Talk with Your Provider Before Undergoing IV Vitamin Therapy
You can now visit a salon or spa to receive an intravenous (IV) infusion of vitamins and minerals to help you look and feel your best. But, says Crystal Glassy, DO, MPH, a UCLA family medicine physician, “it would probably be safer, less expensive and take less time out of your day to focus on your diet instead.”
What are vitamin IV drips?
Specialty IV clinics provide infusions that promise a variety of results, from boosting energy levels or libido to eliminating a hangover. But you shouldn’t just dive in. “Before trying IV vitamin therapy, make sure your provider weighs in on whether it’s safe and appropriate,” says Dr. Glassy.
Dr. Glassy says the quality of care at the locations with vitamin IV drips can vary widely, as do the types of professionals administering the infusion. “It isn’t always a medical doctor delivering the infusion,” she says. “One concern I have is for patients with fluid restrictions — without an appropriate medical assessment, infusions might be dangerous.”
Patients with congestive heart failure or end stage renal disease, for example, have potential for serious harm from receiving fluids. For these people, an IV drip could have devastating consequences.
Risks of IV drip therapy
Dr. Glassy says IV drips carry all risks from administering an IV of any sort. In addition, these are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Some potential risks include:
- Damage to the tissue surrounding the injection site
- Irritation or inflammation of the vein (phlebitis)
- Air entering the bloodstream through the IV (air embolism)
- Consequences of side effect or overdose from the vitamin or mineral administered within the cocktail
Benefits of IV vitamin therapy
“It is challenging to make broad-based statements about the effectiveness of any vitamin supplemental therapy, the administration should be under the recommendation of your physician.” says Dr. Glassy.
She suspects a few types of patients could potentially benefit from IV therapy if their provider clears them for treatment. They include patients who:
- Have known gastrointestinal disorders or who have an abnormal or unhealthy GI tract
- Have changes to the DNA code (known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) that require higher concentrations of certain vitamins or minerals
- Take medications known to decrease the absorption of certain vitamins and cannot take them orally spaced in time from their meds
For the vast majority of patients, taking in nutrients through the gut is preferable since that is the natural method of vitamin absorption. Dr. Glassy suggests trying dietary tricks that help the gut absorb more nutrients naturally, including:
- Pairing a salad with avocado and olive oil to help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins D, A, E and K found in vegetables
- Eating sardines or other iron rich foods with a vitamin C-rich vegetable to improve iron absorption
- Combining a kale salad with chopped eggs to maximize intake of magnesium and vitamin D
“Many people have gotten away from healthy diets that naturally give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs,” says Dr. Glassy. “We can’t maximize nutrient absorption and stay hydrated when we are eating highly processed foods that are heavy in additives and salt, and not drinking enough water. Instead of going through the hassle of IV vitamin drips, patients could opt to make changes to their diet that can have tremendous positive consequences on their health, likely beyond what they are desiring from IV vitamin therapy.”
If you are considering IV vitamin therapy, be sure to talk with your primary care provider to ensure it will be safe for you. Dr. Glassy is accepting new patients at Century City – Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Urgent Care. She is available to offer nutrition advice or to refer you to a registered dietitian for a higher level of support. You can also find primary care practices at other locations.