Iron is one of the most essential nutrients required by our body. It is a key component of hemoglobin, which facilitates the transportation of oxygen throughout our body. The production of red blood cells gets adversely affected, if the body doesn't have enough iron. This gives rise to an iron deficiency anemia, which is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, lack of stamina, loss of appetite, shortness of breath during physical activities, headaches, insomnia, etc. Iron supplementation is recommended, if the iron levels cannot be restored to normal with diet alone.
This nutritional deficiency is most likely to occur, if one's diet does not include foods containing this mineral in the required quantity or it is not being absorbed and stored as per the bodily requirement. Those who follow a strict vegetarian diet could also develop this condition. Low levels could also be caused due to blood loss, parasitic infections, and prolonged use of aspirin.
Heavy menstrual bleeding and pregnancy are common causes of this condition in women. Pregnant women need more iron for the growth of the baby, which is why they are generally advised to take iron supplements during pregnancy. Though such pills are easily available, these must be taken as per the prescribed dosage.
Types of Supplements
If you are buying these supplements over the counter, you must find out more about levels of elemental iron present in the pills. Generally, doctors prescribe the supplements that have the highest amount of elemental iron, which is the actual amount of iron from the pill that is absorbed by the body. Those who are anemic, must take the pill with the form that is better absorbed by the body. The pills generally contain ferric or ferrous form. Ferrous form is better absorbed and is classified into ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous fumarate.
Though the ferrous form is easily absorbed by the body, one might experience some side effects. Consumption of certain medicines or supplements can interfere with the absorption of this mineral. Since calcium can inhibit its absorption, you must not take these pills with milk. Excessive consumption of zinc and vitamin E can also interfere with the absorption. Since vitamin C facilitates better absorption of iron, including foods rich in vitamin C to your diet might help.
An iron overdose could give rise to stomach disorders such constipation, irregular bowels, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. If your body is unable to absorb iron from the pills, you might pass black stool. Other side effects include skin problems, muscle and joint aches, development of blood clots, breathing problems, or an irregular heartbeat. Pregnant women must be very careful about the dosage. An overdose could put your child at an increased risk of iron poisoning.
If you are anemic, make sure that you include foods that are rich in iron to your diet. If you are taking iron supplements, make sure that you take them as per the prescribed dosage.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.