What is IV-Therapy All About?
You may have heard of it from celebrities on TV, or professional athletes looking for an extra edge, but what is IV therapy and what is it all about? There is a ton of information (or misinformation) on the internet about IV therapy, all of which seems to be conflicting and largely opinion-based. My hope is to help clarify any questions you may have about IV therapy and its potential benefits, uses, and limitations.
What is IV nutrient therapy?
IV nutrient therapy has been around since at least 1984, and was originally used and created by a medical doctor in Baltimore, Dr. John Myers, who treated many of his patients with an intravenous vitamin-mineral formula(1). Since this time, intravenous therapy has largely evolved but the basic theory and application persists. Like it sounds, IV therapy is essentially infusing nutrients such as vitamin C, B, and other minerals and amino acids directly into the bloodstream via intravenous access. The premise here is that these nutrients get directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system to get quick, high-doses of essential nutrients into the cells and around the body for immediate use(1).
What are the potential benefits of IV-Therapy?
The premise is essentially this - by bypassing the digestive system, intravenous administration of nutrients can achieve higher serum (blood) levels of nutrients than oral administration can(2). This is largely because food and nutrients must first be broken down by various digestive enzymes and released from food particles, then absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. The absorption of these nutrients in the digestive system can be limited by the cellular transporters available which can become saturated (overloaded). The availability of these nutrients will then be halted ultimately limiting the absorptive capacity of these nutrients at any one time. For example, high doses of oral vitamin C or magnesium can overwhelm the digestive capabilities and cause loose stool and diarrhea, an undesirable side effect, ultimately limiting systemic absorption and thus use. Additionally, the speed of which some nutrients reach the blood has an impact on their therapeutic potential (by effecting pharmacokinetics)(2). Vitamin C, for instance, has been demonstrated to have an anti-viral and anti-histamine effects at high concentrations in the serum that cannot be reached by oral supplementation(2). Therefore, IV vitamin C has a greater therapeutic potential for viral illnesses (pesky colds) and allergic diseases such as seasonal allergies than oral supplementation alone (note: this is also true for high-dose Vitamin C in cancer therapy, though outside the scope of this discussion)(2,5,6,7). Additionally, magnesium given intravenously has been demonstrated to have a better ability to get inside the cells (where it lives), and exert its therapeutic action when given intravenously thus having greater utility in heart-related conditions(3,4). Again, oral doses do not accomplish this task as efficiently and require frequent dosing (which becomes a compliance issue), and potentially experiencing the odd loose stool as a side effect. Zinc as well, which is required for adequate immune system function and wound healing, can cause severe nausea when supplemented orally, which can be avoided by intravenous administration. Lastly, many drugs either impair or inhibit nutrient absorption when taken concurrently, such as medications for heartburn and aspirin can both inhibit vitamin C and folic acid absorption and some diabetes medications can inhibit B12(8,9). Supplementing individuals on these drugs with IV or IM nutrients may help lower the oral doses they need to take, thus lowering any unwanted side effects.
Overall, IV micronutrients have been used in conjunction with other therapies to treat the following conditions:
- Unexplained fatigue and CFS (12,16)
- Viral infections (4,18)
- Shingles (17)
- Heart failure (3,12,14)
- Asthma (10,11,13)
- Migraines (19)
- Fibromyalgia and chronic pain (20)
- Athletes & Professionals (15)
- Adjunctive cancer therapy (High dose IV vitamin C) (21)
- Sepsis (in hospital) (22,23)
- Parkinson’s disease (Intravenous glutathione) (24,25)
- ICU patients (26)
It’s important to note that to get maximal benefits from IV nutrient therapy it is best used in conjunction with other therapies and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and adequate exercise. So, while IV therapy may not be the magic cure some celebs claim it to be, it can be a useful therapeutic tool when used in combination with a well-rounded treatment plan under the guidance of medical supervision.
What are the side effects, risks, and limitations of IV-therapy?
The most commonly experienced side effects from IV nutrient therapy include some mild injection site discomfort, flushing, inflammation and irritation of the vein itself, lightheadedness and fainting (in some needle-phobics)(1,18). With any therapy, there is always the potential for more serious side effects, and there are some individuals in which it would be considered unsafe to perform this therapy. This is why it is always important to first talk to your ND or health care provider about your previous health history and any current medication and allergies you have.
How do you know it’s right for you?
It’s important to understand the potential benefits and risks before initiating any sort of therapy, so you can ultimately make an informed decision for yourself with the help of your health care provider.
The Take-Home Message:
- IV nutrients reach greater concentrations in the blood than oral supplementation does altering their pharmacokinetics, which can enhance their therapeutic effects
- Oral absorption of nutrients and supplements can be blocked or decreased by poor digestive function, alcohol, and other pharmaceutical drugs limiting their benefits, which is bypassed by IV administration
- IV-therapy may be particularly useful for athletes, individuals with fatigue, chronic pain, allergic diseases, and viral infections.
- Both IV and oral supplementation can have unwanted side effects, especially at higher doses
- Both IV and oral supplementation should be used in conjunction with other therapies such as healthy lifestyle changes
- IV-therapy is not for everyone and you should always consult your health care provider before initiating therapy
If you are interested in trying IV therapy or want to know more you can call the clinic at 250-598-3314, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in health,
1. Gaby, A. R. (2002). Intravenous nutrient therapy: the" Myers' cocktail". Alternative Medicine Review, 7(5), 389-403.
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19. Nutritional modulation of exercise-induced immunodepression in athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. A Moreira, RA Kekkonen, L Delgado Journal of clinical nutrition, 2006
20. Clague JE, Edwards RH, Jackson MJ. Intravenous magnesium loading in chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet 1992;340:124-125.
21. Schencking, M., Vollbracht, C., Weiss, G., Lebert, J., Biller, A., Goyvaerts, B., & Kraft, K. (2012). Intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of shingles: results of a multicenter prospective cohort study. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 18(4), CR215.
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23. Demirkaya, Ş., Vural, O., Dora, B., & Topçuoğlu, M. A. (2001). Efficacy of intravenous magnesium sulfate in the treatment of acute migraine attacks. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 41(2), 171-177.
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