iv vitamin drip therapy
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IV vitamin drip therapy: How does it work – and is it good for you? 

13 May 2024 | |By Annie Lewis

Intravenously pumping your body with vitamins is all the rage but the intensive nature of the treatment begs the question, is it actually worth it? We ask the experts

In recent years, you’ve likely spotted celebrities incluidng Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Maya Jama and Rita Ora posting pictures while lounging on a sofa with a drip attached to their arm – and no, they’re not giving blood. They are, in fact, getting a bumper infusion of vitamins and minerals – most commonly B2, B12, calcium and vitamin C – pumped straight into their veins via an intravenous (IV) drip in a bid to boost their health. 

This rather extreme medical craze emerged in the 2010s and was initially confined to A-listers with enough cash to splash on a whole team to set up IV drips in their homes. Now, however, you’ll find vitamin IV drip parlours spanning Shoreditch to Soho, as ready-made mineral concoctions promise to cure hangovers, colds, fatigue and aid athletic recovery. While some deem spending 30-60 minutes with a needle stuck in their arm a step too far in the quest for optimum wellness, for many it’s now as integral to their health admin as a dentist appointment. 

The global IV hydration therapy market was valued at $2.32bn in 2022 – and it’s only predicted to get bigger. However, if, like us, you need more scientific evidence than celebrity conviction to tempt you to try vitamin IV drips, you’ve come to the right place. We ask Kerry-Dene Ihlenfeldt, clinical director at IVBoost UK, who uses vitamin drips to treat her patients, to explain everything you need to know. 

How do IV vitamin drips work?

IV vitamin infusions involve the direct administration of a blend of vitamins, amino acids and minerals into the bloodstream using a small catheter into the vein. This method circumvents the digestive system, delivering nutrients directly to the cells in need.

iv vitamin drip therapy
What advantages come from receiving vitamins intravenously?

IV vitamin infusions offer various benefits, such as quicker and more efficient nutrient absorption, replenishment of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, boosted energy levels, strengthened immune function and potential alleviation of certain health conditions.

Those engaged in intense physical activities often require higher levels of nutrients to support muscle recovery, energy production and overall performance, and individuals with demanding schedules may struggle to maintain a balanced diet or absorb nutrients efficiently due to stress or frequent travel. IV therapy can provide a quick and effective way to replenish essential vitamins and minerals.

People suffering from chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease, may have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food, and IV therapy can help bypass the digestive system and deliver nutrients directly into the bloodstream. Those with weakened immune systems due to illness or frequent exposure to pathogens may benefit from IV therapy to boost their immune response with high doses of vitamins like vitamin C and zinc.

It can also help with hangover relief. Individuals experiencing dehydration, fatigue, and nausea can quickly rehydrate the body and replenish essential nutrients through IV hydration therapy. Migraine and headache sufferers can benefit from certain vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and riboflavin, and it may help alleviate migraine symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

Why is intravenous administration sometimes preferred over oral intake?

In certain cases, oral supplementation may prove ineffective due to issues like poor absorption in the digestive tract, gastrointestinal disorders, or the necessity for higher doses than can be safely absorbed orally. IV administration ensures direct delivery into the bloodstream, bypassing these potential barriers, as orally consumed vitamins are around 60 per cent bioavailable at best.

Water-soluble vitamins, like vitamins B and C, are large molecules which can’t pass through your intestines directly into the bloodstream and so, when oral supplements make their way through the gut, in order to be absorbed by the body they have to be broken down into smaller particles. This is called micronisation, a rigorous process which involves competing with other vitamins absorbed from food. While they’re competing, they’re also being broken down, which means losing some of their goodness. By the time the vitamins and nutrients have been broken down and are ready to be used by the body, they may not be delivering the dosage listed on the packaging.

Are there some people who will find IV vitamin drips more effective than others?

For individuals dealing with specific health conditions, malabsorption challenges, or those requiring rapid nutrient replenishment, IV vitamin therapy can be crucial and beneficial. Additionally, individuals with hectic lifestyles or high physical activity levels may opt for IV infusions to sustain peak health and performance. Additionally, it is personalised. When receiving vitamin infusion therapy, things that are specifically relevant to you (age, existing medical conditions, metabolism, genetics etc) will be taken into account when creating your ‘drip’ in order to maximise the benefits.

Are there any downsides to IV vitamin therapy?

Despite its numerous benefits, IV vitamin therapy does have some drawbacks. The procedure can be invasive, involving needle insertion into a vein, which might lead to discomfort or bruising. Moreover, IV therapy can be time-consuming, with sessions typically lasting from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the treatment. There’s also a slight risk of infection or adverse reactions, although these risks are generally low when administered by qualified healthcare professionals in a sterile environment.

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