For a number of people, nutrient deficiencies stemming from certain conditions and lifestyle habits can get in the way of feeling their best. And that’s precisely why more people are turning toward nutrient injections and IV therapy as a natural alternative that bypasses digestion.
When you think of nutrition, you think of food. And when food isn’t enough, there are supplements. Both enter the body through the mouth and go through the gut where nutrients can be absorbed. But IV therapy is an intriguing form of treatment that helps with everything from boosting energy and athletic performance, to enhancing memory and mood.
We spoke with naturopathic physicians Dr. Heath McAllister and Dr. Jessica Marier to find out more about this trend and what patients can expect from trying IV therapy.
What Is Nutrient Injection and IV Therapy?
Nutrient injection and IV therapy involve intravenously administering customized blends of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to treat deficiencies and boost wellness. These nutrients go directly into the bloodstream through a vein, immersing all the body’s cells within a minute of entering the circulatory system.
It's a safe and effective way to bypass the gut, which may have problems with absorption due to medical conditions or stress. “For a lot of people that we see, they have problems absorbing enough nutrients,” said Dr. McAllister. “And for those people it's really beneficial because when you give an IV, there's no question -- it goes right into the system.”
For anyone who's looking to take their wellness to higher levels, nutrient IV therapy may be able to help. Doctors are now using it to help slow down aging, supercharge the healing process from pain or physical injury, boost athletic performance, combat fatigue, enhance energy and stamina, minimize mood problems, and improve memory retention.
“The most common conditions we see benefitted by IV therapy are fatigue, acute colds and flus, auto-immune conditions, and athletes looking to maximize their performance naturally,” said Dr. McAllister. “Probably our largest demographic are women in their 30s and 40s looking to look, feel, and be their best.”
How It Works
When it comes to determining a patient’s needs, there are two ways of doing it. The first way is by simply looking at symptoms. “All our shots and IVs are all non-toxic stuff,” said Dr. McAllister. “There's nothing problematic with any of it, and so you can give an IV, and see how they feel.”
The other way to get assessed is by micronutrient testing. “Micronutrient testing takes the blood, harvests the white blood cells, and looks for the nutrients in the white blood cells, which is more of a long-term marker of your nutrient storage,” said Dr. McAllister. “And from there you can see whether we've got a thiamin deficiency or a serine deficiency or something like that — and for some of those we can give IVs while others frankly are things that you take as a food or a supplement. But if you do the testing, then it takes all the guesswork out of it.”
Results can be pretty dramatic and immediate if the therapy is the right match for the deficiency. “I would say that from my experience, if someone is deficient, they feel better almost immediately — like the same day or the next day,” said Dr. McAllister. “And it could be improvements in energy, they could sleep better, they could have less pain, or have less anxiety. So you do see some pretty dramatic results."
“Other times you don't see the results you're looking for because maybe that person's problem is not due to a nutrient deficiency. If you didn't do the micronutrient test and you're not sure, but you say you have muscle spasms, so let's give you magnesium -- that might not be the issue. The issue might be that you’re dehydrated or it might be a potassium deficiency or something else that you didn't really adequately uncover.”
How IV Therapy Can Help Balance Out Your Everyday Ups and Downs
Everyday life impacts how we all look and feel, and sometimes even the most health conscious people could use a bit of extra help. For example, when it comes to something as common slowing down the aging process, the right combination of nutrients consumed orally with IV administration can make a noticeable impact on both memory enhacement and skin revitalization.
“We offer targeted therapies to help regenerate the skin and joints called PRP therapy, said Dr. McAllister. “PRP Therapy is a treatment that extracts growth factors from the patient’s blood to be used topically on the face to regenerate collagen and improve skin tone, or can be administered as an injection to help regenerate joints.”
Detoxification is another common problem nutrient IV therapy can help tackle. Given the huge range of toxic compounds people are exposed to these days, which include everything from BPA and heavy metals to PCBs and phthalates, greater support may be needed to rid people’s bodies of those chemicals.
“Our detox methods include oral and IV nutrients to support the liver’s pathways as well as a substance called glutathione,” said Dr. McAllister. “Glutathione is the main antioxidant that our own bodies make. When we are overburdened with toxins, this generates a lot of inflammation. Therefore, antioxidants are critical to helping quench this inflammation. Additionally, some toxins like mercury for example, rob our body of glutathione making the glutathione needs for those people much higher. When we combine these nutrient therapies with a healthy diet, home hydrotherapy, gentle exercise and plenty of sleep, the results are people feeling more energetic and more like themselves. Moreover, we can retest the patients to make sure their toxins levels are decreasing through the process.”
And for those who maintain an active lifestyle, any pain from physical injury or even surgery may be treated with this therapy as well. “The most common nutrients the body needs to repair damaged tissues are glutathione, amino acids, and antioxidants like zinc and vitamin C,” said Dr. McAllister. “These nutrients when taken orally are helpful, however when we give them in a nutrient IV the results are much more dramatic and greatly speeds up recovery.”
The Benefits of Vitamin B Shots
In addition to the IVs, shots are a safe and natural way to boost wellness, and may be used as more of an introductory or as-needed form of treatment. Dr. Marier administers vitamin B shots at her walk-in clinics and she shared some information with us on how they can really benefit people.
“Vegetarians and vegans, depending on how good they are on making sure they're getting good amounts of B vitamins in their diet, are great candidates," said Dr. Marier. “Sometimes vegetarians or vegans can turn into 'carbo-tarians' where they're not really getting good amounts of B12, B6, or folic acid in their diet.”
Anyone who’s currently on medication is also a good candidate for the B-vitamin shots, due to the fact that medications can deplete vitamin levels. “For example, birth control pills that many women take depletes their B12, B6, and folic acid,” said Dr. Marier.
“There's a lot of medical diagnoses that can really guide me as far as how I blend the injection for patients. For anxiety and depression — those respond really well to B12, B6 combined with B complex because essentially that helps boost their neurotransmitters and their mood. The B6 also helps with sleep, PMS, and water retention.”
Even for those who are quite healthy and have no problem with their diet or supplements, the shots may be appropriate in certain situations. “For example, if they're going somewhere where there's tons of mosquitos and they tend to love biting them specifically, often I'll do doses of B1 or thiamin a couple weeks before they go on their trip,” said Dr. Marier. “And then when they go, they realize that the bugs aren't into them as much as they used to be, so it can be kind of used as needed.”
“Or for a patient who's getting on an airplane and they're going to be traveling, B12 is great for the immune system. So as far as helping protect them from getting sick, it can be helpful.”
Lifestyle Considerations and Cost
Of course, nutrient IV therapy and shots shouldn’t be used to completely replace a healthy diet and lifestyle. For someone who’s already perfectly healthy -- meaning they're maintaining a nutritious diet, sleeping well, and exercising often -- these treatments may not offer as much of a significant benefit compared to someone lacking in those areas. For those of us who can’t maintain perfect lifestyle habits one hundred percent of the time (which is pretty much most people), then it can certainly help fill in those gaps or just add a bit of a boost where it's needed.
“All of these nutrients are things your body is already used to seeing,” said Dr. McAllister. “It just might be deficient in a way that if you bump up those levels, you’re going to feel a heck of a lot better.”
So, is there anyone who this type of treatment might not be right for? Given that it’s safe enough to help almost anybody feel better, both Dr. McAllister and Dr. Marier emphasized that anyone who has a serious fear of needles would probably be better off avoiding it. So, if the thought of getting a needle makes you feel sick, or if you have a tendency to pass out, exploring other alternatives might be a good idea.
As far as affordability goes, it depends on what your specific needs are and what treatment you’re willing to go for. For instance, the micronutrient testing will be an extra cost to consider. “I can’t speak to all clinics across the country, only those in my immediate area, but generally speaking IVs can range from $75 up to $350,” said Dr. McAllister. “The more specialty ingredients added or the larger the IV, the higher the price.”
Is This Just a Wellness Fad?
So, this might sound exciting and very much work trying, but you might be wondering — is this just the latest health trend that’s destined to fizzle out, or is this here to stay? Dr. McAllister says it absolutely is here to stay, pointing out that we’re increasingly discovering new ways to maximize health with cutting-edge therapies as medicine advances. “Interest and awareness in IV therapy is steadily growing as is the number of people that can greatly benefit from it,” he said.
“We already are seeing these therapies offered in standard medical and integrative clinics around the country. As the interest in IV therapy grows and the efficacy is broadcast to larger audiences, my opinion is that IV therapy will eventually become mainstream across the country.”
If you’re interested in finding a doctor in your area who may be offering this form of therapy, you can visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) website at Naturopathic.org where you’ll be able to use their online directory and search tools to locate a doctor near you.
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