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Updated 02 August 2017

IV drips: nutrients delivered directly into your bloodstream

We all want optimum nutrition – and now it is being offered in the form of an IV drip. But does it work?

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Models, pop stars and the socialites roaming Instagram all have glowing complexions in common, but their secret is more than a good makeup artist. They all like to get hooked up – on an IV drip, that is.

Nowadays we struggle to ingest all the essential nutrients we need for optimum health, and we try to make up for it by taking multivitamins.

But if you knew that the perfect dose of vitamins could be administered directly into the bloodstream through and intravenous (IV) drip, would you do it?

What is IV drip therapy?

Intravenous nutrient or vitamin drips have become a popular lifestyle trend among celebrities and the rich, and is now being offered by increasing numbers of health spas to replenish energy and hydration and improve the skin. And clinics that offer alternative therapies use IV vitamin therapy for an array of conditions including cancer, asthma, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, fatigue and migraines.

Different needs

Nowadays the idea is to adapt the formula inside the IV drip to suit the needs of the patient, but when IV drips were first administered for vitamin and nutrient therapy, it was a formula based on the findings of the late Dr John Myers, a physician from Maryland who injected nutrients into his patients to treat various conditions.

According to research published in the Alternative Medicine Review, the exact doses of nutrients in the Myers cocktail was not known, but it has been recorded that a combination of magnesium chloride, calcium, gluconate, thiamine, vitamins B6 and B12, calcium pantothenate, vitamin C and diluted hydrochloric acid was used.

Why is IV therapy deemed more effective?

According to the findings by the late Dr Myers, intravenous administration of nutrients can achieve serum concentration that is not possible with oral ingestion. This means that the dose of nutrients injected by IV drip increases almost 12-fold in comparison to when it’s administered orally, making it more effective.

But is it really more effective?

While the published article on Myers' research made good theoretical points in the defence of IV vitamin drips, studies demonstrated placebo effects. There was also a lack of real clinical trials, proof of efficacy and substantial evidence. Where nutrients were administered intravenously, it was when patients were unable to eat or take vitamins orally.

Intravenous administration means that nutrients bypass your digestive system completely. This is not entirely without risk, as the digestive system offers several layers of defence, from saliva to antibodies. 

Under normal circumstances, however, the risk is small. In the case of intravenous ingestion of nutrients your body will only absorb what it needs and will discard the rest through urine.

IV drips won't cause any harm, but for the amount of money, the benefits might not be that substantial. And there is really no reason to inject vitamins if you are fully capable of obtaining them orally, Science Based Medicine suggests.

And there is also the additional risk of infection if the spa or treatment facility is not properly equipped or if the staff aren't adequately trained to insert a needle. 

When should you consider it?

Although IV drips containing nutrients and vitamins are used in the treatments of chronic illnesses, researchers are still divided on their efficacy. While many medical spas and treatment centres in larger cities in South Africa are starting to offer IV drips, and although users report a slight increase in energy and an improvement in skin tone, a single treatment is still very expensive (anywhere between R600 and R2 000 per session/drip unit*). 

If you do choose to try this treatment, do your research and only make use of reputable institutions to avoid possible infections.  

* Based on countrywide comparison of prices.

 
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