Nutrition and Healing
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  • Why you want a yellow IV

    Q: I’m feeling so stressed out about my upcoming hospital stay. I’m having surgery and I’ll be there for at least a few days. I know stress is bad for recovery, but I can’t help but feel worried. Is there anything I can do?

    Dr. Wright: If there’s ever a time your body and mind are under stress, it’s when you’re lying in a hospital bed, chained to an IV. But if that IV needle that’s sending a solution directly into your veins is clear or colorless, it isn’t doing as much as it could to help you fight the stress that could prolong your recovery–and your hospital stay. I know it may sound strange, but the color of your IV should probably be yellow.

    When you’re under stress, your body uses greater quantities of B-complex vitamins. Riboflavin (or vitamin B2) is a key member of this group of vitamins–and yellow is the natural color of riboflavin. Adding B-complex vitamins to your IV bag will help your body handle the stress you’re going through.

    And while you’re at it, you should also ask your doctor to consider adding vitamin C to the solution. In fact, the entire group of B-complex vitamins and vitamin C are so well known as stress fighters that even conventional medical practitioners acknowledge their value.

    Now, your doctor could be concerned about potential interactions with whatever is already in the IV. It’s a valid concern, but one that is easily answered.

    The most commonly used IV fluids are made of 5 percent dextrose and water (D5W) and saline (either 0.45 percent or 0.9 percent salt in water)–and that’s it. Both B-complex vitamins and vitamin C are quite compatible with D5W and saline, as well as with any electrolytes that might be present. If these are the only things in your IV, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to add B-complex vitamins and vitamin C to help you fight stress and speed your recovery.

    But if your IV fluid happens to contain any other substances, rest assured that the hospital pharmacist will have plenty of reference books and online resources to answer any questions regarding compatibility.

    One word of caution, though: Some people are very sensitive to taking in too much B-complex–or taking it too fast–and can become nauseated as a result. Physicians knowledgeable about IV nutrient therapy always start with as little as 1/2 to 1 cc (cubic centimeters) of B-complex in the entire IV in order to minimize the chances of nausea. If there’s no problem, the amount can be gradually increased to a usual maximum of 1 cc per short IV (less than four hours), and 1 to 2 ccs for longer ones. Besides, to put it in perspective, the general anti-stress benefits far outweigh the very small risk of nausea.

    Regarding vitamin C, there’s no nausea or other known risks with IV quantities of less than 10 grams per 24 hours. While many physicians who are knowledgeable about IV nutrient therapeutics routinely use 50 to 60 grams of vitamin C per IV bag, the safe use of large quantities of intravenous vitamin C is a subject for another time. Until then, even small quantities of the nutrient are better than none at all.

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