IV (Intravenous) Therapy
We’ve all heard at one time or other of blood doping, the intravenous injection of blood containing abnormally high concentrations of red blood cells to improve athletic performance. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to muscles.
The technique is highly effective and difficult to detect. It is also outlawed, and rightly so, in venues such as the Olympics because it confers an unfair advantage. But when used for legitimate purposes, intravenous (IV) therapy, as it’s called, has become a valuable tool of modern medicine.
The advantage of injecting vitamins, minerals and drugs directly into the bloodstream (or in some cases, intramuscularly, depending on the substance) is that the patient receives the full and immediate benefit of the treatment.
Taken orally, doses have to be smaller and a substantial part of the effective ingredient is filtered out in the digestive tract and liver. This is known as the first-pass effect in the liver.
Normally, we shouldn’t need this sort of intervention. Even a balanced diet, however, can sometimes leave us short of vital minerals and vitamins. Over-cooking vegetables, for instance, depletes vitamins, or a shortage of fat in the diet may limit the up-take of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K. Chronic illness is often a factor, seriously lowering the body’s vitamin and mineral levels.
Running on empty like this can have serious consequences. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, chromium, iron and selenium are essential to neurotransmitters, enzymes, muscle contraction, hormone production and sustaining energy.
Conditions that have shown improvement after IV vitamin therapy include asthma, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, bronchial infections, sinusitis, cancer, hepatitis and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin B12 is an interesting case in point. Because it is found almost exclusively in animal protein, shortages occur most often in vegetarians, causing loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea or constipation, upset stomach and partial loss of feeling or weakness in the extremities. (There is an on-going debate whether vegetable B12 can be absorbed by the body.)
As we age, all of us – not just vegetarians – are at risk of vitamin B12 shortage. This is because its absorption in our small intestine depends on a protein called “intrinsic factor” that diminishes in our bodies as we grow older. If there is an inadequate supply of intrinsic factor, B12 will not be absorbed properly. Failure of the B12 supply can become a serious condition in the elderly.
The best remedy is often IV therapy because, even if a sufficient quantity of orally-ingested vitamin B12 is taken up in the intestine, it may be lost in the liver. B12 is stored in the liver, but only to a point. Too much and the liver will dump the excess, which is then excreted in urine.
While IV therapy is a valuable and virtually risk-free treatment for some conditions, it should not be used indiscriminately just for a short-term jolt of energy. Your health professional should know when its use is timely and appropriate.
©Dr. Ashely Gordon, 2006.