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Iron Supplements: Do You Need Them?

You may or may not be leery of taking supplements, but what if you should be taking one and aren’t aware of it? Iron supplements are typically needed to help build up the iron stores in your body; particularly for those who have iron deficiency anaemia. Taking iron supplements if you aren’t 100% sure you need them can be dangerous so it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking them.

Purpose of Iron

Iron is actually an essential mineral and helps move oxygen throughout our body. Without enough iron, your body cannot produce enough healthy red blood cells which help carry the oxygen. This is where the term ‘deficiency anaemia’ comes into effect. The most noticeable effect of iron deficiency is fatigue. This is because your body isn’t getting the necessary oxygen. Unfortunately, fatigue can be like a domino effect, resulting in impacts on other bodily functions from the brain to the immune system. In addition to helping move oxygen in the body, iron also helps maintain healthy nails, skin, hair and cells.

How Much Iron Is Ideal?

Your overall health, gender, and age will determine how much iron your body needs. Women need more iron than men because of the loss of blood during their menstrual cycle every month. For this reason, women between 19 and 50 should be getting 18mg of iron every day. Men, on the other hand, can get away with only 8mg of iron a day. Once a woman hits menopause her iron needs drop to that equivalent of men; 8mg a day.

However, while these are the ideal recommendations for sufficient iron, there are other conditions in which you might require more iron; if you take a lot of antacids, work out a lot at intense rates, have a gastrointestinal disorder that affects iron absorbency by the body, etc. Your doctor can help you determine if an iron supplement is a good choice for you.

Side Effects of Iron Supplements

As with most supplements, some side effects are known to exist with iron supplements. These include constipation, vomiting, nausea, dark stools, and diarrhoea. The side effects can be reduced by gradually starting to the recommended daily dose instead of going head-on with the actual dose from the very start. Sometimes taking iron supplements with food also helps alleviate the possibility of side effects.

Now that you know what iron supplements can do and what they’re intended for, you can speak with your doctor if you feel that an iron supplement might be what you need. They can typically tell quickly with a simple blood test so consider speaking with your doctor at your next appointment if you’re worried you may have an iron deficiency.

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