We’ve previously talked about food sources of iron, we will spend some time discussing the different forms of iron supplements.
Iron Supplements: How Much?
The recommended iron intake for men and post – menopausal women is 8 mg. The recommended intake for pre-menopausal women is 18mg and the recommendation increases to 27 mg for pregnant women. The CDC recommends routine low-dose iron supplementation (30 mg/day) for all pregnant women, beginning at the first prenatal visit. When a low hemoglobin or hematocrit is confirmed by repeat testing, the CDC recommends larger doses of supplemental iron, usually 60 mg/day.
Caution: Do not start taking iron supplements unless it is advised by your doctor.
Types of Iron Supplements
There are 3 main kinds of iron supplements: Ferrous Sulphate, Ferrous Gluconate and Ferrous Fumerate. Similar to calcium supplements, when purchasing iron supplements, look for the elemental iron content, not the Total iron content. For instance, an iron supplement containing 200mg of ferrous sulfate provides 40 mg of elemental iron. Therefore, this iron supplement in this example provides 40mg of iron.
Many people may experience various gastrointestinal side effects for taking iron supplements such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dark colored stools, and stomach distress. Some pharmacists suggested that Ferrous Gluconate may cause fewer symptoms and is milder on stomach.
To minimize side effects, start with half the recommended dose, gradually increasing to the full dose. You may also try taking iron supplements with a full stomach instead of an empty stomach.
It is suggested to take iron supplements with Vitamin C-rich foods such as fruits or fruit juice to maximize absorption.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.