white male receiving IV fluids

Is Hydration Therapy Hurting or Helping?

When you’re feeling sick, sometimes you’ll do anything to feel better, especially when you have a special event or big meeting coming up. Some people turn to high-dose vitamin C tablets and some turn to getting a good night’s rest, but now many are turning to something new: IV hydration therapy.

IV hydration therapy is the process of introducing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients into the bloodstream through an IV drip. Medical spas across the nation claim that hydration therapy can help lessen anything from a bad hangover or post-workout fatigue to chronic pain and even cancer, but does it actually work? Brittney Bearden, a sports dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, said to think twice before scheduling an appointment.

“Many physicians highly question whether hydration therapy is beneficial for healthy individuals, contributing many of the reported positive outcomes to the placebo effect,” Bearden said.

In one 2009 study, a popular IV treatment called the Myers’ cocktail was tested on a small group of people with fibromyalgia, a syndrome of muscle pain and fatigue that can be hard to treat. Half of the participants received the cocktail while the other half received a placebo, yet nearly everyone reported less pain and a more active lifestyle.

Similarly, research has shown that injections, or other invasive procedures, can generate a stronger placebo effect than dummy pills.

Bearden also said it’s important to know the risks involved with IV hydration therapy, as well as the exorbitant cost.

“It’s important to know the risks of hydration therapy, including pain at the injection site or more serious consequences of a blood clot or inflammation of the vein,” Bearden said. “Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, should not receive hydration therapy, as well.”

People often flock to hydration therapy is to help “cure” a hangover or prevent a cold before it happens, but Bearden said the costs highly outweigh the actual benefits.

“So far no one has developed a cure for a hangover, except not drinking the night before. So, while hydration therapy may seem like a quick hangover fix, there is no evidence showing IV hydration is superior to drinking liquids,” Bearden said. “Hydration therapy is also much more expensive than drinking fluids by mouth, with treatments costing hundreds of dollars, and certain drugs often used in hangover therapies can have serious side effects.”

Bearden added there is also no evidence suggesting hydration therapy can cure a cold and that individuals who report feeling better after therapy could be experiencing the placebo effect.

At the end of the day, Bearden said, although hydration is important for everyone, from sedentary individuals to marathon runners, most people can adequately meet their hydration, electrolyte, vitamin and mineral needs with proper diet and fluid intake. No IVs are needed.

“Registered dietitians can develop individualized plans to ensure you are receiving the correct amount of nutrients and fluids to meet all of your health, wellness and athletic performance goals,” Bearden said.

If you’re still curious about this new trend, Bearden suggested only receiving IV therapy from a health care professional, such as a board-certified physician or nurse who conducts a thorough medical evaluation before the procedure.

“People often want a quick fix when it comes to health and wellness,” Bearden said, “but there is no substitute for consistent healthy behaviors like proper nutrition and hydration.”

For more information about the Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine program, visit our website:

https://www.texashealth.org/sports-medicine/Pages/Helpful-Resources/About-Ben-Hogan.aspx

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