Hooking up to an intravenous nutrient drip for various health and wellness treatments has become a huge trending procedure in the anti-ageing industry. Yet is must be noted that while there is scientific literature to support the benefits of these treatments, it does come with its own set of risks, contraindications and interactions.
Dr Cobus van Niekerk advises on how to administer IV nutrient therapy responsibly and safely.
While intravenous nutrient therapy is by no means a new anti-ageing treatment, its popularity shows no signs of abating. Quite the opposite actually: over the years, IV drips has become a firm favourite amongst a variety of health conscious individuals – such as those who are looking to treat anything from certain cancers, ischaemic heart disease and high cholesterol – to boosting their energy levels or improving their appearance. In a nutshell, IV therapy offers a range of treatment solutions in the health, aesthetics and anti-ageing market. The question is though: do they work?
IV Therapy – Worth the hype? Or is it all in ‘vein’?
The fact is, those who are undergoing IV therapy – or considering getting such a treatment/s, should not be discouraged to do so as there is scientific literature to support these treatments.
That said however, it’s imperative that IV treatments are done in a responsible way by well-trained practitioners.
It is worrying that people trust non-medically trained IV Bars (business entities), where the patient chooses the latest trend on a menu, with no doctor supervision, no examination and no preliminary blood tests to asses a patient’s general health before undergoing a treatment like this. This is despite the procedure carrying several contraindications, interactions and consequences.
In fact, there have been at least two cases of documented deaths related to IV treatments in South Africa. It is therefore so important to do your own research, research the doctor or clinic where you will receive the treatment, and use this article for things to watch out for before embarking on this journey.
Ethically and safely
Every IV should be done ethically correct, by a medical doctor trained in IV therapies with a full history, examination (including observations) and documentation of any allergies.¹
The doctor should sign off special investigations (pretesting), and informed consent needs be obtained from patients. Moreover, any complications, side-effects and contra-indications should be discussed and considered with patients. A follow up must then be scheduled.¹
On the day of the IV treatment, all patients are required to have their observations checked, a urine test performed, and patients asked to document their last meals.¹
In addition, all IV treatment patients must be monitored at all times for symptoms like dizziness, nausea, confusion, cramps, pain at the drips site, sweating etc.¹
If there is no doctor on site to deal with emergencies, don’t have the treatment done.
In fact, not only should a doctor be present, but a resuscitation trolley should be available in the treatment room.¹
Medical practitioners and nurses must ideally have a Basic Life Support Certification, with at least one practitioner being Advanced Life support Certified.¹
Notably, certain treatments should be administered over at least three hours, as doing it faster may cause severe side-effects, and even lead to the death.¹
The potential use of IV therapies includes, but is not limited, to:
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Chemotherapy/cancer therapies
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Gastric bypass patients
- Macular degeneration
- Chelation therapies
- PMS relief
- Hair treatments¹
IV Nutrients consists of:
- Membrane stabilisers
- Chelating agents
- Trace minerals
- Specialised anti-cancer treatments
The most common vitamins include vitamin A, B-Complex, folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin E. Antioxidants for IV use include alpha lipoic acid, glutathione, superoxide dismutase etc.
When it comes to IV chelating agents, these should only be used by trained doctors with experience.
Trending treatments: Be informed
The most popular treatments listed below only scratches the surface with regards to IV nutrient therapies, and it’s purely listed here so that patients and potential patients may be informed about what they may receive in their treatment.
The B-Complex vitamins¹
- In combination it helps to provide optimal health
- Are important in glucose metabolism and stabilization of brain chemistry
- Relieves leg cramps, is important for thyroid function, treating insomnia and improves irritability
- Vitamin B supplementation should be used in patients with hormone replacement therapy and hormonal contraceptives as it may deplete vitamin B
- Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant and benefits the immune system (increases white blood cells and interferon)
- It decreases the rate of certain cancers, improves gum disease
- It reduces bruising, helps regenerate vitamin E, glutathione and uric acid, and is involved in serotonin production (treatment of depression and anxiety)
- Vitamin C increases HDL (good cholesterol), lowers triglycerides and prevents free radical damage of LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Vitamin C prevents the incidence of lung disease, increases fertility, lowers the incidence of cataracts and aids in wound healing
- The above is the reason that ‘high dose vitamin C’ is such a buzz-word in integrative and functional medicine
- Please note that glutathione, though improving complexion, may lead to other complications like a higher incidence of skin cancer – and is not in itself promoted as a skin lightening treatment
- It does, however, have an important role in immune metabolism and transport of amino acids across cell membranes, improves macrophage function and is important in red blood cell integrity
- It is also a powerful intracellular antioxidant and is useful in neurological diseases, radiation exposure, overdoses, brain injuries, arsenic poisoning, parkinson’s disease, chronic kidney failure and emotional disorders
- Developed by Dr John Myers, MD, this cocktail has been used by thousands of physicians
- Slow IV push made up of vitamin B-complex, B5, B6, B12, vitamin C, magnesium and calcium (contra-indicated in patients on digoxin)
- This is an all-round good IV drip
- Increased energy levels an adrenal gland support.
- Stress reliever (magnesium, B-vitamins and vitamin C)
- Low magnesium may cause dysrhythmias, palpitations, tremors, asthma, hypertension, IBS or psychological symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.
Contra-indications to IV Therapy.³
- Chronic renal failure
- Congestive heart failure
- Allergies / sensitivities to ingredients
- G6PD deficiency – Absolute contra-indication for vitamin C deficiency
- Poorly controlled hypertension
- Seizure disorders (epilepsy)
- Cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)
- Nephrolithiasis (kidney stones)
- Folate + other vitamins, minerals may cause precipitation
- Alpha lipoic and phosphatidylcholine should be given alone
- Do not push thiamine rapidly as it may cause anaphylaxis²
- EDTA should only be given with Ca and Mg, (No other minerals)
- Vitamin C and B12 may cause oxalate kidney stones
- Fat soluble vitamins and nutrients should be given through central IV lines or PIC lines only
- Glutathione may cause allergic reactions and should be started at half doses
- Mg and Na can cause problems in kidney failure
- New IV bags by Baxter are free of xeno-estrogens
Take home message
Please be cognisant that IV treatments are not as clear-cut and simple as some IV Bars and other professionals may make it out to be.
Be careful of who you trust and do your research on the treatments, as well as the treating medical physician who will be administering your IV.
It is, after all, your body, and someone with enough knowledge may just be empowered enough to make the right decision for themselves at the right time…
- Craig Golding, “IV Nutrient Therapy”, The Golding Institute, 2019
- Stephen, J. Et al., “Anaphylaxis from administration of intravenous thiamine,” American Jour Emerg Med, 1992;10:61-3
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Cobus van Niekerk and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine June 2019 Edition (Issue 30).
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