Iron is a mineral that the body requires in order to create red blood cells. When your body doesn't receive a sufficient quantity of the mineral, it cannot produce the necessary amount of red blood cells to keep it healthy. This medical condition is known as an iron deficiency, iron shortage, or as deficiency anemia. An iron deficiency can present with shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, and learning issues and can heighten your risk of getting an infection. It is important to know why iron supplements should be taken and what other sources of iron are available. If you are needing supplementation, you can speak with your physician about iron supplements and learn the important information about the mineral.
Why should iron supplements be taken?
While many people in the U.S. get adequate quantities of iron from their food, some individuals must take nutritional supplements to meet their needs. Dr. Wallach indicates that there are a number of common conditions that can increase your need for the mineral. These conditions include burns, bleeding issues, pregnancy, heavy menstrual periods, and intestinal disease. Other conditions that may cause a need for this mineral are kidney disease, hemodialysis, chemotherapy, and stomach issues. Taking medications intended to increase red blood cell count may also cause a need for iron supplementation. Additionally, Dr. Wallach often recommends the mineral for toddlers, adolescent girls, and women who are pregnant or planning to have children in the near future.
Other sources of iron besides supplements
One of the best ways to ensure that you are getting a sufficient amount of iron is to eat a balanced, varied diet. Natural food sources of the mineral include red meat, poultry, fish, certain vegetables (i.e. spinach, broccoli, kale), beans, lentils, peas, and dried fruits and nuts. Many fortified foods have added iron, such as enriched breads and cereals, but the body absorbs it from animal sources more effectively than from plant sources.
Talk to a physician about iron supplements
Speak to a physician if you believe that you have an iron deficiency. A doctor will be able to determine whether or not you have a deficiency and what may be causing it. A doctor can also tell you if iron supplements are a viable solution. Your physician will review the potential side effects, risks, and symptoms of an overdose with you, even if the chances of complications are very small. Alert your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to iron supplements in the past or if you have any other allergies. Review your full medical history and current list of medications and note if you're currently pregnant or breastfeeding. Your physician will be able to use this medical information to provide an informed opinion about iron supplements, including a proper dosage.
Using iron supplements safely
Iron supplements are available in varying types of tablets, liquids, capsules, suspensions, solutions, and syrups. You should always read the label in full and talk to your doctor about the dosage and other instructions. Iron supplements are also available via injection, but this supplementation should only be performed by or under the direct supervision of a healthcare professional. High doses of iron are toxic. For children age 13 and younger, the maximum recommended daily dose is 40 mg. For children ages 14 and up and adults, the maximum recommended daily dose is 45 mg. It is best to take the mineral on an empty stomach with water or fruit juice about one hour before or two hours after meals. If you are worried about iron supplements upsetting your stomach, you can opt to take them alongside food or right after a meal. If you have been taking iron supplements for one to two months and believe that you still have a deficiency, talk to your doctor. A healthcare professional can determine whether or not you need to increase your dosage or take other measures to offset the symptoms of the deficiency.