Vitamin Drips: The Pros and Cons

What if you could cure a hangover, boost your immune system and tackle tiredness all in one go? That’s what a vitamin drip can do. But are they really necessary and do they actually work? We asked the experts to answer some of our burning questions.

First – what exactly is a vitamin drip?
“A vitamin drip is exactly that – when a combination of vitamins and other micronutrients are delivered intravenously via infusion therapy. Working in as little as 20 minutes, they have become a popular way to boost health. This is because the vitamins bypass your stomach – in fact, a healthy adult only absorbs 10% of nutrients from a typical supplement, whereas with an IV infusion, 100% of the nutrients are delivered straight to your bloodstream. Conditions that have responded positively to IV drips include people suffering with asthma, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle spasms, post-viral fatigue and respiratory tract infections. Some people also like to receive a treatment if they are experiencing significant dehydration, such as after running a marathon or a big night of drinking.” – Dr Yassine Bendiabdallah, functional medicine specialist and co-founder of ZEN Healthcare 

What’s typically in an infusion?
“While there are many popular combinations of vitamins, and each clinic offers their own bespoke blends, the most famous is called a Myers Cocktail, which is designed to provide an ideal blend of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium and vitamins C and D to help everything from fatigue and seasonal allergies to colds, flu and migraines. If you aren’t having a Myers cocktail, chances are your drip will contain vitamin C and some form of vitamin B.” – Dr Joshua Berkowitz, medical director at IV Boost UK

What does it feel like?
“Patients may feel a small prick when the needle goes in – like when you have an injection – but the treatment should never be painful. In fact, most patients find the experience relaxing. Infusions take between 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the type and number of vitamins you are having administered.” – Yassine 

Are the results instant?
“It depends on the issue you are treating. If you are treating a deficiency, for example, such as a magnesium or iron deficiency, it may take a series of several infusions to reap the full benefits. If, however, it’s a simple case of dehydration, you will see the results straight away.” – Joshua

“A hangover infusion can immediately rehydrate you, make you feel less nauseous and provide an anti-inflammatory action.”

Does that explain why a drip is so beneficial for a hangover?
“Yes. Alcohol is a strong diuretic, meaning you become increasingly dehydrated as you drink. On top of this, the alcohol in your bloodstream is metabolised to various aldehydes and other substances that are toxic to the brain and liver. This double whammy means there are high levels of unwanted toxins in the body, which you struggle to excrete as you are dehydrated. A hangover infusion can immediately rehydrate you, make you feel less nauseous and provide an anti-inflammatory action.” – Joshua 

How do you know what kind of infusion is right for you?
“Don’t book a drip without speaking to a professional first – ideally a nutritionist as well as a doctor – who can provide a full consultation to work out which nutrients you could benefit from receiving. A functional medicine doctor, who specialises in finding the root cause of a health problem using both traditional medical approaches and holistic methods, can also help. Do not just speak with a nutritionist – while they can provide advice on diet, they are not fully medically trained.” – Joshua 

“IV drips are outside a nutritionist’s scope of practice, so your GP is your best starting point. Your GP can refer you for blood tests to find out if you actually need additional nutrients. If you did prove to be deficient in some area, they can recommend you a specific dose via a drip for that specific nutrient.” – Jason Munro, certified nutritionist and founder of Munro Method Nutrition

Drips can contain very high levels of vitamins – is this safe?
“It’s fair to say there will be some excretion of certain vitamins and minerals following a drip (via the urine), but much too will be retained. It depends on your condition and vitamin levels prior to an infusion.” – Joshua

“At ZEN Healthcare, we assess your needs prior to a treatment, so the infusion is tweaked to your nutritional requirements. Having said that, after having a drip, some patients may find that their urine temporarily changes colour, which just means that B vitamins like riboflavin has been utilised by the body. This is a normal side effect and is nothing to be concerned about.” – Yassine

“It would be naïve to believe that getting a drip is risk free. An infusion goes directly into your venous system, and if anything goes wrong, it can go wrong very quickly.”

Within the medical industry, what’s the consensus on drips?
“Traditional doctors are probably sceptical as to the need for healthy, robust, well-fed patients to require such interventions. But the numbers keep growing as more patients seek traditional doctors who are using functional medicine approaches, but who are still steeped in the traditions and ethics of good medical practice.” – Joshua

“Drips have been around since the early 1800s, so they’re nothing new, but the way they are being used in now definitely is new. I believe that using an IV drip to deliver micronutrients is unnecessary and doesn’t do much in otherwise healthy individuals. If your daily diet is devoid of quality nutrition (for example, if you rarely eat your five-a-day and eat few plant-based foods), then you may experience more benefits than others. If you are hungover, then you will feel better after a drip due to the boost in hydration, but you can do that for yourself for a few pennies. There is also a placebo effect with IV drips – it’s very easy to convince yourself that something is working because you spent a few hundred pounds on it.” – Jason 

Are there any risks involved?
“IV therapy is perfectly safe, provided you are getting a treatment from a registered clinic and healthcare practitioner. Unfortunately, standards of treatment vary between clinics and there are many out there that offer unregulated mixtures, which means it’s impossible to know whether the cocktail being dripped into your bloodstream is safe. It’s also important to speak to your doctor about any medication you are taking, so they can make sure the IV treatment won’t cause a reaction.” – Yassine 

“It would be naïve to believe getting a drip is risk free. An infusion goes directly into your venous system, and if anything goes wrong, it can go wrong very quickly. For this reason, it’s essential to be in a certified medical environment, where staff have training to cope with various possible emergency situations – not just a generic first aid qualification.” – Joshua 

If you want to get one, what should you look for in a clinic?
“The clinic you choose needs to be properly led, safe and should have a medically qualified prescribing person on the team, and always present in the clinic. Note that a normal saline infusion (to which your vitamins and nutrients are added) is a prescription-only medication and many of the added ingredients are likely to be prescription only, too. The prescriber should be knowledgeable as to the dosages and adverse effects that may occur.” – Joshua

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