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The Promising Link Between Vitamin C and Cancer

An image of a woman flexing her bicepCancer is a condition that many individuals experience, with the most common cancers being breast, prostate, and lung cancer. There is a range of standard and holistic remedies that can be used to help relieve cancer and the side effects of standard cancer medications. These remedies can be used separately as well as in combination. Vitamin C is one of these remedies and studies suggest that vitamin C may potentially have cancer-fighting abilities and help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. This article will explore the link between vitamin C and cancer.

What Is Cancer?

It may sound like a silly question since cancer is a common condition and you've probably heard about it, but it is worth reviewing to understand how vitamin C helps.

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells, that can occur in a specific body part, multiple body parts, or spread throughout the body. These abnormal cells grow uncontrollably. Sometimes these cells form a lump of tissue where the cells are contained. This is called a tumor. Other times, the abnormal cells do not form a lump of tissue and then can spread to other parts of the body.

There are multiple risk factors that can increase the risk of experiencing cancer. These include:

  • Family history
  • Aging
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Viral infections such as the human papillomavirus (HPV)

There are many therapies for cancer, and the two most popular are chemotherapy and radiation.

What Is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a vitamin that also plays the role of an antioxidant at low doses and an oxidant at high doses. It is a water-soluble vitamin, which dissolves in water and is absorbed easily in the body. As it dissolves in water, it is excreted and not stored in the body. This reduces the chances of toxicity. However, because vitamin C is not stored in the body, there is a chance of deficiency, and it is important to consume vitamin C daily.

Vitamin C is available in food sources as well as in supplemental forms. Vitamin C food sources include:

  • Citrus fruit- oranges, grapefruit, and lemons
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables- broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Potatoes

In supplement form, vitamin C is available in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, and intravenous (IV) form. The recommended intake for vitamin C is 90mg for men and 75mg for women. However, vitamin C in supplemental form can range from the recommended intake to up to 10,000mg.

Vitamin C and Cancer

In 1970, theories suggested that vitamin C could assist with alleviating cancer. Whilst there is no evidence suggesting that vitamin C alone can alleviate cancer, studies suggest that there is still a link between vitamin C and cancer, with vitamin C potentially enhancing the effectiveness of standard cancer medications.

Vitamin C has many important roles in the body including assisting with wound healing, enhancing the immune system, and acting as an oxidant. Lab studies suggest that on top of these roles, vitamin C may additionally have properties that kill cancer cells.

Why IV Vitamin C?

Whilst there are many supplemental forms of vitamin C available, vitamin C in IV form improves absorption. The added fluids in the IV drip also hydrate the skin and enhance absorption.

Administering Vitamin C

An image of an IV dripIV vitamin C supplementation can occur before or after chemotherapy. If it is before chemotherapy, a low dose of vitamin C is advisable, with a waiting time of 30-60 minutes between the IV and chemotherapy.  This will allow for the vitamin to clear the body and avoid interaction with the chemotherapy. If the supplementation is after chemotherapy, it all depends on the metabolism of the standard therapy. Generally, IV vitamin C is given 12 to 72 hours after chemotherapy. IV vitamin C can be given once to three times a week during chemotherapy, and for one to four months after chemotherapy.

The typical velocity of vitamin C given in IV form is between a rate of 100-150mg per hour. This rate is important as headaches, high blood pressure, and breathing trouble can occur if the individual receives the fluids too quickly. Lower doses of less than 25 grams are usually for immune boosting and antioxidant effects. Vitamin C is also great at feeding the adrenals the cofactors it needs to make hormones like cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, dhea, testosterone, etc.

Studies suggest that in doses higher than 25 g, vitamin C starts to exhibit oxidant effects rather than antioxidant effects. Vitamin C in low doses acts as an antioxidant, meaning that it helps repair and protect the body from damage. As an oxidant, instead of repairing and protecting the body from damage, vitamin C can harm the foreign cells like tumors in the body. The reason is that foreign cells do not have the ability to reduce the oxidative effects of vitamin C at high doses, but human cells do have the ability to neutralize the reactive oxygen species created by high dose vitamin C.

If you are not one for needles, you can opt for a liposomal vitamin C supplement. This means that vitamin C is surrounded by an outer coating that contains fats. This allows the vitamin to reach the digestive system and be absorped passively through the small intestines at higher amounts. This dose will also be between 250-5000mg, and guidance can be given by your healthcare provider.

Contraindications for Vitamin C and Cancer Therapy

G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase) is an enzyme that helps your red blood cells to function optimally. If there is a lack of this enzyme, it can cause anemia. Vitamin C, especially supplementation of vitamin C, reduces the function and survival of red blood cells that lack G6PD. Because of this, it is advisable not to take a high dose IV vitamin C treatments greater than 25g if you have the genetics condition of a G6PD deficiency.

Vitamin C can increase your blood sugar levels, and therefore it is important to check your sugar levels as you take this supplement. It's common for blood sugar levels to be elevated while doing an IV vitamin C treatment, but after the treatment is over, the sugar reduces as it's not an actual glucose elevation, but the molecule of vitamin C looking like the sugar molecule.

Other Cautions

Whilst vitamin C does have a range of benefits, there are some additional cautions to be mindful of. These include:

  • Adequate kidney functioning: Your urinary system is responsible for the excretion of vitamin C. For effective excretion of vitamin C,  your kidneys need to be functioning properly, especially if the dose is high.
  • Normal iron levels: Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. If your iron levels are already high, this could raise them to a harmful level.
  • Normal calcium levels: Studies show that vitamin C can increase calcium in the blood and urine. If calcium levels are already high, it could raise them to a harmful level.

Side Effects of Vitamin C

An image of a woman holding her headSide effects of vitamin C are generally mild and tend to disappear without seeking professional guidance from a healthcare professional. The side effects are:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Pain and/or swelling at the injection site

The Evidence On The Use of Vitamin C and Cancer

There have been studies on the use of vitamin C and cancer in many different types of cancer, and the results from these studies have been mixed.

A study focused on advanced pancreatic cancer using IV vitamin C with another standard medication, found that cancer did not progress for these individuals over six months.

Another study focusing on advanced ovarian cancer reported an improvement in side effects compared to the group without IV vitamin C. A study looking at the use of IV vitamin C alongside standard medication in a form of lung cancer found that side effects improved and these individuals had better survival rates.

These results are promising, and more research is needed to determine the relationship between vitamin C and cancer. This will determine whether it is more effective with a particular standard medication and whether it is more effective in particular types of cancer.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and Cancer

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a group of symptoms that individuals can experience as a result of long-term stress. Your body has the ability to handle short-term stress, with your adrenal glands and the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system activating six circuits of related organ systems. Your adrenal glands release stress hormones in response to stress and the NEM system supports your adrenal glands.

In long-term stress, your adrenal glands can become depleted, and imbalances within the NEM system start to occur. Depletion of the adrenal glands and imbalances of the NEM system can cause a range of symptoms and can increase the risk of cancer. One way it can increase the risk of cancer is through an imbalance of the Detoxification circuit. If there is an imbalance in this circuit, oxidative stress can increase, increasing the number of free radicals in the body. An increase in oxidative stress and free radicals increases the risk of developing cancer.

Cancer, likewise, can expose your body to long periods of stress, which can also be a cause of AFS and imbalances within the NEM system. These imbalances can further increase inflammation and oxidative stress and can delay the healing journey.

Cautions With AFS and Vitamin C

In AFS, the body becomes sensitive to foods and supplements, especially with the introduction of new foods and supplements. Supplements including vitamin C are also not regulated by the FDA. This means that the safety of ingredients and the efficacy of the supplements are not guaranteed. This can increase the chances of the vitamin C supplement causing more harm than good and delaying the healing process.

If you are currently experiencing AFS or cancer, it is best to seek support from your healthcare provider before trying out vitamin C. Your healthcare provider can help to provide a supportive plan for you that will support your body in the healing journey rather than hinder it.

Closing Thoughts

The relationship between vitamin C and cancer is one that preliminary evidence shows may be beneficial to individuals experiencing cancer. It can also provide hope in relieving symptoms of standard medications such as chemotherapy and potentially improve the survival rate.

More research into the vitamin C and cancer relationship is necessary. It is also important to have the correct dose, timing, and rate of infusion to ensure the safety of the individuals receiving therapy.

If you are currently looking into the many uses and benefits of supplemental vitamin C and would like some guidance, you can chat with our team at +1 (626) 571-1234 for a free initial call or click here to send us a question.

© Copyright 2023 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Whilst there have been numerous studies focusing on the link between vitamin C and cancer, these studies focused on adults. Vitamin C can provide many benefits but there is lacking evidence on the use of vitamin c and cancer in children. For more guidance, chat with your healthcare provider.

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