A couple of weeks ago, I did something that made me vaguely uncomfortable: I let a total stranger stick a needle in my arm and pump me full of a mysterious, amber-colored liquid. I wasn’t in a hospital. It felt incredible.
First, a bit of back story. Back in 2015, I got really, really sick. After surfing with a tiny cut on my arm, I developed an infection that quickly turned into something dangerous. With a fever hovering around 105°, an arm so swollen that it resembled a soggy plastic bag full of mayonnaise, and no medical insurance (at the time, I was just a silly Canadian that refused to pay America’s insanely high medical premiums), I turned to my aunt for help. She spent more than a decade as a lead surgeon in various Los Angeles emergency rooms, so I trusted her judgment. She’s also my aunt, so she’s genuinely got my best interests in mind. After draining roughly a half-pint out of my elbow, she looked at me with concern. “You have to go home to Canada,” she told me. “It’s either staph or vibrio, and you should be in a hospital.” Since that was basically out of the question unless I was prepared to be in debt for the rest of my life, I refused, much to her dismay. Then she did something I thought was strange. As well as prescribing a course of antibiotics, she gave me an IV drip of vitamin C. Not just a little bit–she dumped about a year’s worth into my veins in just over an hour. Afterward, I went back to my house, lay down in bed, booked a flight to Canada for the next day, then promptly had something that resembled a seizure. Turns out it was probably something called a Herxheimer reaction. Herxing, as it’s known, takes on a variety of forms, but it occurs when “injured or dead bacteria release their endotoxins into the blood and tissues faster than the body can comfortably handle it.”
The next morning, there was no way I could make it to the airport. For the first time in my life, I was worried about actually dying. I couldn’t move, my arm felt like it was broken, and I couldn’t stand up without passing out. I vomited all over my bed and myself and wasn’t even able to roll away from it. Then, after another IV drip and a day of weird hallucinations, my fever broke. In the span of one more day, I was back to normal. The swelling went down, the fever went away, and I was left with only a small cut on my arm and a very intense feeling of relief. And while it could have been the antibiotics, it probably wasn’t–I hadn’t taken them long enough to really do much. More than likely, it was the super high dose of vitamin C, which is known to kill just about everything bad, including cancer. Don’t try it orally, though. You’ll shit your guts out. Anyway, that whole experience got me thinking more about the benefits of IV therapy. So when I got an email from a company called The Hydration Room that specializes in it, I thought I’d give it a shot. So that’s how I ended up with a stranger named Nathan injecting a mysterious liquid into me.
The whole idea for The Hydration Room was started by Dr. Brett Florie. He’s an accomplished man, this Florie. He holds a Doctorate in osteopathic medicine and a medical degree in allopathic medicine. Here’s what that means in layman’s terms: According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, “Osteopathic physicians use all of the tools and technology available to modern medicine with the added benefits of a holistic philosophy… Doctors of osteopathic medicine emphasize helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health education, injury prevention, and disease prevention.”
Allopathic medicine is what your regular M.D. studied, full of prescription pills and regular western medicine, so it’s safe to say that Dr. Florie has a very thorough understanding of, well… pretty much everything to do with the body and how to fix it. He’s also a practicing Anesthesiologist and pain specialist so, as one might expect, he’s trained in the principles of IV fluid resuscitation, adequate hydration, and acute and chronic pain management. But how the whole thing started is pretty funny. IV Therapy started out as a cure for the common hangover.
“I started in residency at USC and trained there. On the weekends I’d start IVs on my friends who were hung over,” he told me over the phone. “Then it just kind of morphed into something bigger. I had a friend who had some gastrointestinal problems, so I started researching that and putting together some concoctions for him. It had a huge impact on his quality of life.” As the whole thing progressed, he found it wasn’t just hangovers and GI issues it helped with–it went so much further. “My wife had migraine headaches so I got into that–put together some more concoctions that turned out to be effective–then I went into the athlete scene; people who travel, people who are sick a lot,” Florie continued. “Now we’re treating cancer patients, too. There’s research out there suggesting that vitamin C in large doses is toxic to tumor cells. It’s also a mainstay of therapy for patients with Lyme disease. High doses of vitamin C also kill bacteria. People don’t realize how powerful it is.”
The list of notable patients using IV Therapy is a long one. During the US Open, the Huntington location was inundated by surfers looking to either prepare for heats or get rid of the inevitable hangover a party of that size causes. Caio Ibelli, Dusty Payne, Cam Richards, Brett Simpson, Kyuss and Rasmus King, and Noah Schweizer all dropped in. NHL players Joffrey Lupul and Scottie Upshall have tried it out, along with golfer John Mallinger.
Now, a few years after giving IVs to friends who drank too much, The Hydration Room has an actual menu of concoctions and locations in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Huntington Beach. The one I got was basically the hangover recipe (yes, that one’s still on there), but there was a bunch of extra stuff in there, too. “I’ll make up a special one for you,” Nathan told me. It was full of b vitamins and electrolytes, among other things. Nathan said something to me that stuck just before he stuck me with the IV. “Most people attribute feeling bad to sickness. But a lot of the time, they’re not sick–they’re just thirsty.” According to him, a huge percentage of the population is walking around very dehydrated. Dr. Florie agrees. “A lot of people mistake hunger for thirst. If you’re hungry, go drink water. I guarantee it’ll make your hunger go away. People don’t drink water, they just go to McDonald’s and get a quarter pounder.”
And while The Hydration Room has a menu with therapies for athletes, festival prep, skin health, stress, energy boosters, and a whole pile more, they also make up fully customized blends depending on the patient. “We take a customization route, which makes us more unique than other places,” Dr. Florie explained. “There are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily medically trained who are opening up these places. Some of them are just throwing a bunch of shit in a bag with no idea why it’s in there. Every vitamin we put in, we can tell you the specific reason why it’s in there.”
So here’s why IV therapy works better than just plain old eating and drinking right, according to the good doctor himself: “If you take an oral vitamin–let’s say a Men’s One-a-Day– you’ll only absorb about 10 to 15 percent of all those vitamins. It has to go through your stomach, it has to go through your liver. A very minute percentage is actually absorbed. When you bypass that with the IV route, you can get up to 100% absorption. It has a much more powerful and magnified effect. You can also give a much bigger dose. Take vitamin C, for example. If you took 50-60 of those over-the-counter Emergency packets, you’d have diarrhea and bad abdominal pain. You can get these huge, crazy doses with no GI side effects at all.”
So what actually happened to me? Well, to begin with, absolutely nothing. I lay on a couch for an hour, read the latest issue of The Surfer’s Journal, and basically relaxed while a bag full of goodness drained into me. On the drive back, I was trying to see if I actually felt any different. At first, I didn’t. But about an hour into my drive–when I typically begin to feel tired and shitty and angry, especially in California traffic–I began to feel noticeably good. I was cheerful and almost hyper-alert, but strangely very relaxed at the same time. It was as though I’d just woken up from a great night’s sleep. The best part, though, wasn’t on the drive home, or even the rest of the day. It was the next morning. Normally, like most people, I wake up feeling slightly shitty. The following day when the sun came through my windows, I woke up and actually wanted to get out of bed. I wanted to accomplish things. I felt driven and motivated and generally really, really good. That feeling lasted about two days, then gradually faded. And while I’ve continued to drink more water and tried to eat healthier, it seems as though IV Therapy actually gave me what my body needed: the vitamins that years of our decadent western society has accidentally stripped from our diets. It’s incredible how good you can feel if you’d just get what your body needs.