Is an IV Drip Therapy Right for You? That Depends

Graphic: Abby Maker for Well+Good
There can be something of a snowball effect when you take extra good care of yourself. If I’m in a solid exercise routine, I’m way more likely to think about eating really well and getting enough sleep every night. I’m also way more likely to add on self-care treatments like acupuncture, a yoga workshop, or massage—maybe because I feel like I earned it, or maybe because when you feel good there’s a natural desire to see if you can feel even better.

Recently, IV drips have been popping up as a major self-care trend, advertising exactly that idea of optimizing your healthy lifestyle. In just 20 to 30 minutes, a drip can thoroughly hydrate you and add a vitamin, mineral, and amino acid boost to your bloodstream in levels that would be impossible to absorb orally. You may have noticed drips billed as a hangover cure (and it may have been on the agenda of a Bachelorette party you attended), and it’s now possible to get ones that promise to increase energy, detox, or even decrease stress and anxiety.

“The NutriCleanse is our most popular drip,” says Shoko Karakilic, a nurse practitioner who is also the chief medical officer at NutriDrip, which has drip lounges in several New York City locations. “A lot of these are for people who are looking for optimal health. A lot of our patients are into sports, into eating well, and they’re doing well, but they want to feel even better.”

 “A lot of these are for people who are looking for optimal health. A lot of our patients are...doing well, but they want to feel even better.”

But how safe is it really to hook yourself up to an IV drip without a doctor's note? Turns out, a lot of people are wondering the same thing. “People are asking about it for sure,” says Maura Henninger, a naturopathic doctor based in New York City. “I think it’s a great therapy. It enables nutrients to bypass the digestive tract where a lot of loss of absorption happens. So certain things like glutathione, which is a fantastic detoxifier, is really only absorbed via IV therapy.”

And here comes the "but"...

Henninger says that while IV therapy can be very effective for treatments like chelation and detoxification, it’s not a panacea. “I’m not sure everyone has a high need for that level of administration,” she says of drips designed to infuse large doses of vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream.

Those high doses, which are what make IV therapy so effective, can be dangerous for some people, depending on genetics, liver and kidney conditions, and other factors. Gabrielle Lyon, DO, an osteopath at the Ash Center, warns that no one, no matter how healthy, should get an IV drip without having blood work done first to make sure it’s safe. “You always want to be monitored by physician,” she says. She and Henninger both emphasize that IV-administration of anything is an invasive procedure that comes with risks that include infection.

“There are some amazing things like IV glutathione—to get the oral absorptions of the glutathione, vitamin C, and magnesium is really, really hard,” says Lyon. “But you need to have a specific goal and a specific purpose of why you’re doing it.” She uses them herself in this context, including a current drip treatment to detoxify herself following exposure to mold.

IV drips are not a substitute for healthy habits in your daily life—these should not be seen as quick fixes.

Dr. Lyon also stresses that IV drips are not a substitute for healthy habits in your daily life—these should not be seen as quick fixes. “You have to have the foundation,” she says. “Anything that has to do with longevity and truly optimizing your health requires a foundational approach, which means it’s about doing the right thing every day. These are not magic bullets. For immediate relief they might help, but they do not take the place of a proper foundation at all.”

Thinking an IV drip might be beneficial? Do it under the supervision of a doctor with a specific goal in mind, as Dr. Lyon suggests. Get your blood work done first. NutriDrip's Karakilic also notes that not all ingredients that go into drips are equivalent—make sure to ask about potency and whether the contents of the drip were made in FDA-approved facilities. And finally, yes, they do work to help alleviate a hangover.

But before you drip, consider these words from Lyon: “The question is, why would you abuse your body in that way?” she asks. “Can it help? Absolutely. But why not just take really good care of yourself while you’re having a good time?”

Instead of an IV drip sesh, maybe book a trip to a salt cave or infrared sauna to detox after your friend's Bachelorette party.

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