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Iron Supplements and Constipation

Iron Supplements and Constipation

There's always been an intricate relationship between iron supplements and constipation - the former is often responsible for bringing about the latter. Read more about it in the following write-up.
Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
It's literally true that constipated people don't give a crap but carrying all that crap inside you all the time ain't no joke! You feel dull, heavy, irritable and get horrible, blunt headaches that neither make you feel too sick to take the day off nor do they allow you to sufficiently focus on your work! If you're on an iron supplements' course, it is likely that you have noticed a wicked relationship between taking those iron pills and the occurrence of constipation - while you deliberately introduced the former into your life, you never invited the latter anywhere near you!
You eat lots of greens, stick to your yoga/aerobics sessions religiously and drink gallons of water everyday but still, every morning that inevitable feeling of baseball-stuck-inside-whiskey bottle confronts you, and no matter how much you exert, the ball refuses to slip out of the bottle! Now, isn't it unfair that taking iron supplements alone undoes all your other efforts to ensure smooth bowel movements? You bet it is! So why does this happen? What causes those iron pills to turn dough into cement (pardon the gross metaphor - it just came up naturally!)? Let's find out!
Constipation and Iron Supplements - Behind the Scenes
Now, before we lift the curtain on why taking iron supplements leads to constipation, let's first understand the nature of these supplements. The iron that we consume as supplements is usually in its basic metallic form, meaning that the molecular structure of the dietary iron which is taken in the form of a supplement is exactly the same as metallic iron. Now, metals or metallic atoms carry either an electric or a magnetic charge which is so low that we often cannot feel it.
The charge is especially negligible in supplemental iron. However, this charge is capable of affecting the muscles and the walls of the digestive organs. This can slow down the digestive speed, making the digestion of food take longer than usual, resulting in strained bowel movements. Also, if iron is absorbed in excess by the body, it further slows down the digestive process, leading to slow bowel formation and strained bowel movements.
Also, if iron supplements are taken on an empty stomach, the body gets an opportunity to absorb almost all the free iron in the supplement. The more iron is absorbed in its free form, the more it is going to slow down your digestion process. Therefore, it is always better to eat something before taking those iron pills as the iron molecules bind with the food particles and get digested along with the food. The metallic charge is used up when the iron clings to the food particles, thereby not being able to significantly interfere with the speed of digestion.
What to Do to Avoid Constipation When on Iron Supplements
Well, constipation or no constipation, iron is good for you. That bloke in white coat who prescribed those pills or that syrup isn't really a bloke - he knows what's good for your health better than you do! So, instead of stopping to pop those iron pills, here are a few measures you can adopt in order to make sure you get all the benefits of iron without inviting the extremely unwelcome side effects of iron supplements!
  • Drink lots of water, it keeps the digestive machinery well-oiled and active.
  • Eat lots of fiber rich foods which will irritate the bowels and ease their movement.
  • Go for slow releasing iron supplements over the fast acting ones as the latter overloads the digestive system with iron in very little time while the former allows the body to slowly and steadily absorb the iron without considerably slowing down digestion.
  • If you wish to get more iron out of dietary sources, go for lean cuts of red meat. The body absorbs minerals better from non vegetarian sources. Plus you also get a good dose of vitamin C which assists the body to absorb the iron optimally with minimum wastage. Red meat also contains a good amount of fiber which will keep that digestive machinery churning merrily!
So, you see, you can break the matrimony of iron supplements and constipation problems by taking a few easy steps and paying attention to certain dietary factors. It is always best to take any nutritional supplement under the competent supervision of a medical professional or a qualified nutrition expert as inappropriate iron supplement dosage can do more harm than good. So, follow these simple tips and say goodbye to those painful, stuck-up morning blues forever!