The Basics. Intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy is more than just a hangover fad, it has actually been used to help many conditions for over 50 years! IV therapy is a method of administering nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids) directly into the blood stream. Why? Nutrient depletion is more common than we think. Many of us are not getting enough of our recommended daily nutrients; we eat on the go, we eat fast foods, we skip meals. Coupled with increased demand on our bodies from things like chronic stress, travel, infection or illness, as well as the diminished nutrient status of our soil, our need for nutrient support is essential more than ever. Did you know many of your symptoms can be worse if you're deficient in certain vitamins and minerals?
Nutrition at a Cellular Level. Refuelling and replenishing the body supports your ability to heal and prevent future illness. But, what is the basis for injecting your vitamins? Simply put, IV therapy delivers high doses of micronutrients that readily absorb into your blood, delivering fuel directly to your tissues. When we ingest nutrients from food and oral supplements, they must be broken down by our liver before being absorbed into our blood, meaning, a portion gets lost to metabolism before these nutrients ever reach our cells. When you infuse nutrients directly into the bloodstream, you bypass the digestive system, and this achieves a higher blood concentration beyond what is orally possible. This high concentration creates a gradient that coaxes the nutrients into your cells, right where you want them be. This delivery method is especially useful in conditions where digestive function has been compromised. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, acute illness or infection, chronic stress, ulcers, allergies, small bowel resection can all benefit from IV therapy. In chronic disease states or depletion, larger amounts of nutrients can be comfortably and safely delivered into the body.
A Therapeutic Level of Nutrients. Though the best way to nourish your body is to eat a wholesome diet, we all need a little support from time to time. Oral supplements can play a valuable role in many treatment plans but it's important to recognize the limitations of these products, especially drugstore brands where the quality, purity and concentration can't always be accounted for. In addition, side effects of high oral doses of certain vitamins and minerals can cause unpleasant side effects like nausea, cramping or diarrhea. No thanks! IV therapy avoids digestive disturbance and uses only preservative-free, pharmaceutical grade nutrients- the same kind used in hospitals all over the world. IV vitamin and mineral therapy acts to improve the function of your cells and your immune system, helps protect cells from damage and works to decrease the inflammatory burden of oxidative stress in your body.
The Cocktail. Formulations vary based on the goal of treatment, but the following nutrients are generally included in the infusion in varying amounts:
· Trace minerals
· Vitamin B5, B6, B9, B12, B-complex
· Vitamin C
· Amino acids
Who Benefits? Everyone! Even those who are healthy over all but want an extra boost. It is especially useful for individuals with a higher need for specific nutrients, including athletes, in pregnancy, students, professionals under high levels of acute or chronic stress, and those with acute illness or lowered immune function. Benefit has be seen in the following:
· Hair, skin & nail support
· Weight loss
· Migraine & tension headache
· Fibromyalgia, acute muscle spasm & chronic pain
· Adjunctive for cancer therapy
· Endurance & recovery for performance athletics
· Burnout, fatigue & low energy
· Colds & flu
· Depression & anxiety
· Poor sleep
· Sinusitis & seasonal allergies
· Hormonal imbalance
The Doctor. IV therapy is administered by board-certified naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic doctors complete 8 years of post-secondary education, are medically trained and naturally focused. In addition to learning biomedical sciences and natural therapies, Naturopathic doctors offering IV therapy must complete additional IV certification and advanced first aid training, as well as hold their prescriptive authority.
Considerations. It's important to be curious about your health, and to ask questions when considering any therapy. So what you should know about IV therapy? First and foremost, don’t be afraid to try it. IV therapy is very safe when administered by experienced medically trained professionals. Your naturopathic doctor will conduct a comprehensive history prior to you receiving your IV to ensure the formulation is safe for you. Localized pain at the infusion site can occur if the infusion rate is to high or the pH too low, but this is easily corrected by slowing the infusion rate or adjusting the formula. As with any injection therapy, risk of infection, infiltration or venous irritation is always possible though extremely rare. Vitamin C can increase levels of calcium, potassium and chloride, and as a consequence, some people experience mild transient shakiness or ache during their IV. Vitamin C can also cause a temporary lowering of blood sugar so proper hydration and nourishment is encouraged prior to treatment. Only pharmaceutical-grade, water-soluble nutrients are used, making the potential for toxicity extremely low. Because vitamins and minerals are natural to the body, risk of allergic reaction is extremely low. Given the amount of fluid and electrolytes used, any condition that could be affected by an increased fluid load needs to be monitored closely and a tailored protocol given accordingly. As such, the procedure is not generally recommended for people with kidney or heart disease.
What to Expect. After a brief check in with your doctor, you'll be hooked up to your infusion for about 45 minutes. Many patients will use this time to read, watch a movie or catch up on some quiet time. You will not feel the needle once it is in position, and the therapy should never be painful or uncomfortable. You may initially feel sleepy after your dose, but many people notice an immediate increase in energy and an overall better feeling!
By Dr. Alaina
Gaby, A. (2002). Intravenous Nutrient Therapy the ‘Myers Cocktail’. Alternate Medicine Review 7:5. http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/7/5/389.pdf.
Lemmo, W. (2013). Intravenous Vitamin C –the cocktail. Lemmo Integrated Cancer Care. http://www.lemmo.com/cancer-care/intravenous-vitamin-c/.
Padayatty, S. et.al. (2010). Vitamin C: Intravenous Use by Complementary Alternative Medicine Practitioners and Adverse Effects. PLoS ONE. 5:7. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0011414.