Iron supplements are used to prevent and treat iron-deficiency anemia, and in other situations where the body needs higher concentrations of iron, such as childhood, pregnancy, where development and growth demand more iron.
Likewise, in the case of anemia, the treatment is not only based on the intake of iron supplements. Generally, this is combined with a diet that includes foods rich in this mineral, or in some more severe cases, it may be necessary to perform a blood transfusion.
Now, why is iron necessary for life?
One of the unfortunate ways to know and appreciate the importance of iron in the human body is through its lack. Among other functions, the human body needs iron to produce hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins responsible for transporting oxygen. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscles.
So when the iron is lacking, a long list of disorders can make an appearance, such as tiredness for no apparent reason, anemia, the nails become brittle, the skin becomes markedly pale, the ability to concentrate begins to lose, the Strength for intense work suffers, and in children school performance begins to falter, as well as their appetite and growth. Even discouragement seems to spread to everyone affected.
How to take and for how long
The first thing to keep in mind is that you cannot take iron supplements without control.
· Iron has side effects, and there is even a pathology (hemochromatosis) caused by excess iron in the body.
Besides, iron supplements, orally, will always be an alternative option proposed by the doctor, given that we cannot improve levels with the diet, which is the first measure applied.
Therefore, beforehand it is convenient to know for what reasons you lack iron and what is the best treatment option in each case.
The dose of iron supplements and duration of treatment are prescribed by age, weight, and degree of anemia; but regularly, the dose of iron indicated by the doctors is:
- Adults: 120 mg / day;
- Children: 3 to 5 mg/kg/day, not being able to exceed the dose of 60 mg/day;
- Babies from 6 months to 1 year: 1 mg/ kg / day;
- Pregnant: 30-60 mg + 400 mcg of folic acid;
- Lactating women: 40 mg.
What types of supplements are there?
Iron in its elemental form is an unstable metal that is easily oxidized, so it is generally found in the form of complexes such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, or iron hydroxide, which make iron more stable.
There are emergency cases that need an immediate contribution, and then it is administered with an injection. Assimilation is immediate.
The intravenous route can also be used when the person has iron intolerance and cannot take it by mouth.
However, the usual way to administer iron supplements is by mouth (tablets or solution).
Why do I need to take supplements?
There are several reasons why we need an extra iron supply.
Typically, anemia causes low levels. Iron is a fundamental element to transport oxygen and nutrients through the blood.
It can also be advised to people who, having the correct levels, need an extra punctual contribution, such as adolescents, women during pregnancy or lactation.
The other large group is strict vegetarians, who may be in deficit because one of the main sources is meat.
There are other more specific cases, such as poor absorption of iron after a stomach operation or in some allergic issues, such as celiac disease, which will always have to be controlled by a specialist.
How to take iron?
Iron, in general, is better absorbed if it does not interact with other foods. That is why supplements are always recommended to be taken on an empty stomach.
FASTING OR … ACCOMPANIED BY JUICE. In any case, for the body to absorb it well, iron also requires a very high level of acidity, which does provide vitamin C. That is why it is advisable to drink orange or tangerine juice.
Other seemingly innocuous liquids, such as coffee or tea, have polyphenols, which can also slow iron absorption.
And it is not recommended to drink milk or dairy until 2 hours after the supplement. Dairy is one of the main iron inhibitors due to its calcium and casein content.
Therefore, delay breakfast after taking iron in the morning. Wait about fifteen minutes before you can have breakfast with cereals and dairy.
Possible side effects
The problem with these supplements is that they sometimes cause irregular absorption, gastric upset, heartburn, and both constipation and diarrhea, heartburn and heartburn.
· Fortunately, for these cases, there is another type of iron salts that can be a substitute if the patient does not tolerate the ferrous salt.
· There are iron supplements combined with other minerals or vitamins, such as B12, which are usually more assimilable. Still, it should always be the doctor who decides the type and format of administration.
The most common side effects when taking iron for anemia are usually:
- Dark stools.
- Stomach discomfort
- Dizziness and nausea.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- Bad mouth taste.
The dark color of the stool is normal since the iron that the body does not absorb is eliminated in this way. It should not cause concern.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and increasing fiber intake from fruits and vegetables will help combat possible constipation.
Intestinal problems respond to a hypersensitivity of the body to this mineral. If they affect the quality of life a lot, you can talk to the doctor to change the dose or the format, always at his discretion.
In rare cases, hypersensitivity reactions may appear. The related discomforts are usually not serious, but they are still a reason to stop treatment. It is recommended that iron users suffering from side effects should be advised by a doctor or pharmacist to choose the medicine that is best tolerated.
Daily consumption of iron supplements is really effective in reducing the prevalence of anemia and low iron concentration. It increases hemoglobin levels as well as iron, by decreasing fatigue, consequently improving exercise performance. These beneficial effects outweigh the adverse impact on the gastrointestinal system.