Iron Supplements

Irons are minerals the body uses to produce red blood cells. When your body does not have sufficient iron, it is unable to produce the normal amount of RBCs needed to maintain good health. This condition is known as iron deficiency anemia or iron deficiency (iron shortage).

Many people living in the United States get sufficient iron in their diet. Even so, there are some who have to take additional iron for their daily iron requirements to be met. For example, iron is at times lost when you have small or low amounts of bleeding. Such bleeding can sometimes go unnoticed and only your doctor can detect it. You doctor can also determine whether you have iron deficiency or not. They will identify the cause of the deficiency and decide whether you need to take iron supplements.

Why Are Iron Supplements Important?

Iron supplements are mostly used when a person has a specific type of anemia. Anemia causes fatigue among other symptoms. If your symptoms are like those of anemia, seek medical attention from your doctor. Do not try to treat anemia on your own.

Iron supplements are used to treat anemia that has been caused by:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Kidney disease
  • Heavy menstrual period
  • Pregnancy

There are studies conducted to determine whether iron supplements can also be used to treat ADHD. Iron supplements are mostly recommended for pregnant women, women who are of childbearing age, teenage girls, toddlers and infants. Before taking any iron supplements, consult your physician on whether they are right for you.

Recommended iron supplement dosages

Different patients get different dose medications. You should follow the directions printed on the labels or the doctor’s orders. The following dosages are average doses. If you have a different dosage, you should not change it unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

To prevent deficiency, the amount taken orally is based on the common daily recommended intake.

For those in the USA:

  • Teenage and adult males: 10mg (milligrams) per day.
  • Teenage and adult females: 10-15mg daily.
  • Pregnant females: 15mg daily.
  • Children 7-10 years old: 10mg daily.
  • Children 4-6 years old: 10mg daily.
  • Newborns-3 year old children: 6-10mg daily.

For those in Canada:

  • Teenage and Adult males: 8-10mg daily.
  • Teenage and adult females: 8-13mg daily.
  • Pregnant females: 10-22mg daily.
  • Females that are breastfeeding: 8-13mg daily.
  • Children 7-10 years old: 8-10mg daily.
  • Children 4-6 years old: 8mg daily.
  • Children from birth-3 years old: 0.3-6mg daily.

Notes:

To treat iron deficiency and injection dosage, the dosage is determined by your physician based on the type of iron deficiency.

What Should You Ask Before Taking Iron Supplements?

If you have other medical problems, they may affect your use of dietary supplements. Make sure that you tell your doctor if you have medical problems particularly:

  • Blood transfusion
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Liver infection
  • Kidney infection
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid)
  • Porphyria cutaneous tarda
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Iron overload condition such as haemoglobiniopathies, hemosiderosis, hemochromatosis
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Other types of anemia

How to Take Iron Supplements

Once you have started using dietary supplements, keep visiting your healthcare provider to check whether the iron is benefiting you. You may be required to take some blood tests.

Iron is absorbed best when it is taken on an empty stomach. You can take it with fruit juice or water. Adults should take it with eight ounces or a full glass of water. Children should take it with 4 ounces and ½ a glass of water. To reduce the possibility of having stomach upset, you can take iron with food. You can also take it immediately after a meal.

For active and safe use of iron supplements:

  • Follow the instructions given by your healthcare provider especially if the supplement was prescribed.
  • Follow the directions on the package of the supplements if they are not prescribed. If you have been taking iron for a month or two and think you still need it, consult your doctor.

Iron supplements that are in liquid form have been known to stain the teeth. To remove or prevent the stains:

  • Mix the dosage with water, tomato juice or fruit juice. You can use a straw or drinking tube to prevent contact with your teeth.
  • When the liquid supplement is to be given using a dropper, make sure that you place it at the back of the tongue and is followed by juice or water.
  • You can also remove the stains by brushing your teeth with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Alternatively, use hydrogen peroxide 3% (medical peroxide).

Important notes: Natural food sources of iron

For many people, a good diet gives them enough iron. Some food sources that contain iron include:

  • Poultry, fish and meat
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach
  • Nuts and dried fruits
  • Peas, lentils and beans
  • Iron is also added to some fortified foods such as enriched bread and cereals.

Check this video out on natural edible foods that are rich in iron: 

Side Effects of Iron Supplements

  • Constipation, stool changes and stomach upset.
  • Do not take iron supplements unless instructed to do so by your doctor. This is truer if you suffer from a chronic disease.
  • If you are a woman planning to get pregnant, you should consult your doctor before starting on a daily iron supplement.
  • Iron interacts with many different supplements and drugs. They include calcium, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory painkillers, antacids and others. If you take medication daily, consult your medical doctor.
  • Iron overdose is a major cause of poisoning especially in children. Overdose can be fatal. Signs of overdose include weakness, bluish or pale fingernails and skin, diarrhea and severe vomiting. These signs should be treated as a medical emergency.

Check this video out for more information on the risks that are associated with iron supplements: