Iron supplements help in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia. However, when these supplements are consumed in excess, they may trigger severe side effects.
Iron deficiency anemia is caused due to decreased absorption of iron or hypo-acidity in stomach or a defect in intestinal mucosa. In case of deficiency, daily supplements of 60 mg iron and 500 mg of folic acid are generally prescribed. Our body must be able to absorb this iron or else the overdose of these supplements can cause side effects, which may include:
Excess consumption of these supplements causes various stomach problems like:
- Irregular bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
Iron can corrode the intestinal lining causing ulceration. After taking the supplements, a common complaint is that of dark-colored stools. This is due to the less absorption of iron. Although this might be harmless, if it is a regular symptom you must consult the doctor.
Sometimes excess iron supplements may also cause:
- Discoloration of teeth
- Bluish color appearing on the lips and palms of hands and fingernails
Such kind of discoloration is observed predominantly when a person resorts to the liquid form of supplements.
The side effects also include skin disorders like:
- Pale and clammy skin
- Swelling of mouth or throat
This can be due to generation of excess heat by the body.
Iron poisoning is commonly observed in kids, which is a result of excessive intake of iron pills. Some immediate symptoms of iron poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- blood in the stool
Other Side Effects
Some other side effects include fever, headache, muscle, and joint pain, development of blood clots and hair loss. Irregular heartbeat, overall drowsiness, and weakness is observed. A recent research by the National Cancer Institute in Washington D.C., discovered that people having high amounts of iron in their body are at a greater risk of suffering from cancer in the future. Weight loss, along with palpitation, fatigue, changes in the color of the skin, and joint pain are symptoms of high levels of iron in the body.
Side Effects of Iron Supplements During Pregnancy
Anemia is observed mostly during pregnancy; so in order to increase the iron intake, many women prefer taking supplements. If there is an overdose of these supplements it can cause various side effects in pregnant women, like the ones mentioned above. Apart from these side effects, iron poisoning has been found in children whose mothers have been consuming excessive supplements. So it is necessary to take iron supplements strictly under a doctor’s supervision.
- Avoid taking these supplements with milk or other calcium rich products as calcium reduces absorption of iron.
- Take the supplements after meals or breakfast, include lots of citrus fruits like lemon and oranges in your diet.
- To prevent discoloration of teeth, use straw for drinking the liquid form of the supplements.
- The supplements must be kept out of the reach of children.
- Taking excess iron pills is not going to decrease your symptoms overnight, so avoid excess indulgence as it will cause more harm.
- Do not take the supplements with the other medicines that form a part of your daily dosage.
As the saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure’, a person should only take iron supplements when needed and strictly under a doctor’s supervision. The deficiency can be fulfilled by a daily quota of iron via iron-rich foods such as spinach, beans, tofu, and red meat.
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.