There are several important uses for intravenous therapy in integrative general practice. Iron is the most common form of infusion and I do these commonly, when medically necessary. When stored iron levels are low, patients feel tired even if their haemoglobin levels are normal. Ferinject, which is now available as a PBS subsidised script, is added to a bag of saline and infused into a vein in the forearm. This will make iron stores replete. This form of intravenous iron is very safe and there is a very very low side effect profile (in fact, I have only experienced one possible side effect, which was a localised rash). As I only perform intravenous therapy during an appointment, I am immediately ready and available in the very rare chance the patient does have a reaction.
Menstruating females are at a significant risk of iron deficiency, and it is very hard to rectify low iron levels without creating gastrointestinal side effects when oral iron is used. Once iron levels are completely normalised, very low dose oral iron is likely to keep stores at a healthy level, and it is rare to need two infusions in a twelve month period. Intravenous iron is especially helpful to pregnant mother who can approach labour with much less risk of anaemia or low iron post delivery. It is estimated that 25% of women who are given a diagnosis of post natal depression are actually iron deficient.
Other nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants and even phospholipids are also utilised in intravenous therapy. Vitamin C and other nutrients are presented as vials and bottles and are added to small bags of normal saline. The doses are dependent upon the condition being treated. Vitamin C, vitamin B groups, Glutathione, ALA, Magnesium and Zinc are all common nutrients used in intravenous therapy.
Vitamin C is the most versatile of all, as a strong antioxidant and boost to the immune system. It is used either once or twice per week for two to three weeks to help recovery from viral illnesses. It is particularly helpful for shingles, the adult form of chicken pox, in reducing the duration of nerve pain (neuralgia) from the shingles. It is also helpful for Epstein Barr Virus and other acute viral infections. It can be mixed with glutathione for this indication. Some of my patients have heavy metal toxicity symptoms, and vitamin C is used with other chelation agents, such as ALA in particular regimens, to help remove these from the body.
Mercury is one example where intravenous therapy is useful, and radioactive materials is another, where magnesium is added to help chelation.
Vitamin C is helpful for patients undergoing surgery to promote wound healing and it is administered pre and post operatively for this indication.
Cancer support is another area where intravenous therapy is very helpful, and higher doses of vitamin C are required. It supports the patient and also has chemotherapeutic activity. It is used weekly or twice weekly before chemotherapy. My patients have experienced a gratifying stability in their white cell counts during chemotherapy enabling the chemotherapy regimen to be completed more quickly and reducing side effects – particularly the extreme fatigue. Vitamin C as a chemotherapeutic agent in its own right can also be tested by an overseas laboratory call Maintrac- in this test Vitamin C is added to a sample of the patient’s blood carrying known numbers of tumour cells, and the number of those cancer cells killed by Vitamin C is then counted to make an efficacy percentage.
Some patients utilise Vitamin C as an energiser after international travel or a particularly hectic schedule. It is popular overseas in this context.