Alternative recovery therapies gain traction in Asheville

COOL EXPERIENCE: Nick Wilson undergoes a full-body cryotherapy session at Cryology in Asheville. Photo courtesy of Nick Wilson
COOL EXPERIENCE: Nick Wilson undergoes a full-body cryotherapy session at Cryology in Asheville. Photo courtesy of Nick Wilson

If you’re hung over from the night before or just ran a marathon and are feeling the pain, you’re in luck. Asheville now has two leading-edge recovery clinics that provide such treatments as intravenous hydration therapy and whole-body cryotherapy.

Hydrate Asheville opened its doors May 1, becoming the first intravenous hydration clinic in Western North Carolina. Owner Kara Tebaldi, a 20-year Asheville resident who received her nursing degree from A-B Tech and previously worked at the Mission Cancer Center in outpatient infusion, says, “If you’re recovering from something and you need fluids, instead of taking a day or two to recover, you can come in and get back to it in an hour or two. Really, you’ll be in and out of here in an hour.”  Treatment ranges in cost from $25 to $35 for vitamin-B12 shots and $89 to $179 for intravenous drips that include such nutrients as vitamin C and calcium, she adds.

“Hydration clinics are essentially an IV rehydration spa,” says Hunter Pope, who handles the new venture’s web design and social media. “It’s for people who have, for example, just run a marathon or had a little too much fun the night before. You make an appointment and pick a rehydration package (i.e., athlete package or a jet lag package). You go into the clinic and are hooked up to a specialized IV for 45 minutes. You essentially have all of your body’s nutrients replenished,” he says.

The new clinic was conceived of by Tebaldi in partnership with Charlotte-based Hydrate Medical as an official offshoot. Alongside Tebaldi is Linda Dula, an Asheville native, UNC Asheville graduate and doctor of osteopathic medicine who attended medical school at Virginia Tech. Dula will serve as medical director.

Tebaldi says she initially thought about doing “a food truck type of thing” for health — “mobile services where people can just hop on the truck and get treated.” The idea of a brick-and-mortar business only came to light after getting in contact with the Hydrate Medical founders, she says.

But Tebaldi was turned on to IV hydration techniques from her experience working with cancer patients. “I worked in oncology for years, and a lot of my patients would not tolerate treatment well because they were severely dehydrated from the effects of chemo and radiation. So we would give them fluids, sometimes with nutrients, and they would come up like a flower. That’s the best way I know how to describe it.” She adds, “I’d look at how they’re suddenly sitting up, feeling better, and how they’d become a little bit hungry and start nibbling on crackers.”

Who can benefit from hydration therapy?

“People aren’t coming in here every single day. If you’re eating well, drinking water and have a good healthy gut, you shouldn’t need IV hydration therapy,” says Tebaldi. “But once in a while, you’re not fine. Maybe you over-imbibed or are sick with a stomach bug. Maybe you’re jetlagged or just did your first Ironman [triathlon]. In those cases, people can become severely dehydrated. If you’re feeling run-down or sick or had too much, that’s really where we feel like we’re absolutely filling a need,” she says.

Tebaldi also notes that if you’re too sick to come in for treatment, they’ll come to you. “We do mobile services as well. It was maybe a little more a than a month ago, before we were up and running. We treated a group of guys. It was a bachelor party, and they had an Airbnb for the weekend, and they were in rough shape when we got there. So they each got 2 liters and some nutrients. We were there for an hour and 40 minutes, maybe, in and out. When we got there, they were pale, shaking, sweating, the whole works, and by the time we were leaving they were like ‘Where can we get a good burger around here?’ This was a Saturday morning, and they were ready to do it all over again,” says Tebaldi with a laugh.

“Athletically, people can be pretty extreme around here. There’s a whole biking community that [will] do 100 miles on the [Blue Ridge Parkway] without blinking,” Tebaldi says. That’s “what Asheville is all about, and we really want to help those people.”

Dula and Tebaldi both say that IV rehydration can help those with slightly more serious health conditions. “We have detox packages for shingles, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease,” says Dula. “These [treatments] come from [National Institute of Health] studies — things they have found that work using these IV fluids, some with a high dose of vitamin C. … It takes the pain of shingles away in a couple of days. The doctors that we’re partnering with in Charlotte are ER docs … and they say, ‘Why aren’t we doing this in the ER?'”

Stigma, skepticism and the future of IV hydration

Tebaldi acknowledges that there’s been some pushback from the medical community, as well as critics who claim that the positive results of hydration therapy are nothing more than a placebo effect. But she remains optimistic.

“I think we’ll be seeing a continued trend in health care geared toward wellness and more hydration ‘spas,’ and that we will be embraced by the existing medical infrastructure,” Tebaldi says. “There’s been a paradigm shift in what constitutes health and wellness; it’ll just take a little while to catch up. We know that there is a need and feel that we can all be working collaboratively to meet those needs in our communities,” she says.

“A lot of the pushback in the medical community has to do with … thinking that these spas are treating this type of thing in a very cavalier way, and we’re not. We’re all licensed practitioners. We do a health history, allergy check, all of that. … If [patients] are dealing with any type of kidney compromise or cardiac issues or unresolved hypertension, they’re not going to be candidates for treatment,” says Tebaldi.

Tebaldi is also sure to clarify that while the clinic is run by medical providers, “We’re not purporting to cure anybody, we’re not diagnosing anybody, we’re just helping your body to heal itself and to achieve homeostasis.”

What about cryotherapy?

“A lot of time when people hear ‘cryotherapy’ they immediately think of cryogenics, you know? Like Walt Disney and freezing people to preserve them. That’s not exactly the business we’re in,” says Kyle King, who handles corporate training for Cryology, a Georgia-based health and wellness company that applies whole-body cryotherapy technology.

The company has taken over the space and equipment of Inner Chill, a cryotherapy company started in 2016.

Cryotherapy isn’t exactly science fiction, but it does involve being exposed to extremely cold, billowing clouds of nitrogen gas, he explains. “When you step in the chamber at level one, it’s about 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and in three minutes I take it down to about  minus 186 degrees Fahrenheit,” says King.

The whole process involves entering a showerlike, neck-to-toe-sized chamber with nothing but the socks, booties and gloves (and underwear for men).

“Because you’re in that environment, you go into this natural fight-or-flight mode; your body says, ‘This is not good,’ and starts pulling all of the blood from your arms and legs straight to your core,” says King. “Your body cares more about your major organs than it does about your arms and legs, so as you go through the session, you’re getting all of this oxygenated blood flowing through your body to your core, and when the session is over, you step out of the cold environment of the chamber, and immediately your body clicks; it says, ‘We’re good to go,’ and releases all of that fresh oxygenated blood head to toe for the next four hours, targeting inflammation, joint pain, autoimmune issues, anything abnormal.”

“You feel the recovery very, very quickly. Unlike a lot of the other recovery modalities, this is almost instantaneous,” says Cryology founder Brian Prewitt.

“For the next four hours, your metabolic rate is going to rise up because your core temperature is warm, so you’re going to get, depending on your metabolic rate and how you burn calories, anywhere from an extra 500 to 800-calorie burn over those next four hours. You’re also going to get a natural endorphin release, and then at night it promotes a good night’s sleep because that’s when our body really goes into a full recovery,” says King.

“So the whole basis behind this was utilizing our own natural healing properties for our body to take care of itself without using anything synthetic. Not having to use ibuprofen, not being reliant on something that’s artificial for treating inflammation, but something that’s natural,” says King.

But how cold is too cold? 

King notes that while the nitrogen gas is entering the chamber at extremely cold temperatures, what’s actually hitting your skin is only 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s very tolerable because it’s so dry, and we keep the humidity level so low; it’s even more tolerable than an ice bath,” says Prewitt.

Of course, certain individuals will handle the cold temperatures better than others. “We find that people with a little more body fat have a tendency to do better with the cold than people who are really lean, but it varies,” says King.

“We had a woman in her 80s [who] made it seem like it was nothing. But I’ve done an event before with the Carolina Panthers in Raleigh for their summer camp, and I’m not going to name names, but we had an NFL wide receiver who could only last 30 seconds, … but he has basically zero body fat,” he continues. “We’re here to monitor people, coach them through the session, and I’d say that 90 to 95 percent of people can make it through level one.”

Individual whole-body treatments cost about $40, but Cryology offers “membership” packages that discount the rate.  Other services include localized cryotherapy, infrared sauna, cryofacial treatments, photobiomodulation (whole-body light therapy) and NormaTec sessions, which utilize a dynamic compression device designed for recovery and rehabilitation.

“This is my fourth time, and they’ve sold me on it,” says Kelly Charon, a cryotherapy client from Asheville. “The first time is always scary, but three minutes? Three minutes of anything can be done. I had tweaked my back, so I came in to try it, and it made me feel just great. They say it helps you with your sleeping, and it really does,” she says. “I’m a light sleeper and I hit the pillow hard after doing this and didn’t budge until the next day. I recommend it to everybody and definitely recommend giving it more than one chance.”

“Even for nonathletes, this is something that’s good for depression; this is good for migraines, for people who are dealing with fibromyalgia, arthritis, inflammation, for people sitting in an office all day that feel like they just need some relief,” says King. “We want everyone to try it, all across the board.”

MORE INFO

Hydrate Asheville
1378 Hendersonville Road
hydrateasheville.com, 237-1511

Cryology
1863 Hendersonville Road, Suite 133
cryology.com, 770-515-9610

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About Nick Wilson
Nick Wilson is a native of the Midwest who moved to Asheville in September of 2016 after eight years in Los Angeles. When he's not writing for Mountain Xpress, his energies are focused on better understanding himself and the rich wealth of history that the world has to offer.

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