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IV lounges and drip bars have popped up in cities across the country, promising intravenous vitamin infusions that can boost your hydration, give you energy, support immunity and fight the signs of aging.
Proponents say IV therapy is effective because it bypasses the digestive system to deliver hydration, nutrients and minerals directly into your bloodstream. Celebrities including Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Adele, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have used IV therapy as part of their wellness routines.
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But experts say there is little scientific evidence backing the treatments. They also caution that medically unnecessary IV drips could be risky for some people — particularly those who have heart disease or kidney problems.
For these individuals, getting too much fluid too fast could be harmful because their “heart or kidney can’t tolerate a lot of salts and fluids being introduced into their bodies,” says Sam Torbati, M.D., co-chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Medically speaking, that’s where there is the most potential for harm.”
He recommends checking with your medical provider before visiting a drip clinic.
Can IV therapy help with hydration?
An IV can be lifesaving for a patient who is severely dehydrated, nutrient deficient or suffering from a massive infection. But many experts say there’s no reason to get what is essentially an invasive treatment unless a doctor recommends it.
“IV hydration is a great thing for people who really need it,” says Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., senior faculty editor of Harvard Health Publishing, who has researched IV therapy. “When it comes to these IVs on demand, the short answer is, ‘Buyer beware.’ They are expensive and not clearly helpful in any scientific, proven way.”
While it’s true that an IV can hydrate you faster than drinking fluids by mouth, Shmerling says, “that doesn’t necessarily translate into any kind of health benefit.”
One review study published in the journal Sports Health found no evidence that IV fluid administered to athletes enhanced performance or helped them rehydrate any better than oral fluids.