Vitamin IV therapy as a hangover cure? Potentially, yes, according to Durban Dr Sanda Ntshangase

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Dr Sanda Ntshangase explains who this type of treatment is for and its contraindications.
Dr Sanda Ntshangase explains who this type of treatment is for and its contraindications.

A big, big weekend of bubbles and vodka or tequila shots can leave you feeling like you’ve just done the 90km down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban – except there’s no Comrades Marathon finisher medal to show for it. 

Just bitter regret, a mother of all headaches, exhaustion, a seemingly unquenchable thirst for water and a hankering for something spicy and oily.

There are all sorts of hangover solutions that are often recommended, but more and more health professionals are simply suggesting you get some vitamin IV therapy.

You've seen your favourite celebrities do it after every hectic weekend. Celebrities including Heavy K and Somizi recently got theirs after a weekend of gigs. But what is it? We find an explanation.  

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A doctor doing intravenous infusion at a clinic.

Is it a hangover cure?

“It can be,” says Dr Ntshangase of Durban-based Sandz Medical Centre.

“When you really think about what causes a hangover – your body is mostly dehydrated. That’s at the top of this list of why you are feeling hung over, so you’re experiencing the symptoms of the dehydration. 

“Alcohol is a diuretic, so you drain your body of the important electrolytes that you need when you drink. If you come in and get a boost of IV vitamins which are electrolytes, you’ll find that you’ll definitely recover much quicker.”

It’s been around for years and years, but celebs and young professionals have added to its current popularity, making vitamin IV therapy seem like the go-to cure after a big weekend.

Certainly, in recent years, the doctor says, she has seen an increase in demand for this therapy from young professionals who need it for all sorts of reasons – an energy boost, immunity boosting especially after illness like a flu or Covid-19, skincare or simply just for detoxing after a weekend of heavy drinking.

What’s inside?

What’s inside the drip depends on what your specific needs are.

Say you’re a high-performance athlete or a long-distance runner who’s just completed the Comrades Marathon, your body operates at a different level of optimum than most. But you’d still need to restore your body back to itself in the same way someone who’s been drinking heavily does.

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“For instance, if you’re looking for an energy boost then you need a particular combination that has vitamins and antioxidants – that is just to improve your energy levels,” Dr Ntshangase explains. You also get “an immune-booster kind of drip".

"So if you’ve just recovered from a flu, Covid-19 or any kind of illness. We want to boost your immunity. We’ve got a different combination also of vitamins, antioxidants and antibiotics that will help your body recover from that illness.”

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The Musgrave-based medical practitioner says you can get a combination booster that improves skin health and energises.

When life is hectic

To some it may seem like another fad but the UKZN-qualified doctor says she used to see this therapy being recommended even in her days as an intern.

“We’ve been doing it. For a very long time. I remember in my days as an intern, Monday mornings there would be quite a lot of patients that come in with so many various signs and symptoms and all they really need is the right boost of IV drip formulation, vitamins, electrolytes and they’ll be fine. So it can be seen as a hangover cure if you want it to be.

“It’s definitely growing in popularity. In the past few years it’s become a go-to for a lot of young professionals. We live a fast-paced life that’s quite stressful. We want to look after our bodies but we’re not getting in enough vitamins and antioxidants that we need to stay healthy. So vitamin IV therapy is popular because it’s just so convenient and it gives you what the body needs at the time in the most efficient way possible.

“I’m seeing more patients coming in for the drip than I have done in the past just in my general working career.

pharmacology. vitamins and tablets with vials. iso
Drip or tablets? The latter may be too much of a schlep for some.

Drip or tablets?

“We’ve seen with tablets that often it takes time for your body to absorb them and they can be just cumbersome,” says Dr Ntshangase.

“You need to remember to take your vitamin every day – or to take a pill once in the morning, once at night and so on. With this type of therapy, you get your Vitamin boost via an IV drip and you’ll be okay for three to four weeks. You only need the next boost in about a month’s time if that’s what you’re looking for. 

“Vitamin IV therapy is just a better way to deliver the vitamins that your body needs to recover,” she believes. 

“The benefit of IV therapy is its fast absorption because we are giving it directly to the bloodstream. It also aids a lot in rehydration and we find, for instance, coming from the Durban July kind of weekend – we’re talking overindulgence, fatigue or just an over-exertion of the body in general – we don’t want your body to suffer the consequences of that in terms of dehydration, being overly tired and needing that boost of energy.

“So that’s where the drips come in. They aid with the rehydration process. It does restore your energy, as well as your vitamin levels.”

Joyous female patient drinking a healthy beverage
A patient drinking a healthy beverage during a medical procedure.

What to expect

In her practice based in Musgrave, Durban, they do various vitamin combinations to assist with specific problems that many young people living the fast, demanding life to which so many of us are accustomed need, says Dr Ntshangase.

“We’ve got the energy-booster drip and we’ve got a detox drip which helps flush out toxins, especially for hectic drinkers or an over-indulgent kind of weekend – a detox is what I’d recommend. An energy detox immune-booster [is recommended] if you’re coming from illness or want to strengthen your immunity going into flu season and so on.

"Then we’ve got a skin-glow drip. It specifically targets your skin and just improves your overall skin condition and brightness and gives you that healthy, fresh-looking type of skin.”

There’s no reason why you can’t have a combination of the vitamins, the doctor adds. “It’s what we call the Rolls Royce package.”

A black female nurse flicks a syringe before injec
There are many complications that can come with even just inserting a drip into a vein.

How do I know it’s legit?

Before you rush out to make an appointment at the next beauty spa, wellness clinic or health spa or store offering IV therapy, Dr Ntshangase warns that it’s important to ensure that whoever is offering to hook you onto a drip and pump vitamins into your bloodstream is trained and licensed to do it.

“It has to be given by a medical professional. There are so many complications that can come with even just inserting a drip into a vein,” she cautions.

“It needs to be a skilled professional who knows how to do it, one who has experience and knows how to do that. So we’re talking here doctors and nurses – people who are used to puncturing things and used to giving that kind of service.

“I know vitamin IV therapy is given in lots of wellness clinics. I would be tentative about receiving IV drips from any kind of wellness clinic that doesn’t have a doctor or nurse doing that.”

She says beauty salons offering this type of service need to be vetted too to ensure the procedure is being done by a medical professional. 

It’s not for children, pregnant people, diabetics and those with high blood pressure

Not only are experienced medical professionals trained to properly insert a drip but they can also order blood tests and find out about any issues that could make it dangerous for you to have a vitamin IV boost.

She makes the example of a diabetic patient who decides to get an energy-boosting drip without being informed or knowing of the dangers.

“Because it is fluid being pumped directly into your body, we do need to know what your blood pressure is, and we do need to know what your sugar levels are and whether you are pregnant.

“If I’m giving you more fluid, that will contain some dextrose because that’s one of the anti-oxidants and vitamins we give that has a sugar component. If you are diabetic and come in already with a high sugar level, after giving you more sugar, that will shoot your reading up through the roof. So we always need to know what your sugar levels are.

“And when it comes to your blood pressure, specifically, we don’t want to increase the blood volume in your body if your pressure is already high. So we don’t give vitamin IV therapy at all.

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“High blood pressure, high sugar – those are the contraindications,” she says, adding that parents should also be cautious about getting their children vitamin IV therapy and that pregnant patients should disclose they’re expectant.

“Anything that you put into your body when you’re pregnant has to go through your doctor first. With paediatric patients, it’s always a very specific kind of patient demographic. We want to avoid giving children anything they don’t need, especially because most of their vitamins and antioxidants and minerals they get from their diet when they’re young – because they have so much better absorption.”

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