Iron Supplements: Uses, Side Effects, and Dosage Guide

Iron is a mineral that can be found plentiful in the hemoglobin of the red blood cells as well as in the myoglobin of the muscle cells. Iron plays an important role in transporting carbon dioxide and oxygen from your lungs to other parts of your body. People mainly consume iron supplements to prevent and treat the low volume of iron (also called anemia or iron deficiency).

Those who are suffering from iron deficiency, the red blood cells are not able to carry an adequate amount of oxygen to the body as they do not have sufficient iron. Therefore, tiredness is one of the most common symptoms of those have anemia.

Besides, iron can also be used to improve athletic performance and treat ADHD (also known as attention deficit – hyperactivity disorder) as well as canker sores. A number people use an iron to treat depression, fatigue, inability to get pregnant and Crohn’s disease.

Women take an iron supplement during menstruation to cover the iron loss. Iron-rich food such as ham, chicken, pork, fish especially beef, lamb, the liver can also be used as iron supplements.

How does Iron Supplements Work?

Iron mostly helps the red blood cells to distribute oxygen from your lungs to other parts of your body. When it is distributed, the iron continues to carry the carbon dioxide from all over the body to the lungs so that the lungs can discharge it via the respiratory system. Iron plays an essential part in many vital chemical reactions in the human body.

Uses of Iron Supplements


Which is also known as an iron deficiency but in a more serious state, can be caused by a chronic disease. Cancer, heart issues or kidney problems are the main causes of this disease. Taking iron with other medicines like epoetin alfa can boost the effectiveness, help to rebuild the red blood cells more efficiently and modify anemia in those are suffering from kidney issues or being cured for cancer by chemotherapy. Instead of taking iron supplements via digestion, you can choose to receive iron intravenously which is more effective. However, for the latter method, you need to consult your doctor for proper treatment.

Iron Deficiency

Consuming iron supplements mainly due to prevention and treatment iron deficiency as well as anemia which are caused by less than sufficient iron found in the body.

Coughs Attributed to ACE Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are the medications specifically prescribed for people with high blood pressure. Sometimes, the medication can lead to a side effect, coughing. Several types of research show that taking iron supplement can reduce the seriousness of the side effect or even eliminate the side effect. The ACE inhibitor that you can come to mind is enalapril (Vasotec), captopril (Capoten), lisinopril (Zestril), etc.

For learning purposes

It might seem unfamiliar to you when taking an iron supplement for the learning purpose. However, it has been proven that taking iron supplement may help to improve the thinking process, boost the learning and memory ability in children especially those who used to have anemia or iron deficiency.

Heart Failure

Approximately 20% of people who once had heart failure have been found to have lower than the recommended amount of iron in the body. Regarding researches, giving these people iron intravenously can significantly improve their symptoms of having heart failure. However, taking iron supplement via digestion is not yet known to have the same effect.

Side Effects of Iron Supplements

Iron is mainly considered safe for people as it is taken via digestion as capsules or pills with a proper amount. However, it still can lead to several side effects such as stomach pain, stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

Moreover, taking iron supplements along with food might reduce the side effects. Yet, there is food which reduces the absorbability of the stomach towards the iron supplements as well. Therefore, the supplements should be taken when the stomach is empty if possible. Try not take it with dairy products, tea, coffee and cereals as the food might cause strong side effects of an iron supplement or just reduce the absorbability of the supplements.

There are various forms of iron supplements including, ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate and many others. Some of the products like those having polysaccharide-iron complex are claimed to lead to fewer side effects. However, there is no precise evidence or research to support the claim.

Iron supplements in liquid form might blacken your teeth.

It seems apparent to acknowledge that high dosages of iron are not safe specifically for children. This mineral is one the most common causes of poison deaths in kids. For a low dose such as 60mg/kg is fatal. Moreover, iron poisoning may lead to various serious issues such as stomach upset, intestinal distress, critically low blood pressure, liver failure and even death. When you suspect anyone has taken more than the necessary volume of iron supplement, contact your doctor or call the nearest food poisoning control center immediately.

There are claims that large intake of this supplement might escalate the likelihood of having heart problems. Several studies show that those who have taken a large intake of iron, specifically from food like red meat, will be more exposure to the threat of heart disease. This is highly precise for those who are having type 2 diabetes. However, it is still debatable, therefore, it is too soon to say for sure whether iron escalates the likelihood of heart disease.

Dosage Guide of Iron Supplements

The sufficient intake (AI) of iron for infants who are about 6 months old and less is 0.27 mg/day.

For older infants, the recommended daily allowances are:

Infants 7 months to 1 – year old can take up to 11 mg/day;

Children who are 1 to 3 years old can take up to 7 mg/day;

Older children who are 4 to 13 years old might take up to 8 – 10 mg/day;

Boys from 14 to 18 years old can take up to 11mg/day while the dosage for girls is about 15 mg/day.

For adults, the recommended daily allowances for iron is about 8 mg/day. Men ages 18+ and women ages 51+ can also take up about 8 mg/day too.

For women 18 to 50 years, the allowance can be 18 mg/day.

The recommended daily dose for pregnant women should be 27 mg/day.

For breastfeeding women, 10mg/day is the maximum.


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