be admitted into the cell, through the cell wall, to the inside of the cell. This is called "transport" and constitutes work done by the cell and thus requires energy. The best nutrient formula does no good when the nutrients remain in the extracellular space (outside the cell), circulating around the body, waiting to be filtered out by the kidneys.
There is another method by which nutrients enter cells: by absorption. Nutrients slip through the wall without requiring the participation of the cell or any work from the cell. The cell wall is thus said to be "semipermeable"; i.e., it will keep out all but a small percentage of nutrients unless they are actively transported from the outside of the cell to the inside. Absorption is a minor method of nutrient entry into cells, under ordinary conditions. It depends on a "concentration gradient," as the biochemists call it; i.e., it depends on nutrients being in a higher concentration on the outside of the cell compared to the inside of the cell.
Now comes the point: if the cell is sick, it does not perform its functions well. One of these functions which it does not perform well is transport of nutrients across the cell wall. Therefore, we have a Catch-22: the cell is sick and does not transport well. What is needed to make the cell healthy are nutrients inside the cell; however, the cell is too sick to transport the nutrients in sufficient quantity to create health. What to do?
The answer is simple: give nutrients in a concentration high enough to force those nutrients into the cell by means of a high concentration gradient and the ability of the cell wall to absorb without expending its energy on active transport. When given in high concentration, IV or IM nutrients enter the cell by shear force of numbers. Highly concentrated on the outside, the "semipermeable" cell wall admits the nutrients due to the high concentration gradient which has been created.
Therefore, if the cell can only absorb ten percent of what it needs under conditions of usual concentration, and we increase the concentration of nutrient available by 1000% (ten times the usual), we automatically increase absorption to 100% [10% (0.10) x 1000 = 100%] of normal. Then, provided we introduced the proper nutrients, the cell becomes healthy and able to transport needed nutrients when those nutrients are in usual concentrations. The numbers used here are not meant to be accurate for any particular nutrient but simply to demonstrate the principle involved.
The only way to increase the concentration of a nutrient by this "1000%" is by intravenous or intramuscular administration. Why is this? Because the cells of the stomach and intestine can transport and absorb only so fast, and this is not fast enough to create a high concentration gradient throughout the body. IV and IM administration bypasses the stomach and produces an instant large increase in concentration, which is presented to every cell in the body. The intravenous route is especially useful for this purpose, because no time is required for absorption from an injection site in a muscle.
It is not always necessary to resort to the "parenteral" (intravenous or intramuscular) routes of administration, and we do not do this unless it is necessary. Many diseases can be handled by large oral doses of vitamins and minerals, but when this is not effective, parenteral administration provides a real benefit.
Because the effects on normal body function of synthetic drugs are unpredictable, especially when given parentally, there is a great fear of this route of administration. Most people have known or heard of someone who has died from an IM or IV synthetic drug. The situation is different with vitamins and minerals. These substances are natural to the body and, when given in proper doses by an experienced physician, are as safe as the day is long. "Idiosyncratic" reactions, which often happen with synthetic drugs, do not happen with substances which are natural to the body.
Brief Introduction of Advantages and Disadvantages of IV Therapy
Easy access to rapid administration of solutions
Continuous or intermittent administration of nutrients
Rapid changes in circulatory system
Easy to monitor delivery of fluids, electrolytes and nutrients (for those with impaired GI tracts)
Invasive procedure can cause infection, bleeding adverse side effects
More costly than oral or injectable (IM, SC) substances
One IV site has a limited use/time: usually no more than 72 hours
Why might older patients need I.V. treatments:
- A tendency toward a restricted diet develops, especially if the patient is living alone.
- Diet may be based on what tastes good; not necessarily what is good for balanced nutrition (this applies to all age groups).
- Nutritional deficiencies may be related to prescription drugs, many of which deplete specific nutrients. Rarely does the prescribing physician consider this.
- Gastric secretions decrease in the elderly; both hydrochloric acid and intrinsic factor decrease due to loss of parietal cells. Pancreatic insufficiency can develop independently or be associated with loss of biochemical reflexes started in the stomach.
- The absorptive capacity of the small bowel may be decreased. A concomitant large bowel problem may be present, i.e. constipation.
- I.V. repletion leads to a rapid increase in nutrient levels in the blood. This concentration gradient is able to overcome sluggish transport mechanisms, due to low energy, and the nutrients are able to get into cells where they are needed.
This can "kick-start" the metabolism.
May lead to detoxification symptoms, as cells have enough energy to eliminate accumulated metabolites.
Some patients can feel very good and energized after the treatment, others can feel tired and have the detoxification symptoms, such as headache, myalgia, and mild G.I. symptoms.
We have hypothesized that high-dose multiple micronutrients, including antioxidants, as an adjunct to standard (radiation therapy and chemotherapy) or experimental therapy (hyperthermia and immunotherapy), may improve the efficacy of cancer therapy by increasing tumor response and decreasing toxicity. Several in vitro studies and some in vivo investigations support this hypothesis. A second hypothesis is that antioxidants may interfere with the efficacy of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This hypothesis is based on the concept that antioxidants will destroy free radicals that are generated during therapy, thereby protecting cancer cells against death. None of the published data on the effect of antioxidants in combination with radiation or chemotherapeutic agents on tumor cells supports the second hypothesis. Scientific rationale in support of a micronutrient protocol to be used as an adjunct to standard or experimental cancer therapy is presented.
Scientific rationale for using high-dose multiple micronutrients as an adjunct to standard and experimental cancer therapies. J Am Coll Nutr 2001 Oct;20(5 Suppl):450S-463S; discussion 473S-475S