Being deficient in iron can lead to you feeling fatigued, which can alter your quality of life. Before taking supplements, you should try to increase your intake of foods high in iron. However, if this measure doesn't change your iron levels, your doctor may ask you to start taking supplements. If you are about to start taking or already take iron supplements, it is important to know how to do it so that your body absorbs them as efficiently as possible.
Part 1 of 3: Determine How Much Iron You Need
Step 1. Talk to a doctor about how much iron to consume each day
How much iron you should be consuming each day is determined by many factors, including general health, gender, and age. It's a good idea to talk to a doctor about how much iron to take specifically (taking into account your medical history and personal information).
- Women generally need more iron than men. The general amount is 18 mg, although men 18 years and older usually need 8 mg per day.
- Children generally need more iron than adults. Also, as women age and go through menopause, they generally need less iron than they used to. Commonly, they need about 8 mg.
Step 2. Familiarize yourself with medical conditions that may cause you to need more iron than normal
Some disorders will prevent your body from absorbing iron efficiently, which means that you need to take supplements to get the iron you need each day. These disorders include the following:
- kidney disease
- Crohn's disease
- Celiac Disease
- ulcerative colitis
Step 3. Choose the form of the supplement you would like to take
Iron supplements come in a variety of forms. In general, the form of the supplement you take is up to you and your preferences. Some of the varieties include the following:
- lozenges (chewable and non-chewable)
Step 4. Consider increasing your iron intake through food rather than taking supplements
Of course, if the doctor has told you that you need to take supplements, do what he says. However, if you choose to take iron supplements on your own, try to eat foods high in iron before spending money on supplements. Foods that are high in iron include the following:
- red meat (beef)
- lean meat (poultry and fish)
- enriched cereals and grains
- leafy greens (kale or spinach)
Step 5. Avoid taking too much iron
The general rule of thumb is that you should limit your iron intake to 45 mg per day unless you have a serious medical condition and your doctor prescribes a supplement booster. Fortunately, your body has a prepared organism that regulates the amount of iron that your body absorbs. Despite this detail, some people have organisms that don't work as well. Signs of iron toxicity include the following:
- vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea
- abdominal cramps or pain
- Blood in the stool
Step 6. Keep a record for two months
Iron deficiencies tend to improve after two months of taking the supplement. However, that does not mean that you should stop taking iron supplements.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you continue taking the iron supplements for an additional 12 months. Doing so can ensure that the iron stores in the bone marrow increase
Part 2 of 3: Taking Iron Supplements Efficiently
Step 1. Talk to a doctor about any medications you take before you start taking iron supplements
Some medications do not mix well with iron supplements. In particular, iron can make the following medications less effective:
- Penicillin, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline. You should speak with a doctor before taking iron supplements, regardless of what medication you take.
- The chances of iron affecting your medicine are reduced when you wait two hours after taking the iron supplement to take it.
Step 2. Take the supplements at the beginning of the day, when you have an empty stomach
It is believed that your body absorbs iron more efficiently when you haven't eaten anything.
However, some people may experience stomach pain when they take iron on an empty stomach. Furthermore, they may even experience stomach cramps. If this is the case, eat something before taking the supplement so you don't feel nauseous
Step 3. Drink orange juice when you take the supplement
Vitamin C is believed to help the body absorb iron. Therefore, drinking a glass of orange juice when taking the iron supplement can help your body process the supplement more efficiently.
- You can also take a vitamin C supplement along with the iron supplement.
- You can also eat foods that are high in vitamin C. These foods include fruits (such as oranges and grapefruits), vegetables (such as peppers and broccoli), and leafy green vegetables.
Step 4. Avoid certain foods when taking the supplements
While foods high in vitamin C can help your body absorb iron, other foods can interfere with this ability. These foods include the following:
- Foods and drinks that are high in caffeine (such as coffee, black tea, and chocolate).
- Foods that are high in fiber. These include some vegetables (like kale and spinach), bran products, and whole grain products (like bread or brown rice).
- You also shouldn't consume milk or dairy products at the same time as iron supplements.
Step 5. Avoid certain supplements when taking your supplements
Calcium and antacid supplements can stop your body from absorbing the iron supplement. Therefore, if you have taken your daily dose of the iron supplement, you should wait at least two hours before taking any of these supplements.
Part 3 of 3: Dealing with the Side Effects of Iron Supplements
Step 1. Pay attention to stains on teeth
Some iron supplements that come in liquid form can stain your teeth and give them a blackish tint. Fortunately, you can combat these stains by brushing your teeth with a baking soda-based toothpaste (or just baking soda).
- Another way to minimize the amount of staining that appears is to drink the supplement through a straw. This measure limits the amount of time the supplement comes into contact with the teeth.
- You can also talk to a doctor about potentially switching to a different form of the supplement, such as pills.
Step 2. If you feel nauseous, talk to a doctor about reducing the amount of iron supplement you take
If you take a high dose of the iron supplement, you may start to feel a bit nauseous. You may be able to counteract this sensation by switching to a different form of iron, eating food when you take the supplement, or taking a smaller amount.
However, it is very important that you speak with a doctor before you change anything regarding your supplement regimen
Step 3. If you get constipated but can't stop taking iron supplements, take a stool softener
If you are taking iron supplements due to a medical condition and are unable to stop taking them or take less, then you may need to take a medication to make bowel movements easier. Some common anti-constipation medications include the following:
Step 4. Keep a log of your stool
Although this sounds like something you really don't want to do, iron can affect the way your stool looks. These supplements will often turn your stools black, which is completely normal. However, there are a few factors that may indicate that there is a problem. These factors may include the following:
- red or bloody stools
- stomach pain (when you go to the bathroom)