Possible Side Effects of Iron Supplements and How to Minimize Them
Practically every prescription medication, over-the-counter treatment, and nutritional supplement comes with a risk of side effects. Unfortunately, iron supplements are no exception, and some people experience adverse reactions while fueling their bodies with the iron they need.
The side effects of taking iron are rare and typically very minor, but it is important to be aware of them in case unexplained symptoms arise while taking a new supplement or altering its dosage.
Here is some information about the possible side effects of iron supplements, such as gastrointestinal issues, a metallic taste, skin conditions, and pain in various parts of the body.
More Common Side Effects of Taking Iron
Many people never experience any side effects of iron supplement at all, but individuals with sensitive stomachs may notice an increase in constipation, bloating, gas, and abdominal cramping. Meanwhile, other individuals may experience dizziness, headaches, chills, or a metallic taste in their mouths while taking a new iron supplement. It is also possible to experience skin rashes, have trouble breathing, or have back or muscle pain while on an iron supplement regimen.
Rare Side Effects of Taking Iron
In much rarer cases, a person may feel weak, experience double vision, or notice chest or throat pain while swallowing after taking iron supplements. Individuals who have overdosed on iron may have diarrhea, fevers, nausea, and vomiting. The late-stage symptoms of an iron overdose include blue-colored lips and nails, pale and clammy skin, shallow or rapid breathing, and unusual weakness. Consult a doctor if any of these symptoms arise.
Ferrous Sulfate Side Effects vs. Ferrous Gluconate
Iron supplements come in different forms, such as ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate. Furthermore, certain ingredients in common iron supplements can trigger more of these unwanted side effects than others. Many common iron supplements contain ferrous sulfate, but side effects may be more common with this form. This is especially true with stomach irritation, and it has a higher toxicity level than ferrous gluconate. However, ferrous gluconate, which is contained in Fergon, is more soluble in the body, especially when individuals pay close attention to what the iron pills are consumed with. Other forms of iron include ferrous fumarate, ferrous succinate, ferritin, and carbonyl.
How to Minimize the Side Effects of Taking Iron
Fortunately, there are many things a person can do to minimize the risk of iron-related side effects while taking supplements. For example, while iron is typically best absorbed in the body on an empty stomach, it may help to take supplements with small amounts of food to reduce gastrointestinal discomfort. However, milk, calcium, caffeine, antibiotics, and antacids should be avoided for at least two hours when taking iron supplements. It may help to take a vitamin C supplement or drink a glass of orange juice with an iron supplement. For symptoms of constipation, consider taking a stool softener while using iron supplements. If side effects become worse, always consult a doctor to determine whether a different form of iron or dosage is recommended to minimize discomfort.
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