Drip bars are the new juice bars

In hospital, receiving intravenous (IV) fluids is one of the most common treatments a patient can get. IV fluids are given for a number of reasons including for the purpose of rehydration, delivering medications and correcting electrolyte abnormalities. Now it seems as if new reasons have been created, and are the justification for the existence of IV injection therapy clinics, or drip bars, as they're known in many larger cities.

Want to cure a hangover? Combat fatigue? Or mitigate the effects of altitude? And have an extra $100 hanging around? Then drip bars are likely targeted towards you.

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A drip bar, or IV injection clinic, is a clinic where IV fluids are provided to individuals, even when it's not considered medically necessary or recommended by a medical doctor. These fluids contain a concoction of vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes and are marketed as being the answer to a number of common problems.

I started hearing mention of drip bars several years ago, although the concept seems to have been around for at least the past seven years. In 2012, an American anesthesiologist opened Hangover Heaven, a tour bus that supplied IV fluids as a "treatment" for hangovers. Since 2012, the company has established a brick-and-mortar clinic in Las Vegas and the concept of drip bars has spread across the United States and now into Canada.

Drip bars, or IV Injection clinics, are marketed to individuals who have "high stress and anxiety, want to boost athletic performance and/or drink alcohol in excess."

In short, IV fluids are not a treatment for anxiety, no amount of excess IV fluids, vitamins, antioxidants or electrolytes will improve athletic performance and "drinking alcohol in excess" may be a sign of something that requires a more serious intervention than what a bag of salt water can provide.

Businesses who deliver IV fluids to individuals for no medical purpose and make promises that are not supported by evidence are feeding into a nutrient-focused culture. Nutrients are labeled good and bad, vitamins and minerals are pushed on product packaging and there are plenty of businesses and individuals to take advantage of that desire to be healthier and the belief that if a little is good, more is better.

Instead of focusing on macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) IV injection clinics focus on micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and hydration.

While the delivery of IV fluids is commonplace in hospital, it's not a treatment that is without risk. An IV injection site can become infected and the vein can become inflamed or blocked with a clot. Although these risks are uncommon, would it be worth taking the risk when the fluids and micronutrients you're being provided with are not necessary?

Some businesses have made a point of promoting their therapy as using only water-soluble vitamins. They've done this recognizing that an excess of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, can build-up in the body, leading to toxic levels and negative side effects.

In healthy individuals, an excess of water-soluble vitamins are filtered out of the body and carried away through your urine. So, in other words, the consumer may likely be paying $100 to have nutrient-packet urine.

While there are numerous benefits to providing necessary IV fluids in hospital, the benefits promised by IV injection clinics have yet to be proven. Unfortunately, these treatments are pushed by individuals claiming to be experts in this area, much like fad diets profiting off of false promises.

In fact, the only difference between fad diets and unnecessary IV injection therapy is the route of delivery. Iinstead of eating "good" nutrients, they're being injected into your veins. Most people who have exercised a lot, have a hangover, jet lag, or the flu can drink enough fluids for what they need. If an individual is dehydrated or nutrient-deficient to the point where they require intervention via IV, they likely need to be admitted to hospital.

-- Kelsey Leckovic is a registered dietitian with Northern Health working in chronic disease management.

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