Who Is Most at Risk for Anemia: Age, Race, Ethnicity and Gender

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There has been debate on which types of people have anemia and whether certain ages, races, and genders are more or less susceptible to anemia due to their genetic disposition. While there is some truth to these stereotypes, absolutely anyone can develop iron deficiency anemia during one’s lifetime.

This is why it’s important to understand the risk factors and treatment options, no matter who you are, how you identify yourself, or where you live.

The purpose of this article is to explore the presence and prevalence of anemia among the various age, racial, ethnic, and gender groups that exist in our world today.

Comparing Age Groups

Babies are often at risk of developing anemia because of a lack of iron in their diets during the first year of life. Those at a heightened risk include infants who were born pre-term, fed only breast milk, or given formula that is not fortified with iron. Toddlers who drink an excess amount of cow’s milk without getting other nutrients through solid foods may also be at risk of developing anemia.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, older adults who are at least 65 years old also commonly develop anemia. The causes of anemia in the elderly range from chronic inflammatory disease to renal disease and nutritional deficiencies.

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Comparing Racial and Ethnic Groups

It can be very interesting to study how anemia affects the various racial and ethnic groups around the world differently. To begin, certain types of anemia run in families, such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.

In research involving women, it has been found that African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to have anemia when compared to Caucasian women. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the prevalence of anemia in Caucasians is approximately 3.3 percent, while the prevalence among African Americans was 24.4 percent and among Mexican Americans 8.7 percent.

Comparing Genders

It is a commonly held belief that women are anemic far more often than men. Women who are pregnant experience increases in the amount of blood in their body, whereas the number of red blood cells produced cannot keep up.

Meanwhile, a significant percentage of pre-menopausal women under the age of 49 are also iron deficient, regardless of pregnancy history. However, men of any age who are athletes, who don’t eat meat because they are vegetarians and vegans, or who have certain chronic conditions are just as likely to develop anemia during their lifetimes.

How Anemia is Commonly Treated

But regardless of genetics and heredity, the common treatment options for anemia are largely the same. One of the most recommended, effective, affordable, and easiest ways to treat iron deficiency anemia is with iron supplementation. High potency iron supplements like Fergon help individuals of all backgrounds with a healthy dose of iron that’s easy to digest and very effective in replenishing iron in a quick and targeted way.

However, other types of anemia require different treatments. Vitamin deficiency anemias may require additional intake of vitamin B12 or folic acid, while chronic disease anemia requires a focus on the underlying condition. An accurate diagnosis is needed to determine the most appropriate method of treatment and whether a lack of iron in the body is to blame for anemia symptoms.

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Alcohol and Anemia: The Effects of Heavy Drinking on Iron Levels

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There are lots of people who enjoy a craft cocktail, refreshing beer, or fine glass of wine from time to time. In moderation, many individuals can safely sip their favorite drinks on occasion without consequence. However, drinking too much on a regular basis can lead to a wide variety of health conditions, including anemia. But does alcohol cause anemia?

This article will answer that question and address how alcohol-induced anemia can be prevented and treated. It is important to understand the implications of one’s lifestyle choices so that potential health problems can be prevented and treated before they become worse.

Can Alcohol Cause Anemia?

While alcohol itself is not a sole cause of anemia, especially when consumed in moderation, drinking too much of it can certainly lead to the deficiency. People who consume excessive amounts of alcohol tend to have defective red blood cells that are destroyed before their natural lifespan would end.

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An excessive alcohol intake affects the blood, spleen, liver, and bone marrow, which all make up the body’s hematologic system. This effect can reduce the body’s red blood cell count and result in a diagnosis of anemia. The symptoms of anemia may mirror certain symptoms of alcoholism, such as dizziness and fatigue.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Anemia

Anemia is just one of many health risks of chronic heavy drinking. For example, heavy drinking has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver, depression, high blood pressure, and gout.

Alcoholism is defined as a dependence upon alcohol, with frequent cravings, social triggers, and a chemical reliance in the body and brain. Alcohol has a toxic effect on the production of blood in the body, which means that alcoholics are hindering their own bodies’ natural functioning. But the good news is that once a person addresses and overcomes his or her alcohol abuse, many other symptoms, including anemia-related symptoms, will likely subside or fade away entirely.

Prevention of Alcohol Anemia

Obviously, the most effective way to prevent alcohol anemia is to avoid alcohol altogether. However, this is not always preferred or necessary. If a person plans to drink moderately on a regular basis, it may be wise to increase the amount of iron consumed, especially through healthy foods. Alcoholics may replace healthy calories from food with alcohol calories to maintain their weight. These individuals are at a heightened risk of developing anemia due to low iron. Vomiting caused by excessive drinking also rids the body of the valuable nutrients it needs.

Treatment of Alcohol Anemia

To treat the symptoms of alcohol anemia, doctors typically prescribe the same types of treatments as they would for other types of anemia. Iron supplements, like Fergon, are often used to restore iron levels back up to a healthy range. Blood transfusions or IV therapy may be recommended for patients with severe cases of iron deficiency anemia.

However, the other physical and emotional symptoms of alcoholism must be addressed as well through detoxification, rehabilitation, therapy, counseling, and support from loved ones. Caring and effective intervention may be required to stop and reverse the effects of alcoholism, and early action promises the most positive patient outcomes.

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Why Iron Supplements Are Used to Treat Kidney Disease

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A previously published article addressed the issue of how anemia relates to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and how symptoms of anemia appear in these patients. This is important information to know because people with this disease are often lacking in iron, which is necessary for the production blood cells and overall health.

There are five stages of chronic kidney disease, and the treatment recommended depends on the disease’s progression. Symptoms in the early stages are often silent, which means that individuals frequently are unaware that their kidney function is in decline. But with proper treatment, it may be possible to prevent full kidney failure that requires dialysis or a transplant.

The purpose of this article is to answer the question of why iron supplements like Fergon are often recommended as part of the treatment of kidney disease.

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The Role of Erythropoietin

A hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) is produced by the kidneys and provides signals to the body to make red blood cells. People with kidney problems are often unable to make enough EPO, which causes one’s red blood cell count to drop. Anemia often develops at this stage of CKD. Medications known as erythropoiesis-stimulating agents may be prescribed to help the body generate more of this hormone.

How Iron Can Help Kidney Patients

By supplementing the body with iron, the secondary condition of anemia can be corrected and managed. This is because iron helps boost the body’s red blood cell count and enables it to deliver oxygen to its many parts.

Kidney patients who are taking an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent medication will need to consume additional iron to maximize the agent’s effectiveness. While taking this type of medication, one’s body uses up the iron supply faster than normal. Therefore, additional iron is necessary to replenish those stores.

Choosing the Right Iron Treatment Plan

It is important for CKD patients to consult a doctor to have their iron levels tested and determine whether they have developed anemia because of a kidney condition. More specifically, CKD patients should have their TSAT level tested (it should be at least 20 percent) and their ferritin level tested (it should be 100 ng/mL or higher). Monthly testing is recommended until a patient’s hemoglobin target is achieved.

A good starting point in any treatment plan is to consume more iron-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, eggs, and lean meats. For further support, iron supplements can be taken in tablet form by mouth or in liquid form. If patients are unable to obtain the iron they need by mouth, they may receive it intravenously in a clinic or doctor’s office.

High potency Fergon is trusted source of iron that is highly soluble in the body. It’s a smart idea to choose a supplement that is easily digested and that has proven to cause fewer side effects than the alternatives to avoid upset stomach, constipation, and bloating. Once in the body, this supplement is highly effective in replenishing iron in the blood cells quickly. Although CKD patients should confirm the personalized dosage with a doctor based on the severity of their condition, typically one tablet per day with food is recommended for adults.

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Iron Absorption: Why It’s Important and Diseases That Hinder It

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While people who have been diagnosed with anemia may be consuming an adequate amount of iron in their diets, they still may suffer serious deficiency symptoms.

It may come as a surprise to learn that absorbing iron is just as important as consuming iron and that some diseases actually prevent the body from absorbing iron properly.

This means that excess iron that a person takes in may not be benefiting the body if other factors aren’t addressed first.

This article addresses how iron is absorbed in the body and strategic ways to ensure that one’s body is absorbing the iron being consumed through diet and supplementation.

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How Iron Is Absorbed in the Body

To begin, iron absorption depends on the form that enters the digestive tract. Heme iron is found in red meats and is the most easily absorbed form. Non-heme iron can come from plants and is typically less easily absorbed in the body. Absorption is also dependent upon inorganic iron ions that change state during the process of absorption.

The absorption of iron is controlled by a dietary regulator and a stores regulator, both of which are largely affected by diet composition. Once ingested, iron passes through cell membranes that line the intestines and are transferred into the plasma. Transferrin, a protein, attaches to this iron to transport it throughout the body. Iron is also transferred to bone marrow to create hemoglobin and red blood cells.

Why Iron Absorption is Important

Iron must be properly absorbed into the body so that it can be stored for both current and future use. Through meals and iron supplements like Fergon, the body uses some absorbed iron for immediate purposes and stores the remainder as ferritin. Ferritin is a protein used for storage in the body’s cells that supplies iron when the body needs it later on. Once these stores are depleted, an iron deficiency occurs. Common symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, tongue swelling, and odd food cravings.

Diseases That Affect Iron Absorption

Unfortunately, there are certain medical conditions that negatively impact the body’s ability to absorb iron. Individuals who have inadequate stomach acid or a lack of intrinsic factor, which is a hormone required to absorb vitamin B12, may not be able to absorb iron well. Additionally, people who have celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or another hormone imbalance or autoimmune condition may struggle with this as well.

Studies show that approximately one-third of inflammatory bowel disease patients also suffer from recurrent anemia. This is especially troubling because chronic fatigue is a common symptom of both conditions and can dramatically affect the quality of life of people who have these concurrent conditions.

Ways to Increase Iron Absorption

One of the most well-known and most effective ways to boost iron absorption is to consume vitamin C with iron-rich meals. Eating animal protein found in meat can increase one’s overall iron intake, as well as iron absorption. But for vegetarians and vegans, combining plant-based iron sources with vitamin C rich foods, like citrus fruits and dark leafy vegetables, can help tremendously. It’s important to avoid drinking tea and coffee while consuming iron-rich foods to increase one’s absorption. It has also been advised to avoid dairy products and soybean products in iron-rich meals to help the mineral absorb more effectively into the body. Proper meal planning is the key to helping one’s body absorb the iron it needs and store the remainder for a later time.

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Curability of Iron Deficiency Anemia & Other Nutrient Deficiencies

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There are many devastating diseases that have no cure yet, such as diabetes, cancer, AIDS, and asthma.  But fortunately, iron deficiency anemia isn’t one of them.

This is a treatable and curable condition that can be remedied with various treatment options and lifestyle changes that are affordable, accessible, and non-intrusive.

Here is some information about the curability of iron deficiency anemia and how resolving other nutrient deficiencies can actually cure anemia as well.

Getting the Right Diagnosis

Iron has an important role in the human body, and individuals who suffer from chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer, ulcers, kidney failure, and inflammatory diseases, are often iron deficient or suffer from anemia. Since iron deficiency anemia is frequently paired with other seemingly unrelated symptoms, the condition can be difficult to diagnose at home and without proper testing.

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The first step in curing one’s symptoms is finding the right diagnosis. Once iron deficiency anemia is determined to be the diagnosis, a medical professional can recommend the proper treatment and set the path to recovery.

How to Cure Iron Deficiency Anemia

There are numerous treatments for iron deficiency anemia, but the primary goal is always the same. This goal is to restore normal level of iron, red blood cells, and hemoglobin in the body. Simply eating more red meat, soybeans, tofu, lentils, and spinach may be enough to cure an iron deficiency in mild cases.

Iron supplements like Fergon are recommended by doctors to treat anemia and also prevent the worsening symptoms of iron deficiencies. This reliable source of iron is manufactured in a way that prevents side effects like bloating and constipation.

In very severe cases of iron deficiency, part of the curing strategy may be blood transfusions of red blood cells. Iron therapy may also be recommended in severe cases when patients are unable to take supplements by mouth. But regardless of the treatment strategy, this condition can be cured when iron levels are restored to a healthy level. The main challenge at that point is to maintain that level of iron balance in the days, weeks, and years ahead.

Other Nutrient Deficiencies and Anemia

It’s a common misconception that low iron in one’s nutritional intake is the only thing that causes anemia. However, other nutrient deficiencies can actually lead to anemia as well.

Other natural deficiencies, like low levels of vitamin B12, are also curable causes of anemia, which should come as a relief to individuals suffering from this condition. One type of anemia called pernicious anemia, which is caused by a lack of vitamin B12 in the body. By restoring one’s levels of vitamin B12, it is possible to overcome pernicious anemia and the symptoms that it causes.

Vitamin B12-rich foods include shellfish, beef liver, and mackerel and other fish. Vegetarians and vegans can increase the amount of tofu, nutritional yeasts, and fortified cereals in their diets to overcome vitamin B12 deficiencies. In more severe cases, vitamin B12 pills or shots may be recommended as well, but the important thing to remember is that these conditions can be cured to restore a normal and active lifestyle.

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Treatment Options for People with Iron Deficiency Anemia

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Many kinds of people are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, and the treatment for this condition depends upon the individual and the severity of the symptoms.

Ultimately, the goals of treating an iron deficiency are to bring back normal functioning levels of red blood cells, hemoglobin, and iron.

This article discusses how people with iron deficiency anemia are treated and common supplement recommendations for men, women, and children.

Dietary Changes

The first and often easiest step that doctors recommend to correct minor iron deficiencies is to make simple changes to the diet. Although the best source of iron is red meat, there are plenty of other options for people who don’t eat red meat or who are vegetarian or vegan. For example, peas, lentils, baked beans, soybeans, tofu, fried fruits, spinach, and fortified breads and cereals are excellent sources of iron in the human body.

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Iron Supplements

However, in cases of moderate and severe iron deficiency, dietary changes are often not enough to improve the health of an individual. Iron supplements like Fergon are commonly recommended by doctors to treat anemia and also prevent the worsening of iron deficiencies among women and athletes. Fergon is a is a trusted source of iron preferred by consumers and is manufactured in a way to prevent unwanted side effects like upset stomach, bloating, and constipation.

When one begins to supplement the diet with iron, it is also crucial to get enough vitamin C on a regular basis. Vitamin C assists with iron absorption and can be found in oranges, grapefruits, kiwis, strawberries, and cantaloupes.

Blood Transfusions

For very severe cases of iron deficiency, it may be necessary to receive a transfusion of red blood cells. This is a somewhat common procedure that involves giving a person blood via IV line through a blood vessel. This is typically a treatment used on patients who have a high risk of heart conditions or other medical issues that could be worsened by iron deficiency anemia.

Iron Therapy

Another treatment for severe cases of iron deficiency anemia is iron therapy. This involves injecting iron into an IV line in a blood vessel or into a muscle. This option is typically only considered when a patient is unable to take iron supplements by mouth due to another medical condition.

Dosage and Duration Recommendations

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that men between the ages of 19 and 50 years old get eight milligrams of iron per day and that women in this age range get 18 milligrams of iron per day. After the age of 51, both genders are recommended to get eight milligrams of iron daily.

For children under six months, both genders should get 0.27 milligrams of iron, seven- to one-year-olds 11 milligrams, one- to three-year-olds seven milligrams, and four- to eight-year-olds 10 milligrams. Nine- to 13-year-olds should get eight milligrams of iron, while 14- to 18-year old males need 11 milligrams and 14- to 18-year-old females need 15 milligrams.

These recommendations vary based on the individual, so ask a trusted doctor about the appropriate dosage to take and duration of time to take iron supplements based upon dietary intake and lifestyle.

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Iron Deficiency Versus Vitamin Deficiency

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The human body requires many different vitamins and minerals to function properly, and unfortunately, it’s very common to develop a deficiency in one or more of them.

According to a CDC report, around 10 percent of the U.S. population has a nutrition deficiency, but this percentage is much higher for certain ethnic groups. The report revealed that vitamin B-6 is the most common nutrient deficiency in the U.S., closely followed by iron in women between the ages of 12 and 49.

Here is a comparison of iron deficiency and other vitamin deficiencies and information about why correct diagnosis and treatment of a deficiency is so important.

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Understanding Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiencies occur when bodily stores of iron are too low to support normal red blood cell production. Common causes of this deficiency include excessive iron loss through blood or urine or an inadequate dietary supply of iron. Symptoms of this type of deficiency include fatigue, cold intolerance, leg cramps, and a reduced resistance to infection.

Understanding Vitamin Deficiency

There are many types of vitamin deficiencies, and each one has its own causes, symptoms, and treatments. Although iron is the mineral that’s most associated with anemia, vitamin deficiency anemia, also known as megaloblastic anemia, exists as well. This form of anemia forms when the body doesn’t have enough vitamins to produce healthy red blood cells.

Folate deficiency anemia results with a lack of vitamin B-9 in the diet, and individuals with celiac disease and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are at a higher risk of developing this condition. Vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia is common in vegans who do not consume meat, milk, or eggs. And vitamin C deficiency anemia is common among smokers because smoking impairs the body from absorbing this vitamin.

The symptoms of these types of vitamin deficiency anemias are similar to iron deficiency anemia and are commonly marked by fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, and numbness in the hands and feet. Aside from anemias, vitamin D deficiency is also common in the U.S. population, and vitamin D is required for strong bones by helping the body utilize calcium intake.

The Importance of Correct Diagnosis & Treatment

Effectively treating a dietary deficiency is contingent upon having the correct diagnosis to address the root of the problem. Diagnosed iron deficiencies may be treated with iron supplements like Fergon; however, iron supplements won’t necessarily treat the symptoms of a different kind of vitamin deficiency.

Many mild deficiencies can be treated by including more vitamin and mineral-rich foods into the diet. But only with proper testing by a trusted medical professional can one determine which additional foods are needed to achieve a well-balanced diet.

Long-Term Risks of Untreated Deficiencies

Untreated deficiencies of all kinds can lead to severe health conditions, which is why it’s crucial to seek medical attention when unexplained symptoms begin to affect daily life. For example, an untreated vitamin D deficiency can cause serious bone disorders, such as rickets, osteomalacia, and skeletal deformities. An untreated vitamin B-12 deficiency can result in disease of the spinal cord, nerves, and brain.

And if an iron deficiency is left untreated, reduced cognitive and motor skills may result, as well as compromised functioning of the heart. Physicians typically diagnose deficiencies by a simple blood test, so don’t delay consultation if any type of deficiency is suspected.

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Healthy Recipes to Fight Iron Deficiencies

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The most prevalent nutritional deficiency in the world is iron deficiency anemia; however, there are many effective ways to prevent and treat this condition.

Studies have shown that about two percent of adult men, between nine and 12 percent of white women and nearly 20 percent of black and Hispanic women have iron deficiency anemia.

Fortunately, some of the healthiest foods on the planet are packed with this essential mineral and can be included in delicious recipes too. Here are some of the best foods to eat to fight an iron deficiency and delicious recipes to make them even more enticing for daily meals.

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Iron-Rich Foods to Eat

Most people associate iron with animal sources, but what about vegetarians or those who simply don’t like the taste of meat? Fortunately, there are lots of iron-rich foods that are healthy and delicious to add variety to meals and improve iron levels over time.

Heme iron is contained in meat, while non-heme iron can be found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant-based sources. Although heme iron is more easily absorbed in the body, both types of foods are important for a balanced diet. Absorption of iron can be improved by eating vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, peppers, and tomatoes along with iron-rich foods.

These are some of the best foods to eat on a regular basis to maintain healthy iron levels:

Animal Sources:

  • Chicken and beef liver
  • Beef Steak
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Eggs

Plant Sources:

  • Spinach
  • Lentils
  • Swiss chard and collard greens
  • Black and navy beans
  • Prunes
  • Artichoke

Delicious Recipes Packed with Iron

Iron is required in the diet to support muscle function, brain function, and healthy pregnancy in women. With these recipes, people of all ages and lifestyles can get the iron their bodies need to thrive. Here is an example of a heme iron and a non-heme iron recipe to try at home.

Chicken Livers on Toast with Caper Salad (Heme Iron)

Chicken livers are a great source of iron and can be dressed up to create a stunning meal that’s healthy and delicious. Capers, lemon, and balsamic vinegar add a tangy flavor to this chicken liver recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 2 springs of tarragon
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 tbsp. chopped capers
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lb. of chicken livers
  • 1 scoop of cornmeal flour
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 loaf of sourdough bread, toasted for serving

Directions:

  • Combine barley and tarragon to create salad
  • Add shallots, capers and a squeeze of lemon juice to salad
  • Roll chicken livers in cornmeal flour
  • Heat olive oil in a pan on the stove and cook livers until chicken is no longer pink
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar over livers and remove from pan
  • Place livers on sourdough toast and top with salad

Spiced Carrot & Lentil Soup (Non-Heme Iron)

Slow cooker meals are ideal on busy days and during the cold winter months. This a meat-free, and vegetarian-friendly recipe that has a high iron content and is low-fat as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8-10 medium-size carrots
  • ¾ cup lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup milk
  • Naan bread for serving

Directions:

  • Heat a large pan on the stove and add cumin and chili to cook for about a minute
  • Remove half of the spices and set aside
  • Place remaining ingredients in pan and boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until lentils are plump and soft
  • Serve soup with warm naan bread
  • Note: soup can be added to a food processor for smoother texture if desired

The Role of Supplementation

While healthy, natural, and whole foods are the best sources of iron, sometimes it’s not enough for people suffering from iron deficiency anemia. For those who do not get enough iron in their diets from food alone, supplementation may be necessary as well.

Fergon is a high potency iron supplement that is recommended for adults and is a tablet taken once daily with food. People experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency anemia should discuss recommended amounts of iron with their doctor to achieve a nutrient balance through food and supplementation as needed.

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