Iron supplementation – why is the way I take them important?

Iron is needed in the body to help carry oxygen through your blood to all areas of the body. If you do not have enough iron, you can develop iron-deficient anaemia which means the body is unable to create sufficient red blood cells. This can leave you with a lack of energy and if left untreated can cause harm to organs.

What are the symptoms of iron-deficient anaemia?

A blood test will reveal whether your iron levels are low. Symptoms can develop slowly but as it progresses, you may experience:

  • Tiredness

  • Weakness

  • Pale skin

  • Dizziness

  • Low body temperature

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat

Why is the way we take iron supplements so important?

The absorption of iron into the gut is affected by a number of foods and medications. For example, having your morning tea or coffee with your iron supplement will hinder the absorption. Tannins found in tea and coffee decrease iron absorption. A wide range of other foods can affect iron absorption including milk, nuts, grains, legumes and a number of fruits and vegetables. Certain antibiotics and medications that reduce stomach acids also affect how well iron is absorbed.


What is the best way to take them?

The most ideal way to take an iron supplement is on an empty stomach (first thing in the morning or an hour before eating) with a vitamin C containing drink such as orange juice. Vitamin C alongside iron supplementation aids absorption of iron.

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