IV Hydration: Helpful or Hype?

Have you piled on to this IV hydration trend? 

It’s hard to miss – mobile IV trucks, day spas, doctors’ offices, even some gyms now offer IV hydration therapy as a quick fix for fatigue, hangovers, sports recovery, and aging.  It’s definitely a thing, but is it worth the hype?

The claim is that an IV drip is a vastly superior delivery method for vitamins and micronutrients because only a tiny percentage of the nutrients in oral supplements are generally absorbed.  The numbers cited differ depending on the provider – 10% is the number I see used most often - but whatever it is, it pales in comparison to the 100% they all claim you will absorb from the IV. 

10% vs 100% is a pretty shocking comparison, and therefore super effective as a marketing hook; and like all the most successful tag lines, it is at least *partly* true.  Oral supplements do lose a little bit of oomph through the digestive process, but exactly how much is anyone’s guess – it is highly variable depending on a multitude of circumstances, so it’s impossible and highly inaccurate to cite any absorption rate with certainty.  For instance, some vitamins are fat-soluble, so you won’t absorb them very well at all unless you take them with food; others are water-soluble, so an empty stomach is best.  Some nutrients are super-charged when combined or taken with certain foods; conversely, there are foods and chemical compounds that can completely block absorption of specific nutrients when combined.  Plus, your specific biochemistry, which changes day by day, minute by minute, also plays a big role. 

Turns out that your body is pretty smart, and it knows exactly what it needs – when it wants more vitamin C for instance, it sucks it up from whatever you put into your body – when it has had enough, any excess is filtered out through your liver.  So while 100% of whatever is in your IV drip does immediately hit your bloodstream, that does not mean that it is all taken up by your cells.  This is a critical point, and it is important to think about when you are deciding how you want to get your vitamins, especially given that IV hydration can be comparatively expensive.  Then there’s the fact that you do have to get stuck with a needle – that’s not for everyone, and not without risk, no matter how small.

None of this is meant to dissuade you from going the IV route – the contrary, actually.  While I do think the marketing around IVs is generally misleading, I believe that IV hydration deserves a place in your health toolkit.  It is wonderful when you are dehydrated or otherwise depleted – hospitals have been doing it this way forever – or when you want to ensure a steady state of nutrients and trace elements that are not so easily accessed through other means.

Getting the bulk of your essential nutrients first through food and second through supplements is a time-tested, safe, and affordable strategy.  Adding IV hydration when you feel run down or when a cold is coming on (I love a Meyers Cocktail for this, it works like magic!), or more regularly for that extra kick to keep you running at full throttle – whether you are addressing sports performance and recovery, immunity, or even anti-aging – IV hydration can be an excellent addition to your protocol.  

Have you tried it?

P.S. Some of the higher-end IV hydration providers offer NAD+ drips.  This is a new (and still experimental) anti-aging strategy that is pretty exciting – but please take the time to research before you jump in.  I’ll talk about this more a little later.

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