Iron supplements are indicated for the prevention and treatment of iron deficiency anemia. They are also useful in life stages where the body requires higher concentrations of this mineral, such as childhood and pregnancy. But what are the side effects of iron supplements?
Treatment of anemia is not based solely on taking iron supplements. It also usually includes an iron-rich diet and, in severe cases, a blood transfusion may be required.
Types of iron supplements
Iron in its elemental form is an unstable metal that oxidizes easily. For this reason, it is usually found in the form of compounds, such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, and ferrous gluconate, which make this element more stable.
All supplements contain the same type of iron; how they are absorbed or interact with food can vary. Additionally, some may have more side effects than others, especially gastrointestinal.
The best known supplement is ferrous sulfate, which must be taken on an empty stomach as it can cause side effects such as nausea and heartburn.
Other supplements, on the other hand, can be taken with meals. In these, the iron is formulated in such a way that it does not interact with food and other substances. For this reason, they are more bioavailable and cause fewer side effects.
Finally, other iron supplements contain substances such as folic acid and vitamin B12. Even if in all three cases the dose corresponds to 325 mg, ferrous fumarate has a higher availability (33%).
What is the mechanism of action of these supplements?
Our body can only absorb a certain amount of iron. This is why it is recommended to divide the daily dose into small doses to be taken several times a day. In this way, correct assimilation is favored.
The body assimilates iron better on an empty stomach, so it is advisable to take it one hour before meals. Furthermore, it is very important that iron does not interact with other drugs. Hence, it must be taken at least 2 hours before or after taking another drug, especially if it is calcium, zinc or folic acid supplements.
For better absorption, take iron with a glass of orange or tomato juice, which contain vitamin C which promotes its assimilation. Although anemia can have various causes, it is often the result of an iron deficiency.
In women, for the prevention or treatment of anemia, the daily intake of iron is widespread. In some cases, it is combined with folic acid, other vitamins and minerals, and the treatment lasts for three months.
However, several side effects of iron supplements are known such as nausea or constipation. Taking them up to three times a week has been proposed as an effective and safer option than daily doses.
Possible Side Effects of Iron Supplements
The side effects of iron supplements vary depending on the type of compound present. In any case, the most common are:
- Heartburn and heartburn.
- Nausea and vomit.
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Feeling of full stomach.
- Dark stools.
- Diarrhea or constipation.
In some cases, nausea and intestinal discomfort may increase along with dosages. They typically occur 30 to 60 minutes after taking. However, they can disappear after the first 3 days of treatment.
To reduce constipation caused by the drug, healthy habits should be adopted. Hence, it is advisable to increase the fiber intake from fruits and vegetables and to perform regular physical activity.
If possible, try to take iron supplements with meals. Additionally, some may contain folic acid and vitamin B12, which also help fight anemia.
Conclusion on the side effects of iron supplements
It is recommended to take iron supplements only if prescribed by your doctor. Also remember that even if iron deficiency stabilizes in a couple of months, it takes the body from 6 months to a year to fully recover.