Kenyans’ desire for superhuman energy, high alertness, wrinkle-free and glowing, youthful skin and hair is driving the growth of vitamin injection lounges.
Demanding jobs and jet-setting lives are making many inexplicably tired, yet they have to keep going.
Years ago, this group of ever-busy individuals would swallow vitamins but now they inject them direct into the bloodstream for full absorption and to hasten body repair.
They walk into a cozy room with drips, gloves, and an injection kit, and get a vitamin, mineral or amino acids shot that instantly rejuvenates them.
Liz Ogumbo, an entrepreneur with an interest in fashion, music, wine, and coffee has been dependent on the shots for five years now and counting.
“When I was in South Africa, I used to get the injections every month but after Covid-19 hit, the cost dropped and I could afford them so often. I am planning to do one this week,” she tells BDLife.
Her favourite is the mega boost, which is a cocktail of vitamins. “Once I get it, I feel re-energised emotionally and physically. I am also an insomniac, after the drip, I am always ready to sleep,” Ms Ogumbo adds.
Cost of shot
The injections range from Sh4,000 to Sh28,000 per shot. Some come in high doses of vitamins, mineral and amino acids or cocktails and cost from Sh15,000 to Sh25,000 per 500 milliliters drip.
Aisha Egal is the CEO of Reviv-Kenya, a new entrant into the intravenous or into a vein (IV) vitamins market. The vitamins IV lounge in Nairobi’s Kilimani opened a year ago, joining another located in 14 Riverside.
As healthy living ranks highly up the list of priorities of the wealthy and top executives, those who frequent these lounges are clients battered by stress hence want to rid the body of toxins, balance hormones, and boost their immunity.
“We have five different IV therapies which help you work hard and play harder,” says Ms Egal.
“Unlike traditional oral supplements, the IV therapies have a 100 percent absorption rate and replenish hydration levels, restore vitamin and nutrient balance, and refresh your appearance,” she says.
The growing number of vitamin and supplements lounges in Nairobi underscores the extent to which such products have become a part of everyday life.
Ms Egal says “more Kenyan women are doing it than men, especially after the pandemic sparked a health-conscious movement.”
She adds that the vitamin infusions are also being used by people with diabetes, obesity, asthma, migraines, chronic fatigue, muscle spasms and pain, allergies, thyroid disorders, sinusitis, and respiratory tract infections. “Others use the IV vitamin therapy for quick rehydration after an intense sporting event, such as running a marathon, or to cure a hangover,” she says.
Vitamin injections are not necessarily harmful, especially for people with ailments or obesity. Obese people tend to have vitamin D deficiency and may be prescribed the injections in mega doses. It makes their skin look younger and wrinkle-free.
People who are not able to eat enough food, or have an illness that interferes with nutrient absorption would also be good candidates.
However, as more Kenyans invest in the vitamins market, doctors are concerned about overdose and overdependence. The vitamin supplements industry is also unregulated.
Jasper Oloo, a dietetics manager at the Aga Khan University Hospital says because the vitamins go directly into the bloodstream it is important to have a doctor’s prescription to avoid the risk of infections.
“Taking vitamin injections without observing aseptic technique would lead to infection in the bloodstream. That’s why patients with deficiency are supposed to be monitored by doctors because one can get complications,” Mr Oloo says.
His other concern is the addictive nature of vitamin shots.
“Anything can become an addiction. When you get the injections, your body gets used to a higher amount of vitamins which when you miss, you will feel like something is not right. That’s why people taking higher amounts are more likely to get addicted because their body gets numb without them,” he adds.
The only vitamin that people can get in mega doses is vitamin D, Mr Oloo says, because it is fat-soluble and the body stores it in the liver.
“Doctors can recommend an injection, but do it once and wait for six months to lapse before getting another one. If you overdo it, it could lead to calcium depositing itself in some parts of the body that are not supposed to have calcium, which is dangerous,” he said.
Mr Oloo says the challenge is that the toxic effects of vitamin injections do not present themselves at once.
“You will start having kidney stones which you may not link to excess intake of vitamins,” he says.
Eating a balanced diet daily and basking in the sun for 45 minutes, saves one the burden of spending on vitamin supplements for vitamins, he adds.