People will go to great lengths to keep themselves healthy, look younger, feel better, and even fight the effects of certain medical conditions. As a result, the global dietary supplement industry is worth some $122 billion. Now, the introduction and soaring popularity of vitamin IV therapy, among other new supplements, is expected to help double that number in the next decade. Is vitamin IV therapy worth it, or should you save your money and avoid the risk?
What Is Vitamin IV Therapy?
Millions of people around the world have incorporated multivitamins into their daily routines. These individuals take vitamins to ensure they’re getting enough of all the basic vitamins and minerals, and some take them to help treat very rare, yet very real medical conditions. Recently, though, some of the biggest celebrities in pop culture – including Rihanna, Madonna, Simon Cowell, and even Kim Kardashian have all been rumored to get regular vitamin IV therapy.
Simply put, vitamin IV therapy involves having vitamins delivered intravenously rather than through the typical oral route. There’s evidence to suggest that taking some vitamins orally can reduce their bioavailability, but there’s also evidence against it, too. Before you make an appointment for your own intravenous vitamin infusion, be sure you know what you’re paying for – and what the risks might be.
Intravenous vs. Oral Delivery
Those who swear by vitamin IV therapy are firm believers in the notion that their bodies aren’t absorbing all the nutrients and vitamins from their oral multivitamins. There’s some evidence to support this, but there’s also evidence to refute it. That’s what makes vitamins such a controversial and often misunderstood topic of research.
Evidence for the Use of IV Vitamins
A 2008 report published in the Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal looked at patients with terminal cancer who were treated with vitamin C at the Mayo Clinic. The researchers found that patients who took 10g (equal to 10,000mg) of vitamin C orally did not notice any benefit, but patients who received 10g intravenously did demonstrate some tumor shrinkage.
The report determined that the only way to effectively treat cancer with vitamin C, then, was through intravenous use rather than oral use. The authors of the paper noted that more clinical trials should be conducted to look at the efficacy of intravenous vitamin C when it comes to reducing cancer tumors. Previously, vitamin C had been dismissed and deemed ineffective for cancer patients, but those trials focused only on oral use – not IV use.
Evidence from the World Health Organization
On the other hand, a document published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in conjunction with the University of Washington and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that not all vitamins increase in efficacy or bioavailability when delivered intravenously. The paper goes on to document some clinical trials of oral vs. IM vs. IV use of antibiotics, drugs, and vitamins. In the end, the WHO found that IV administration did result in shorter onset times and higher bioavailability, but only for some vitamins and drugs. Not all vitamins acted differently or absorbed more readily after IV administration.
How Vitamin IV Therapy Works
Vitamin IV therapy is being offered in spas and clinics around the world. It’s popular in Southern California, in Switzerland, and even in places like Hong Kong, where it’s a huge trend. The clinics and spas providing it promise rejuvenation, relaxation, and more. Per emergency medicine physician Jesse Sandhu, MD, almost everyone notices an immediate effect, which is why it’s become so popular in the first place.
Patients are typically asked to relax in a chair while a doctor or nurse starts an IV filled with a blend of vitamins and saline. This solution is said to rehydrate and infuse vitamins into the body over the course of 20 to 30 minutes. Patients receive different combinations of vitamins depending on their needs or complaints, and there are proprietary cocktails designed for all kinds of ailments. They include:
- Immune-boosting vitamin infusions;
- Hangover cures;
- Sexual function improvement;
- Jet lag and exhaustion treatment;
- “Curatives” for stress and anxiety; and even
- Fat burning cocktails said to rev the metabolism and spark the fat-burning process.
Most patients in the US pay an average of $100 to $200 for their 30-minute infusion sessions, and they can come back every few weeks.
Understanding the Benefits vs. the Risks
While vitamin IV therapy may seem wonderful – and it can be with the right vitamins – there are always risks involved. Some seem like common sense, but others are a bit more complicated.
- Risk of infection. Getting an IV involves penetrating your bloodstream with a foreign object. Any time this happens, there’s always a risk of infection. Of course, if the facility starting the IV always uses a brand-new medical-grade needles, and if the nurse or tech starting your IV wears gloves, this risk is greatly reduced. It’s never completely eliminated, though.
- Risk of disease. In the event you visit a clinic that doesn’t take such precautions, you’re putting yourself at a great deal of risk for infections like HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases. While this may not be quite as prevalent in the United States, it can be in certain other countries without the same healthcare standards.
- Risk of significant allergic reaction. Here’s where things start to get a bit more complicated. When you take a vitamin orally, your digestive system plays some important roles in keeping you safe. Even your saliva has certain built-in antibodies as a safeguard to prevent reactions. When you take a vitamin intravenously, you’re bypassing all that defense – much like turning off your firewall and virus protection before surfing the internet. Bypassing the GI system is what provides all the instant benefit associated with vitamin IV therapy, but without the defenses provided by your GI system, you’re opening yourself up to some significant risks.
If you have certain types of medical conditions, which may include things like fibromyalgia, malabsorption problems, and even chronic fatigue, intravenous vitamins like B and C along with calcium and magnesium may benefit you quite a bit. They’ll provide the lift you need to feel more like yourself, if only for a short time. For these patients, the benefit of the treatment almost always outweighs the risk.
Conversely, if you’re otherwise healthy and you’re concerned about your health, aging, feeling down, or simply a lack of overall wellbeing, vitamin IV therapy is merely a bandage to cover the underlying problem. It’s best to figure out what’s causing you to feel tired, sick, or stressed out and attack it head on; simply getting a quick fix through a vitamin infusion won’t provide any long-term benefit and may make things worse in the end.