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Vitamin IV drip therapy seems to be growing in popularity by the day with a number of celebrities backing the health effects of ‘dripping’. 

Claims that these drips help to cure hangovers, boost your immune system, give you a healthier glow and fight lethargy are a big reason as to why so many people are paying a pretty penny to get pricked and spend 20 minutes or more hooked up to a drip packed with vital vitamins. 

But just how effective are these drips? Can they really boost your health from just one drip? What are the side effects? Can you get a bad reaction? We did some digging into the science of vitamin drips and here’s what we found out…

What is IV vitamin drip therapy? 

Vitamin drips consist of a blend of a saltwater solution and carefully picked vitamins (depending on what kind of drip you choose) to help strengthen your immune system, overcome jet lag and cure a hangover. Other supposed outcomes include healthy skin, energy boost, enhanced mood, sports recovery, anti-inflammation and even a brain boost.  

IV stands for intravenous. This means that a concentrated dose of vitamins is injected directly into the bloodstream, allowing these vitamins and minerals to bypass the digestive system, which some have claimed allows the body to obtain more nutrients as the digestive process is avoided. 

How much do vitamin drips cost?

Most drip bars (which seem to be popping up all over South Africa at the moment), offer a selection of drip cocktails for you to choose from. The costs of these drips can range from R650 to R1000 or more (for one drip). 

What do vitamin drips contain?

The base of all vitamin drips typically contains vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium. This is typically known as a ‘Jet Fuel’ or ‘Myers Cocktail’. This combination of vitamins was inspired by Dr John Myers who was a mastermind behind the use of intravenously administered vitamins during the 1950s. 

Does IV vitamin therapy really work?

IV therapy is nothing new and has been used in medicine for decades. It is most commonly used to administer essential nutrients and hydrate hospital and sick patients if they have issues with gut absorption, or difficulties eating and drinking. Which is why a number of experts question the use of these drips for healthy individuals. 

It might sound like an impressive feat to combat the above list of ailments and issues (hangover cure, immune-boosting etc.). But it is also important to note that the evidence to support these claims is anecdotal (based on personal accounts rather than facts or research).

What does the research say?

One doctor, in particular, Rick Pescatore, who works as an emergency physician and the director of clinical research in Philadelphia said that IV drips for healthy people are a little more than snake oil. 

He also mentioned that there is no data to support the use of these drips and their health benefits. 

There is, however, one review that studied the use of the Myers Cocktail, but this research is also a collection of anecdotal evidence. 

A different study examined the effectiveness of IV therapy in reducing the symptoms of chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia in 34 people. This study found that there was no significant difference between those who received IV vitamin therapy once a week for 8 weeks and those who did not.

The authors of the study noted that there was a significant placebo effect, meaning that a number of patients noted how their symptoms improved when receiving a ‘dummy’ vitamin cocktail. 

Which makes you think that perhaps the effect these drips have is a placebo one?

Vitamin Drips

What are the risks of IV vitamin therapy?

It turns out, that even when it comes to things that are supposedly good for you like minerals and vitamins, you can still have too much of a good thing. 

Vitamin A, for example, is a fat-soluble vitamin. If you take in more than your body needs, then your body will store it and you risk damage to major organs, such as the liver. 

IV vitamin cocktails also contain large amounts of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B and vitamin C. These vitamins are processed through the kidneys and excreted into your urine when the body can no longer store them. Which basically makes for some very expensive urine. 

You also run the risk of infection as a needle is inserted into your bloodstream. 

If you suffer from kidney, heart or blood pressure issues then doctors suggest you should not have IV therapy as there is a risk of fluid overload which can lead to delayed wound healing, impaired bowel function and heart failure. 

However, drip bars will make you fill in and sign a form where you can state any health concerns you may have. They should also warn you against any potential implications. 

What are the benefits of IV therapy?

Of course, there are also some possible benefits of IV therapy. Most doctors suggest you have IV therapy if you are sick, unwell, incredibly stressed, dehydrated or suffer from a digestive issue such as celiac’s disease. IV therapy will help deliver the vitamins your body might struggle to digest when obtained from food. 

Drip bar owners and therapists will also inform you that IV therapy is no quick-fix. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise and proper sleep and stress coping techniques, you should not need it. 

What’s the bottom line?

It’s important that you chat with your doctor before trying any new health treatment. And while IV vitamin therapy might energize and revitalise you, the best cure for an unhealthy lifestyle and stress is a healthy diet, exercise, sleep and stress-coping techniques such as mindfulness.

There is no such thing as a quick-fix and although there are a number of claims supporting both sides of the argument when it comes to IV Vitamin Therapy, there just isn’t enough concrete evidence to support the benefits of vitamin drips. And whilst vitamin therapy is something that has been used in hospitals and doctors rooms to treat sick and unwell patients, if you are someone who is generally healthy, then there may be little to no benefit for you. 

Of course, at the end of the day the decision is yours to make, but at roughly R650 a pop, we will be saving our money for healthy food and perhaps a gym membership. What are your thoughts?

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Gemma Oberholzer

About Gemma Oberholzer

I guess you can say I'm a serial self-improver. Since I was a kid I can remember being weirdly thrilled at the idea of learning something new and figuring out how to use that new found knowledge to better myself. This perpetual learn-grow itch eventually lead me to the field of Health and Wellness and it's here I've been, fascinated for the last 8 years of my study and work life. From Human Life Scientist and learning the mechanics of physiology and intricacies of metabolic biochemistry, to Food and Nutrition Scientist where I deepened my understanding of diet and it's key role in human performance and health. Geared with this comprehensive education and better appreciation for human health, I've since been able to practically apply this in my career through the fields of research, product development, brand management and marketing. In 2018, I was finally able to bring all these learnings together and so my passion project, WellBe&Co, was born. WellBe&Co is a personal and corporate wellness company specializing in easy-to-implement, lifestyle-focused nutrition, training and health solutions. It's here that I've gained invaluable insights into the human-side of the health and wellness industry in a way that has enabled me to provide relevant content and value-adding services to individuals and companies alike and live out our mission to build communities that know better and grow together through better health.

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