| IV drips: nutrients delivered directly into your bloodstream

Models, pop stars and the socialites roaming Instagram all have glowing complexions in common, but their secret is more than a good makeup artist. They all like to get hooked up – on an IV drip, that is.

Nowadays we struggle to ingest all the essential nutrients we need for optimum health, and we try to make up for it by taking multivitamins.

But if you knew that the perfect dose of vitamins could be administered directly into the bloodstream through and intravenous (IV) drip, would you do it?

What is IV drip therapy?

Intravenous nutrient or vitamin drips have become a popular lifestyle trend among celebrities and the rich, and is now being offered by increasing numbers of health spas to replenish energy and hydration and improve the skin. And clinics that offer alternative therapies use IV vitamin therapy for an array of conditions including cancer, asthma, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, fatigue and migraines.

Different needs

Nowadays the idea is to adapt the formula inside the IV drip to suit the needs of the patient, but when IV drips were first administered for vitamin and nutrient therapy, it was a formula based on the findings of the late Dr John Myers, a physician from Maryland who injected nutrients into his patients to treat various conditions.

According to research published in the Alternative Medicine Review, the exact doses of nutrients in the Myers cocktail was not known, but it has been recorded that a combination of magnesium chloride, calcium, gluconate, thiamine, vitamins B6 and B12, calcium pantothenate, vitamin C and diluted hydrochloric acid was used.

Why is IV therapy deemed more effective?

According to the findings by the late Dr Myers, intravenous administration of nutrients can achieve serum concentration that is not possible with oral ingestion. This means that the dose of nutrients injected by IV drip increases almost 12-fold in comparison to when it’s administered orally, making it more effective.

But is it really more effective?

While the published article on Myers’ research made good theoretical points in the defence of IV vitamin drips, studies demonstrated placebo effects. There was also a lack of real clinical trials, proof of efficacy and substantial evidence. Where nutrients were administered intravenously, it was when patients were unable to eat or take vitamins orally.

Intravenous administration means that nutrients bypass your digestive system completely. This is not entirely without risk, as the digestive system offers several layers of defence, from saliva to antibodies. 

Under normal circumstances, however, the risk is small. In the case of intravenous ingestion of nutrients your body will only absorb what it needs and will discard the rest through urine.

IV drips won’t cause any harm, but for the amount of money, the benefits might not be that substantial. And there is really no reason to inject vitamins if you are fully capable of obtaining them orally, Science Based Medicine suggests.

And there is also the additional risk of infection if the spa or treatment facility is not properly equipped or if the staff aren’t adequately trained to insert a needle. 

When should you consider it?

Although IV drips containing nutrients and vitamins are used in the treatments of chronic illnesses, researchers are still divided on their efficacy. While many medical spas and treatment centres in larger cities in South Africa are starting to offer IV drips, and although users report a slight increase in energy and an improvement in skin tone, a single treatment is still very expensive (anywhere between R600 and R2 000 per session/drip unit*). 

If you do choose to try this treatment, do your research and only make use of reputable institutions to avoid possible infections.  

* Based on countrywide comparison of prices. | There may be a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome

Imagine if your muscles kept telling your brain you were exhausted, even when you’re resting. That’s what it’s like for those who struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, and researchers suggest in a new report that they now know why.

The disorder may cause the body to amplify fatigue signals associated with physical activity, the researchers explained, which is why some patients become worn out just walking across a room.

The lowdown on CFS

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also referred to as “yuppie flu” in the 1980s, is a complex disorder, characterised by severe disabling fatigue that does not improve with bed-rest and may worsen with physical or mental activity. People with CFS function at a significantly lower level of activity than before the onset of the condition.

According to a study published in the South African Family Practice, the prevalence of CFS is higher in women than men, and sufferers are mostly 35 and older. The cause for CFS is yet unknown, but researchers might be one step closer.

Muscle metabolites could be to blame

“People with chronic fatigue are essentially sensing muscle metabolites [products produced when energy is expended] while they are not doing anything, and they’re not supposed to be,” said study author Dr Roland Staud, a professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “Generally speaking, when we’re at rest, we don’t feel our muscles.”

The study involved 58 people with chronic fatigue syndrome, which is also known as systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). The researchers injected the participants’ back and buttock muscles with either a solution of the painkiller lidocaine or a saline solution.

Possible new treatments

Staud’s team found the lidocaine solution helped ease the patients’ symptoms of exhaustion. The people who got these injections reported a 38% drop in their fatigue levels.

The researchers noted the findings suggest that the muscles and other peripheral tissues are involved in chronic fatigue. They concluded that lidocaine injections helped block the abnormal signaling of muscle metabolites.

Extreme exhaustion

More investigation is needed, but the study authors said their findings may lead to new treatment options for the 2.5 million Americans diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as people with other conditions associated with extreme exhaustion, such as lupus, cancer and depression.

“It’s unlikely the central nervous system creates fatigue out of nothing,” Staud said in a university news release. “It uses just very minute fatigue signals that it receives and inappropriately amplifies them, which results in significant impact on the quality of life of these individuals.” The study was published recently in the Journal of Pain Research.

So if your fatigue can’t be relieved by a good night’s sleep or explained by a doctor, rest assured that there might soon be more developments in treatment options. | More reasons why rush-hour traffic is bad for your health

No-one likes to be stuck in traffic and yet thousands of us have no choice on a daily basis.

Wheels24 reports that Cape Town is the most congested city in South Africa, followed by Johannesburg.

Apart from pushing up your blood pressure as your anger and impatience levels soar, rush hour traffic also increases air pollution levels in cars to much higher levels than previously believed.

‘Double whammy’

“We found that people are likely getting a double whammy of exposure in terms of health during rush-hour commutes,” said Michael Bergin, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina.

He and his colleagues installed sensors inside 30 cars going to and from downtown Atlanta. Over the 60 commutes, they found that levels of some types of harmful particulate air pollution in the cars were twice as high as levels detected by roadside sensors.

Contaminated air particles

“If chemicals are as bad for people as many researchers believe, then commuters should seriously be rethinking their driving habits,” Bergin added in a university news release.

The contaminated air particles can include dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Chemical exposure was higher than seen in previous studies that used roadside air monitors, regardless of speed, type of route or whether windows were open or closed, the researchers said.

“There’s still a lot of debate about what types of pollution are cause for the biggest concern and what makes them so dangerous,” Bergin said. “But the bottom line is that driving during rush hour is even worse than we thought.”

The findings of the study were published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Risk of hearing damage

It is not only the harmful chemical exposure and contaminated air particles that causes pollution in traffic. Your ears can be permanently damaged by daily sounds, such as the noise from car traffic. Did you know that car engine sounds in rush hour traffic can exceed 90 decibels? If you continue to be exposed to this noise level, you might be at risk for permanent hearing damage.

Possible solutions

Unfortunately, skipping the daily commute to and from work is not an option for many. But there may be some solutions:

  • Try experimenting with flexi-hours if your employer offers the option. Choose earlier mornings and afternoons to avoid the rush-hour traffic.
  • Try public transport, provided that it’s safe and easily available.
  • Start a lift club or share a ride with colleagues living close to you to decrease the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Keep your car windows closed to reduce your exposure to polluted air and loud noise.
  • Plan your route before you drive. Consult the traffic updates on News24 to be aware of any unusual congestion.