Why Is IV Therapy Better Than Oral Supplements?


Why should you go through the trouble and expense of doing IV nutrient therapy when you can buy over-the-counter oral supplements and take them in the comfort of your own home?

It’s a question our staff gets asked a lot when individuals are weighing the benefits of IV therapy.

I know it seems counterintuitive to go into a wellness spa for IV therapy when supplements seem to be everywhere these days and can be easily accessed by opening a drawer at home, but there are actually many scientific reasons to change up your current oral supplementation of key vitamins and minerals. 

Much of it comes down to a simple concept: Bioavailability and Absorption.

iv therapy grand rapids

The IV Route

An IV infusion separates itself because it delivers 100% of each vitamin directly into your bloodstream. You can relax in a recliner while we flood your veins and cells directly with nourishing vitamins and nutrients. Thankfully, this means your gut doesn’t have to go through the work of breaking down food into its constituent vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and amino acids. Additionally, your small intestine doesn’t have to pass them through its walls and your cells don’t have to seek out those molecules. 

The best way to explain it is that IV therapy is like the urgent care of Functional Medicine. It allows for an immediate effect as well as creating long lasting effects that help you feel your best for days and sometimes weeks to come.

The Oral Route

When you take a vitamin by mouth, your body has to do a lot of work to move that vitamin into the bloodstream. The process is actually fairly complex and quite inefficient relative to direct infusions.

Water-soluble vitamins, for example, are large molecules. They can’t just pass from your intestines directly into the bloodstream like IV vitamins can. Instead they have to cross your “enterocytes” or “colonocytes”— the layer of cells lining the entire intestinal tract. These cells have phospholipid cell membranes that are initially impenetrable to water soluble vitamins and nutrients.

Unless you’ve already discovered liposomal vitamins which are wrapped in the same phospholipids making up the cell membranes, the “regular” water soluble vitamins actually need special “transporters” to move each individual nutrient across the cells lining the intestinal tract.

One such transporter is called the sodium-dependent multivitamin transporter (SMVT). Think of the SMVT (or any other multivitamin transporter) like the TSA agents that allow you to board your plane. They allow certain individuals to get through while prohibiting others. In this case the individuals are vitamins trying to cross the border to get from your gut into your blood.

Not only are these SMVT transporters limited in capacity, the SMVT regulates the absorption of several vitamins and nutrients: Biotin (vitamin B1) important in skin, hair, and nail integrity and immune function, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) – a key antioxidant.

vitamin infusions traverse city

Because it is responsible for the transport of several nutrients this means each of them has to get in line waiting to cross the border into your circulation. This means oral vitamins compete with each other for access to the bloodstream and many pass before gaining access. Therefore your bioavailability is as low as 20% and you do not absorb nearly the amount you could.

There are of course other transporters for other vitamins that perform the same “passport control” function to get that vitamin from the gut into circulation.

Thiamine (vitamin B3) a vitamin important in cardiovascular and neurologic function—uses transporters called thiamine. Chronic alcohol consumption, for example, significantly inhibits absorption of vitamin B3. E. coli infections also cause a significant inhibition of thiamine uptake as well.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) — vital in the generation of energy (ATP) in mitochondria and for the activation of folate (vitamin B9) into its active form. Chronic alcohol consumption, as well as some medications, can significantly inhibit absorption of vitamin B2.

As you have read thus far, oral supplementation is already challenging, because unless you are taking a very special form of supplements (liposomal), it’s going to be hard for these vitamins to cross from your small intestine into your bloodstream. This is further complicated by the “transport” stations that act like TSA agents from your gut to your blood where vitamins have to line up and compete with one another for priority placement. On top of all this, the transporter molecules themselves can be impacted by a wide range of dietary and lifestyle factors that impact their abundance and their usability.

Put simply, oral supplements are not very efficient or bioavailable to your body.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there…

revived hydration iv therapy

Lifestyle and Illness Affect the Intestinal Lining

The cells lining the intestinal tract, which carry out the function of transporting vitamins and nutrients, have to be healthy and intact for proper absorption of vitamins to occur.

As pointed out above, the absorption of thiamine (B3), riboflavin (B2) and other vitamins is severely inhibited by chronic alcohol consumption. Alcohol is inflammatory and damaging to the cells lining the stomach and intestines where absorption of vitamins occurs. Other factors that influence the integrity and function of the intestinal lining include:

  • Stress

  • Medications – i.e. Ibuprofen and aspirin

  • Infections – like E.coli, Pseudomonas, and Clostridium

  • Inflammation – from diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other conditions

  • Smoking

Anything that negatively impacts the lining of your intestine also negatively impacts your ability to absorb nutrients through that lining. Most people do not have perfect gut barrier function and this makes oral supplements even less efficient.

vitamin c iv therapy

Oral vitamin supplementation is:

  • Dependent on crossing the cells forming intestinal lining for absorption into the circulation.

  • Dependent on an intact intestinal lining which can be easily damaged by stress, alcohol, infections and medications.

  • Reliant on specific transporters for each vitamin which are sensitive to alcohol use and are “competitive” as several vitamins try to use the same transporter.

  • Less expensive but also much less efficient compared to IV infusions

Intravenous (IV) supplements and vitamins:

  • Bypass absorption completely making them immediately 100% bioavailable to you.

  • Deliver high concentrations of nourishing vitamins unattainable with the oral route.

  • Is almost painless with the use of pediatric sized needles like our spa employs use.

  • Is more expensive but is typically worth it for those who have symptoms of vitamin deficiencies including fatigue, headaches, weight gain, frequent infections, dry blemished skin, brittle hair and nails, and more.

  • Can have an immediate impact on your health—they are like the urgent care of functional and integrative medicine.

revived hydration

Understand that RevIVed Hydration is not saying oral supplements are “bad.” In fact, they can be a wonderful adjunct to treatment, especially if you use liposomal supplements. But they are in no way a replacement or equivalent of IV therapy.

We hope you’ve gotten a clearer picture of why you should consider IV vitamin and nutrient infusions. As always you can contact us directly at info@revivedhydration.com or call us at (616) 888-5006 to make an appointment or if you have any questions about IV infusion therapy.

Or, if you’re ready to make your first appointment, you can do that online here.