There are many questions when it comes to supplementing iron. It is important to know what the options are, how much is necessary, and how to take it. There are many benefits to taking iron, but there are also many side effects. Interesting discoveries are being made every day on more ways that iron supplements can be used and ways to lessen the side effects.
There have been many studies on the use of iron supplements for a variety of health issues. Many of the uses are still debated and the studies are contradictory. However, recent clinical studies are promising in regards to the effects of iron aiding with issues like learning problems, ADHD, heart failure, cough caused by ACE inhibitors, and fatigue. Studies are also still pending on the effects of supplementing iron to help with athletic performance, canker sores, Crohn's disease, depression, female infertility, heavy periods and restless leg syndrome, but the results have been inconclusive at best.
Iron is essential to the proper function of the human body. As with any supplement, it must be used with care and kept safely away from children. It is best to consult with a physician to find the proper amount needed, the best form for supplementing and the most efficient way of taking it for the individual.
Iron is a mineral that is necessary to form red blood cells that carry oxygen through our bodies. Low iron levels can make you feel tired, forgetful and even cause shortness of breath. Many people, especially vegetarians, vegans and menstruating women, can struggle to get enough iron through the foods that they eat. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) varies depending on age, gender, and situation.
There are many different reasons that a person might have an iron deficiency. They include anemia, pregnancy, heavy menstrual cycles, kidney disease, chemotherapy and frequent blood donations. Diet is also an important factor in the amount of iron that a person has. Strict vegetarians may need to take supplements more often than non-vegetarians since they do not consume the best source of iron- red meat.
There are two ways to take iron supplements- orally and receiving injections. Injections are given either intravenously or intramuscularly. Iron taken orally comes in pill or liquid form. Liquid iron (ferrous) is the most commonly prescribed and is the form that is best absorbed by the body. There are three types of liquid iron- ferrous gluconate, ferrous sulphate, and ferrous fumarate. The most notable difference in the three is the amount of consumable iron (elemental iron). Ferrous gluconate has the least amount of actual iron and is the easiest to take due to the decreased likelihood of side effects. Ferrous sulfate is next, with ferrous fumarate having the most. Pills or tablets have a wide variety of options. Most multi-vitamins contain enough iron for the average person. Iron pills also are available various doses as well as being time released or coated.
Foods high in vitamin c help in the absorption of iron supplements. It is highly recommended to take a 75mg supplement of vitamin c with the iron. It is also best to avoid calcium supplements, antacids, anti inflammatory pain killers, antibiotics, dairy products, coffee, tea, whole grains, eggs and spinach at least an hour before and two hours after taking iron. These interfere with the absorption of iron supplements and can increase the severity of any side effects.
Iron is not an easily absorbed mineral. Most of the side effects involve the digestive tract. They include stomach irritation, cramping, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and heart burn. Liquid iron may also blacken the teeth. The form and dosage of the supplement effects the severity of the symptoms. It is extremely important not to take more than the recommended amount as taking too much iron can not only be painful, but it can also cause death. The body store excess iron which can lead to toxicity and will damage the liver, kidneys, and the heart. The most common substance that children overdose on is iron.
All referenced material can be found through The Mayo Clinic, The U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. A comprehensive listing of open clinical trials can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov.
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