|Dr. Sommer White, MD
Functional Medicine Doctor
IV Vitamin Therapy Expert
How does it work? | Benefits | Types | What to Expect | Risks & Side Effects
In my early days as an emergency room (ER) doctor, we used intravenous (IV) therapy to resuscitate people with severe dehydration. We also used it to give antibiotics and other medications to those who were unable to receive them via other methods. In many cases, IV therapy saved lives.
Today, we can use IV therapy outside of these life-threatening scenarios to improve quality of life and support overall health and well-being.
If you are curious about IV therapy, I will share some of the key benefits of this approach, best practices, and a few things to watch for to help you get the most out of this beneficial therapy.
How Does IV Vitamin Therapy Work?
Intravenous therapy, or IV Drip, consists of infusing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and other nutrients directly to the bloodstream by using a small catheter placed into a vein. This delivery method completely bypasses the digestive system and allows nutrients to flood the body’s cells directly, where they can be readily absorbed and utilized.
Many people nowadays have impaired digestive systems. As a result, their bodies may not properly absorb all the nutrients from their diet or supplements. Since IV therapy bypasses the digestive system, it can deliver vitamins, minerals and other nutrients directly into the bloodstream to support optimal function of the body’s cells.
Very often, the cells in our body aren’t working optimally, so they can’t effectively absorb nutrients. The IV therapy gives the body an increased dose of concentrated nutrition to encourage absorption and utilization of essential nutrients.
Although IV therapy can provide multiple nutrients at once, it is not meant to replace a healthy diet or oral dietary supplements. It is best used as a targeted delivery method to boost certain nutrients.
IV Vitamin Therapy Benefits
I believe anyone can benefit from IV vitamin therapy. It can offer an effective “tune up” for healthy individuals and also help support the treatment of many medical conditions. I differentiate these two uses to emphasize that if you are sick or have a medical condition, IV therapy may help, although it needs to be part of a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of your health issues.
For example, a person with chronic fatigue that can hardly get out of bed may see a big difference in energy levels after IV therapy. Or a person with a digestive disorder may struggle with nutritional deficiencies due to inadequate vitamin and mineral absorption in the gut. IV therapy can help improve their nutritional status. But, with both of these conditions, even though IV therapy can manage symptoms, the actual root cause of their condition will still need to be identified and addressed.
Here is a list of some of the most common uses of IV vitamin therapy:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Memory problems, concentration difficulties, “brain fog”
- Digestive system disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Helps support detoxification and ease alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms
- Relieves symptoms of chronic infections such as Lyme disease or mold toxicity
- Supports treatment of neurological conditions such as Parkinson disease
- Alleviates symptoms of sinusitis, asthma, and allergies.
For healthy individuals, certain types of IV therapies may support:
- Energy production
- Enhanced detoxification
- Athletic performance
- Weight loss
- Immune function
- Mind and body balance
- Collagen production for healthy skin, hair, nails, and eyes.
IV Therapy Types: Which One is The Right One for Me?
Healthy individuals who have a specific goal in mind may start with nutrient blends designed to address their personal objectives. For medical concerns, in functional medicine we often tailor the treatment to the patient’s needs. The same personalization applies to IV therapy. So, while there are certain formulas that may work well for healthy individuals, to help manage a medical condition I often customize the IV therapy based on a patient’s symptoms, health objectives and lab work.
I may start with traditional Myer’s cocktail (a mixture of B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, and calcium) for example, and add other components based on a patient’s clinical symptoms and results of micronutrient blood tests. Treatment usually starts with 1-2 infusions per a week for the first month. After the first month, we assess how the body has responded and may repeat blood work to determine the frequency of ongoing treatment.
What to Expect
What you will experience when you receive IV vitamin therapy depends on the nutrients in the formula, your health status, nutritional deficiencies, and the way your body responds. The experience can be quite different for each individual. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are a few possible reactions:
Some types of IV therapy include detoxifying substances such as glutathione, to enhance the body’s ability to release toxins. This means you may initially have a detoxification reaction within the first 24 hours. Symptoms may include nausea, headaches, fatigue, and diarrhea. These symptoms usually go away after the first few sessions. Once your body has detoxified, this is when many people start to notice the benefits.
IV therapy formulas that include B vitamins such as the Myer’s cocktail often have an energizing effect. You may feel more focused and have a spring in your step. This usually occurs immediately after the infusion and can last a few days after treatment.
NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) Reaction
NAD+ is a coenzyme that supports mitochondrial function, energy production, and detoxification.
As such, IV infusions of NAD+ can promote healthy cells, decrease oxidative stress and support optimal function of the mitochondria. So, while initially some people may have anxiety, muscle pain, and headaches due to the detoxification affect, they may notice the benefits overtime.
NAD+ IV therapy is very popular for cases of chronic fatigue syndrome, infections such as Lyme disease and mold toxicity, systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, and alcohol and drug addictions.
IV Therapy Side Effects & Risks
IV Therapy is considered safe with minimal side effects. The biggest risk is infection from not using sterilized procedures and practices.
Other possible side effects may include:
- Pain along the insertion site
- Pain during the IV therapy, especially if the concentration is not carefully tailored to the patient
- Depending on the IV formula, a detoxification reaction may occur. This can be managed by starting slow and assessing the patient’s response before increasing the dosage.
To minimize the risks of infections or discomforts during the process, always look for a reputable licensed qualified practitioner.
Depending on your health challenges and goals, IV therapy can be helpful either as a healthy “tune up”, or to support the treatment of a medical condition. As a reminder, if you have a medical condition, IV therapy may help your body to heal and can relieve your symptoms, although it always needs to come as a part of a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of your health issues.
Dr. Sommer sees patients in her clinic in Nashville, Tennessee.
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