Experiencing High Dose Vitamin C: How it afects the Person Physically, Intellectually and Emotionally

(A Personal Account) By Luanne Pennesi, RN, BSN
Published in CREATIONS Magazine, Spring 1995  

After spending almost 19 years in traditional medicine in a major Medical Center in New York, I decided to leave the "not so hidden agendas" of adult medicine as we know it in the inpatient setting and embark on a full time career in wholistic nursing. Certainly this was not without careful thought, four years of preparation... and a termination letter from the Director of Nursing! As I processed my past, leaned into the present moments of mixed emotions and focused on future endeavors, a thought crossed my mind. I had recently had a very comprehensive viral assay done on myself in order to get an idea of where my immune system stood after so many years of exposure to microbes and carcinogens. I decided that if I was going to start anew, I would have to cleanse all of my systems of traditional medicine, including my blood. Careful analysis of my assay revealed that I had antibodies to several very dangerous viruses. These included Cytomegalovirus, Mycoplasma Pneumonia, Epstein Barr Virus, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B (I had hepatitis B in 1979; I was concerned that the titers were as high as they were), Adenovirus AB and Herpes simplex type I and II. Quite the reality check. I remembered that early in my career gloves were not "en vogue" and if the hospital ran out of bactericidal soap, it was the Ivory soap we used on the patients to bathe them. I also worked with chronic ventilator dependent patients and immunosuppressed patients on chemotherapy for a long time. Not a pretty picture. I probably felt so good because I live and teach stress management and relaxation techniques, I eat a diet of organically grown whole foods, mostly vegetarian, with little or no dairy and lots of supplements; in my home I have ozone/ion machines that purify the air; I have water filters; I exercise regularly and have healthy, happy relationships. After reading these results I suddenly felt ill! Seeking a method to really detoxify myself, I began to investigate my alternatives (pun intended). I began reading about Vitamin C and the various effects it has on the body. I decided this would be it.

I am an avid listener of Gary Null and was familiar with The Healing Center in Manhattan. I signed myself into a study there for the use of high dose vitamin C intravenously. After getting routine blood work (CBC, SMAC, Sed Rate) and, ironically, a letter from my conventional MD stating that I was in good health, I was ready to go. I would receive my drip once a week over a twelve week period, with progressively higher doses each week.

I was impacted by these high dose vitamin C drips most significantly on the intellectual level. It called upon all of my knowledge of biochemistry, endocrinology, physiology, homeostasis and immunology. There is much to know when receiving this substance, which reinforced my belief that the patient is responsible for his/her own health dynamics and decisions. Even the most uneducated of the "dripees" learned how to nurture their own physiologies, if only to survive the immediate effects of the high dose vitamin C. The most important thing I learned is that one must be well hydrated when receiving vitamin C drips. This is for several reasons. First, it is much easier to access chronically stuck veins when they are well hydrated. Most of the others receiving the drips had severe illnesses and long histories of venipuncture. 24G angiocaths were used for the drips. Second, good hydration can prevent calcium oxalate stones from forming in the kidney, which is more likely with doses exceeding 100,000mg of vitamin C in the drip. Third, fourth and fifth, because good hydration is a wonderful way to cleanse the body of toxins, it keeps the skin free from having to displace toxins in the form of pimples and it keeps the bladder free of risk of infection. It's just plain good to drink lots of water, anyway! Mild hypoglycemia, I learned, is a common side effect with concentrations over 40,000mg. When I felt lightheaded, I realized this and had diluted apple juice. It is important to eat prior to the drip, as nausea is not uncommon during the drip as well. At this center, if patients had nausea, there was plenty of Rhus tox available (a sublingual homeopathic remedy), as well as ginger capsules and peppermint tea. I learned that taking Quercetin before and after the drip helped to keep the vitamin C in the bloodstream longer. Taking Pycnogenol before and after the drip helps to maintain venous tone and it also helps to get the vitamin C into the extracellular spaces. Taking both of these supplements, I believe, helped me to maximize the effects of the vitamin C while protecting my veins. To date I have not experienced infiltration of the IV. Intravenous vitamin C is never given alone; specifically, it is given in combination, I learned, with other IV additives. B complex is almost always added, and depending on the condition or existing deficiencies, other supplements are added as well. These include magnesium, selenium, zinc, manganese, chromium, adenosine mono phosphate, multivits, glutathione, sodium bicarbonate, folic acid, taurine, aquasol vitamin A and EDTA. In essence, IV vitamin C drips are a type of chelation therapy. At The Healing Center sterile water was used. Vitamin C drip concentrations went up gradually, starting with 25,000mg in 250cc of solution and moving up to 200,000mg in 1000cc over time.

I also learned that taking vitamin C in conjunction with vitamin E and vitamin A created a synergistic effect in the fight against free radical damage to the cells. The elements in my lifestyle that I can control (diet, exercise, stress management, etc.) I do. Those that I can't control (air pollution, chemical pollution, and the like) I can counteract by taking supplements that fight off free radicals that are produced from these substances. Taking this form of therapy certainly gave me an edge.

Overall I learned that vitamin C is anabolic; it cleanses, detoxifies and rebuilds the immune system. I believe I experienced this first hand.

The drips are started at about 100cc/hour. Initially I experienced pain at the site, which was relieved by a warm compress throughout the drip. As tolerance increased, each of us were responsible for regulating our own rates. Again, patient responsibility and autonomy is the focus. If the drips are infused faster than the body can tolerate it, a headache often results. We learned to listen closely to our bodies.

One of the most significant physical sensations I encountered was a noticeable drop in my body temperature as the drip progressed. No matter what the concentration was, about ten minutes into the drip I experienced coolness in my extremities followed by general coldness. I learned to dress extra warm on the day of my drips. This was a challenge, given that I began these drips in January, during one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record! Thankfully there were plenty of blankets and hot herbal teas and hot water compresses for our hands and our IV sites.

Another sensation I experienced during my drips was a heightened state of awareness; a sense of extreme mental clarity. I felt as if I were "wired" on the ride home and often did my most productive paperwork at these times.

The progressive changes that I experienced physically were also remarkable. My acne prone skin became clear and radiant. When I menstruated I had little or no cramping. Inflammations and infections healed in a fraction of the time that they used to take to heal. Overall I felt good.

One of the first things I encountered was reactions from those "significant others" in my life when they learned I was doing something "that wasn't approved by the FDA".  Well intended family members expressed their worry and concern, and they wondered if I really knew what I was doing.  I guess it's easier to accept my practice of healing touch, my organic vegetarian diet and  use of herbs because it's not as "severe", as one of my friends put it, as intravenous injections of something.  It really put me to the test in terms of sharing my new knowledge in a way that sounded rational and exciting.  I think I pulled it off in most instances. 

But something even more interesting happened while I was getting my drips.  I noticed that there was a group of us that got our drips on the same day each week.  Each of us had our own story and reasons for being there.  There were people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, with varying types of illnesses; some of us were there for preventive reasons and some were there just fighting for their lives.  The ages ranged from 19 years old to 75.  As each of us experienced something, whether it be physically during the drip,  later on after the drip was done, or an  overall change, we shared it with one another.  There grew a wonderful connectedness in our group which evolved into a supportive group of like minded people sharing a new experience.  There were no walls of judgment, prejudice or criticism, no generation gaps; only an unconditional acceptance and support for those who stepped out of their conditioned paradigms to do what they believed was  right for them.  We had no need to know the details of why each person was there, or what past sins or lifestyles got them to their state of dis-ease.  The only thing that mattered is that they began to honor themselves in a way that
they were never taught as children, much less as adults.  We began to look out for one another during the drips as well.  If one person was waiting for their bag to be made up, they would assure that everyone sitting at an IV pole had water and a blanket nearby.  One person donated a portable heater.  I brought in boxes of herbal tea.  We became a source of strength and support for one another  in a way I never imagined.  I admire these people and the courage it took for them to involve themselves in something that we know our conventional institutions condemn; and  yet we know they condemn it for purely political and economic reasons.  Instead of succumbing to the pressure of our peers, our families and the media, we do what we believe is right for us; even though it may be ignored by the institutions that supposedly are looking out for our best health interests.

As a nurse I believe that this experience has helped me to more strongly affirm my belief that people have the ability to create their own levels of health and wellness. By honoring themselves more and actualizing what they believe is right for them once they seek and find new information, they increase their self esteem, strengthen their convictions to be true to themselves and serve as role models for others who may be in similar situations.

I completed the twelve week protocol and my viral assay showed that half of the antibodies were negative. I am continuing on with a new protocol now and continue to integrate this modality with my MindBodySpirit development. I want to make a special point that this modality is by no means a panacea for disease, but rather a modality that is well researched and documented in the scientific literature for enhancing health in several ways.

Having had this experienced has enriched my life far beyond my expectations as a wholistic practitioner much less as a human being seeking unconventional therapy. I am thankful for the guidance and support of the staff at The Healing Center in Manhattan and I welcome any comments and questions about this modality from readers.

Luanne Pennesi, RN, MS is the Executive Director of Wholistic Nursing Networks in Syosset and can be reached by phone or fax at 516-921-8475.  She speaks nationally on topics such as self esteem building, stress management, therapeutic humor and natural approaches to health and does individual consultations as well.