Nutritional IV Therapy 101: An In-Depth Look into This Alternative Immune Support

Blog Health Nutritional IV Therapy 101: An In-Depth Look into This Alternative Immune Support

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3.14.2023 0 comments

Did you know that IV therapy offers a better, more efficient way to obtain the nutrients your body desperately needs to function? Not only is it useful for delivering medications and fluids, but nutritional IV therapy is becoming more and more popular as a means of quickly administering critical micronutrients to both treat medical conditions and improve wellness.

In this article, we wanted to take a bit of a closer look at IV therapy in all its forms, diving deep into the treatment, the benefits it offers, the risks you may not know about, the most common types of IVs, and more.

By the end of this post, you’ll be far more informed and better equipped to make a smart decision next time medical personnel recommends IV therapy for you, or if you’re seriously considering nutritional IV therapy for yourself.

What is IV Therapy and How Does it Work?

Intravenous therapy, better known as IV therapy, is a method that allows doctors and nurses to deliver fluids or nutrients directly into your bloodstream (hence the name, intravenous).

With IV therapy, a needle is used to insert a small, thin, flexible tube called a catheter into your arm (or some other large vein, if for some reason the arm doesn’t work). The catheter is connected via a long, thin tube to a bag containing fluids. These fluids (as you’ll see below) can include anything from re-hydrating minerals to salt water (saline) to critical nutrients (like amino acids) to vitamins and minerals. Many medicines are also delivered via IV due to the efficiency of pumping them directly into your bloodstream.

Once in your bloodstream, your cardiovascular system can send the fluids, nutrients, or medications directly to the areas where they are most needed. It’s often the most efficient means of delivering a treatment throughout the entire body, rather than simply targeting one limb, organ, or body part.

Over the course of a pre-determined period of time—in some cases, as little as 30 to 45 minutes, while in others, upwards of 3 hours—the fluid will drip through the tube and enter your bloodstream. The IV therapy may be combined with a plethora of other treatments (before, during, and after) intended to target whatever problem or ailment brings you into the hospital or clinic.

IV therapy is usually administered via one of two methods:

  1. Pump infusion, which utilizes an electric-powered pump to deliver a consistent stream of fluids, nutrients, or medications.
  2. Gravity infusion, which uses the exertion of gravity on an elevated bag of fluids to pull the fluids down through the IV tube into your bloodstream.

Both options are commonly utilized in hospitals and clinics around the world. While pump infusion is the more efficient and easy-to-control method, IV transfusion pumps are not as readily available, so the much easier and cheaper gravity infusion tends to be the most widely used method.

Is IV Therapy Beneficial?

Given how widespread IV therapy is, you might be wondering just how well it works at doing what it’s designed to: delivering nutrients, fluids, and medications to your body.

There are a lot of benefits of IV therapy you need to know about:

Faster absorption. Medications taken orally take time to be broken down and get absorbed into the bloodstream, meaning they are a bit more time delayed. Same with nutrients. With IV medications and nutrients administered directly into the bloodstream, the effects are far faster—in some cases, even immediate. There’s no need to wait for the digestive system to break down the nutrients and the intestines to absorb them, so the treatment gets to work quickly helping your body.

Greater absorption. It should come as no surprise that a lot of medications and nutrients are susceptible to damage as they pass through your intestinal tract, which means less (as little as 50%) ends up getting absorbed into your bloodstream when administered orally. On the other hand, IV therapy infuses the medications and/or nutrients right into the bloodstream with little-to-no risk of damage or deterioration. This leads to an absorption rate of 90% or even higher!

More efficient delivery. Taking oral medications relies on the digestive system to be functioning well enough to break down and absorb the nutrients. But what happens if your digestive system is not functioning properly—if some illness impairs digestive activity, you’re experiencing nausea and can’t keep down any fluids or medications, or you’re too unconscious or injured to swallow? With IV therapy, this isn’t an issue. No matter what condition you’re in, the medications can be directly applied and are ensured to work efficiently.

What are the Risks of IV Therapy?

Of course, as with any treatment, it’s important to understand the risks that come along with the benefits.

IV therapy does include a few risks to be aware of, including [1]:

  • Collapsed vein, which happens when a needle is inserted (typically incorrectly, but sometimes it can happen even when done correctly) or the IV is in place for a prolonged period. Thankfully, there are many other veins that can be used to insert the IV elsewhere, and the damage typically heals within 10-12 days [2].
  • Gas embolism, also called an “air embolism”, is when an IV pushes excessive air into the veins. Though it’s rare (with trained, qualified medical staff), the consequences can be serious, even fatal.
  • Hematoma, which happens when blood leaks from the vein containing the IV and spreads into the nearby tissues. Typically, it looks (and may feel) like a bruise, but the side effects aren’t usually severe and tend to go away within a matter of weeks.
  • Fluid overload, which happens when too much fluid is delivered too quickly. This can lead to breathing difficulties, high blood pressure, and headaches, and can lead to other side effects unless the fluid levels are adjusted to reduce fluid intake.
  • Phlebitis, which occurs when the vein containing the IV swells up because of the catheter. It’s a common complication, but one that can be simply resolved. Remove the IV, apply a warm compress, and elevate your arm until the swelling diminishes.
  • Infiltration, which occurs when the needle is dislodged or gets shifted, which can cause fluid to infiltrate the tissues around the IV injection site. You may notice bruising or experience a stinging sensation, but the issue is typically simple to resolve.

As you can see, while there are some side effects and risks, they are not so great that they warrant avoiding IV therapy. When applied correctly by a trained medical professional, it is a largely safe and painless treatment, but one that offers a highly effective means of delivering fluids, nutrients, and medications quickly throughout the body.

Most Common IV Fluids

Let’s talk about a few of the most common IV fluids you’ll likely be prescribed during your visit to hospitals, clinics or naturopathic doctors.

First off, most IV therapy fluids are comprised of two parts: the fluids and the minerals, nutrients, or medications they are delivering.

There are three types of fluids:

  1. Isotonic fluids, which increase the total fluid volume in your body, often used for treating dehydration, combatting blood loss, or are given during surgery to maintain fluid volume in your bloodstream to keep your cardiovascular system working.
  2. Hypotonic fluids, which serve to rehydrate the cells in your body and encourage the absorption of nutrients or medications.
  3. Hypertonic fluids, which transfer fluid that stays outside your body’s cells, which can cause your body’s cells to shrink. They’re largely used to treat an overload of fluids, such as in conditions like pulmonary edema.

Mixed in with whichever fluid is used for the IV therapy solution is a number of medications and nutrients, including:

  • B vitamin complex, containing all the critical B vitamins that your body does not produce and can only receive via diet or supplementation. They play a critical role in body functions and are used to treat a wide range of conditions.
  • Electrolytes, which include potassium and sodium, the two minerals that maintain proper fluid balance in your body. Typically, they’re administered when you are dehydrated, though they may also be administered to treat specific health concerns.
  • Amino acids, which are all the proteins your body needs to build new muscle tissue and function properly. The essential, non-essential, and conditional amino acids can all be utilized to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions.
  • Glutathione, which is an antioxidant critical to DNA formation and restoration, enzyme activation, your metabolic function, and more. It’s broken down by the digestive system when taken orally and thus is largely delivered via IV therapy.
  • Medications, such as NAD to encourage regeneration and increase metabolic energy, monoclonal antibodies that boost your immune system and protect against diseases like COVID-19, stem cells and exosomes, ketamine to treat depression, and so many more.

Our Conclusion on IV Therapy

As you’ve seen above, IV therapy offers a highly effective and largely safe means of delivering not just fluids, but also specific medications and nutrients needed by your body in order to function. While there are a few risks (most minor), trained medical professionals are well-trained to administer nutritional IV therapies to ensure your body gets what it most needs to improve your overall wellness and provide the nutrients it most needs to function optimally.


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