• What is high-dose vitamin C?

    Vitamin C (also called L-ascorbic acid or ascorbate) is a nutrient that humans must get from food or dietary supplements since it cannot be made in the body. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps prevent oxidative stress. It also works with enzymes to play a key role in making collagen.

    When taken by intravenous (IV) infusion, vitamin C can reach much higher levels in the blood than when it is taken by mouth. Studies suggest that these higher levels of vitamin C may cause the death of cancer cells in the laboratory.

    A severe deficiency (lack) of vitamin C in the diet causes scurvy, a disease with symptoms of extreme weakness, lethargy, easy bruising, and bleeding. The lack of vitamin C in patients with scurvy makes collagen thinner in texture; when vitamin C is given, collagen becomes thicker again.

High-dose vitamin C has been studied as a treatment for patients with cancer since the 1970s. A Scottish surgeon named Ewan Cameron worked with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling to study the possible benefits of vitamin C therapy in clinical trials of cancer patients in the late 1970s and early 1980’s.

Surveys of healthcare practitioners at United States CAM conferences in recent years have shown that high-dose IV vitamin C is frequently given to patients as a treatment for infections, fatigue, and cancers, including breast cancer. More than fifty years ago, a study suggested that cancer was a disease of changes in connective tissue caused by a lack of vitamin C. In the 1970’s, it was proposed that high-dose ascorbic acid could help build resistance to disease or infection and possibly treat cancer.

  • Have any side effects or risks been reported from high-dose vitamin C?

    Intravenous high-dose ascorbic acid has caused very few side effects in clinical trials. However, high-dose vitamin C may be harmful in patients with certain risk factors.

    • In patients with a history of kidneydisorders, kidney failure has been reported after ascorbic acid treatment. Patients with a tendency to develop kidney stones should not be treated with high-dose vitamin C.
    • Case reports have shown that patients with an inherited disorder called G-6-PD deficiency should not be given high doses of vitamin C, due to the risk of hemolysis (a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed).
    • Since vitamin C may make iron more easily absorbed and used by the body, high doses of the vitamin are not recommended for patients with hemochromatosis (a condition in which the body takes up and stores more iron than it needs).

     

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