All You Need to Know About Iron Supplements

Iron is a mineral essential for the proper functioning of hemoglobin, a protein required to transport oxygen throughout the blood. Iron plays a part in many other vital processes within the body. Low iron levels are frequent and can result in unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, and frequent episodes of illnesses. Iron deficiency, however, isn't always apparent, particularly in its initial stages. Iron supplements are an excellent option to correct deficiencies, particularly when lifestyle changes aren't enough.

But, as with other nutritional supplements, you should not use iron supplements without the direction of a physician or knowing the way certain food items can hinder your body's ability to absorb iron.

Do You Need to Take Iron Supplements?

Do you feel sluggish and tired or experiencing memory loss and having trouble concentrating? This could not be due to the blues of the end of the year making you feel down, but rather an iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency can be easily treated. However, it is frequently overlooked due to the numerous symptoms. It's common to blame excessive fatigue on other causes, such as an unhealthy life.

The most frequent symptoms and signs of anemia due to iron deficiency include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Poor mental performance
  • A feeling of coldness in feet and hands
  • Shortness of breath when exercising
  • Leg syndrome called restless (very prevalent in pregnant women)
  • Nails with brittleness
  • Poor appetite
  • Other rare symptoms include difficulties swallowing and a craving for substances like dirt or the taste of ice (known by the name pica).

If you are suffering from some of the above symptoms and believe that your food routine may be deficient in iron, it is possible to talk with your physician about taking supplements for iron.

Potential Side Effects

There are frequent side effects associated with iron supplements. Constipation is one of common side effect that occurs with certain kinds of iron. The risk of having an iron overdose in a diet is not a problem for most healthy adults. Individuals with genetic conditions are at risk of an iron overdose if their condition makes them absorb more iron from their food.

The consumption of high doses of iron supplements can trigger nausea and vomiting and stomach discomfort. There are extremely rare iron overdoses that can cause seizures, internal bleeding or coma, and eventually death.

Iron supplements can reduce the effects of certain drugs, such as those used to treat restless leg syndrome or thyroid issues. Reflux medications can decrease the amounts of iron is absorbed by the body through foods and supplements. It is important to talk with your healthcare doctor about taking any iron supplements, particularly in the case of taking prescription medications.

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Iron Supplements and Women

While men aren't the only ones with inadequate iron stores, iron deficiency is more prevalent among women, especially during the menstrual cycle. Because of this, women often need to supplement their iron intake to replenish their reserves.

Women who are pregnant might also benefit from an iron supplement. But excessive iron consumption during pregnancy can cause harm. It's essential to get necessary lab tests before you take iron supplements.

How to Get the Best Levels of Iron?

The best method to reach the highest level of iron to do it through iron supplements rather than a diet. This lowers the risk of overdose and assures good iron intake, along with the other nutrients. The iron you mix with is equally important. Vitamin C increases iron absorption while tannins and calcium (such as coffee and tea) reduce absorption.

Tests To Help Diagnose The Iron Status Of Your Body

Hemoglobin, as well as the hematocrit test, is often used to detect iron deficiency. But, they're not as sensitive or specific as they tend to determine IDA and not the initial iron depletion stages. The earlier phases of depletion are helpful because they allow you to deal with the issue promptly -- be it via diet changes or supplements, rather than waiting for it to develop into IDA before getting involved.

Serum ferritin is now considered the most cost-effective and effective test for diagnosing iron deficiency. This is especially true in the early stages of its development. But, few doctors regularly test ferritin levels. Therefore, you might need to ask for this test, along with hemoglobin and hematocrit tests, when you visit the doctor's office.

Final Words

Iron supplements can reverse iron deficiency if diet changes aren't enough. Certain individuals, such as pregnant babies, women or young children, frequent exercisers, and those suffering from particular health conditions, are susceptible to having low levels of iron and should have regular tests for their iron levels. If you're thinking of having your iron levels measured, be sure to ask for the hemoglobin and hematocrit tests as well as a ferritin test. This test combination is the most efficient in identifying iron deficiencies at the earliest stages.
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