In the US, around 2 percent of adult men are reportedly iron deficient, while around nine percent of toddlers below the age of two are iron deficient. Among women and girls of childbearing age, the percentage is around 11 percent, indicating high prevalence rates. As one of the important minerals in the body, iron deficiency and anemia can impact overall health. The inability to make hemoglobin results in poor health and complications. Among the various options for treating anemia, iron supplements taken orally are considered as effective and convenient. Here is a look at the side effects of iron pills and suitable methods to treat or reduce the effects.
Overview of iron supplements and side effects of iron pills
Iron supplements in oral form are available as pills, extended-release formulations, in capsule form and as drops. To understand the side effects of iron pills it is necessary to learn a little more about the pills. The pills help to increase levels of iron and hemoglobin, thereby fighting off the symptoms associated with iron deficiency anemia. Common symptoms of anemia include tiredness that is not attributed to any other reason or strenuous activity. Patients with anemia are known to appear pale, in addition to the general tiredness. In certain instances, the individuals may also end up with labored breathing, while some may experience a rapid increase in heartbeat.
There is the possibility of individuals experiencing a headache as a result of iron deficiency, while some may feel dizzy. Asa result of the iron deficiency individuals may end up with lesser immunity and be exposed to the risk of infections. Additionally, patients with iron deficiency may also feel cold, with the limb extremities feeling colder than other parts of the body. Iron deficiency is attributed to multiple reasons, including loss of blood, dietary preferences, and a surge in iron requirements. For instance, individuals who experience loss of blood as a result of ulcer, or periods or cancers are likely to end up with lower iron levels. Diets that are not balanced are also one of the reasons for iron deficiency and anemia. Finally, pregnant women require higher levels of iron, and when this is not met, it can result in anemia. It is time to look at methods for diagnosing anemia before looking at the side effects of iron pills.
Methods to diagnose anemia
Anemia is diagnosed through blood tests which will determine the hemoglobin levels and the iron levels in the body. Depending on the outcomes of the blood tests, doctors assess the anemia and prescribe suitable remedies. The actual type of blood tests and the number of tests that may be required will depend on the assessment of the doctor. In addition to a detailed study of family medical history, specialists typically recommend complete blood count or CBC test. This test helps to determine the count of blood cells in the blood sample. Doctors also look for the red blood cell levels in the body, namely, the hematocrit and hemoglobin. The ideal hematocrit values should normally be between 40-52% and 35-47& for men and women respectively, while the normal hemoglobin levels should ideally be between 14-18 grams and 12-16 grams per deciliter for men and women respectively. Additionally, the size and shape of red blood cells are also examined to check for any differences or abnormalities. Finally, doctors may also prescribe bone marrow tests to diagnose anemia and prescribe suitable treatment options. It is time to look at the side effects of iron pills, but before checking out about oral supplements, let’s check out food products that have naturally high iron content.
Food products considered as stockpiles of iron
The following food products are regarded as high in iron content, and should typically be a part of balanced diet. This will help prevent deficiencies and will also dispense with the need for supplements, if the deficiency is recognized in time. To avoid potential side effects of iron pills it would be a good idea to introduce some of the following food products into routine diets. For instance, oysters are a rich source of iron, which makes the delicacy a good choice. Similarly, kidney beans are considered as a natural source of iron content, while beef liver is also a good source of iron for non-vegetarians.
Other sources of iron include tuna, lamb leg, turkey leg, shrimp, beef and eggs.
Vegetarians can receive adequate levels of iron from tofu, whole wheat bread, from peanut butter, and brown rice. Other natural sources of iron include raisin bran, lentils, spinach and blackstrap molasses. Consuming the right quantity and the right form of any of the above food products will help improve iron levels in the body. However, in certain instances, when the deficiency is at an advanced stage, it may be necessary to ensure that the patient receives supplements that deliver iron faster to the body. Food products typically take time for the food to be processed before supplying nutrition to the body, while supplements are known to have a relatively faster mechanism of action.
What are iron oral supplements and what are the side effects of iron pills?
Iron oral supplements refer to the pills, the capsules, extended-release formulations and drops that are prescribed to increase iron levels in the body. While there could be undesirable side effects of iron pills, the intent and outcomes of iron oral supplements is to increase iron and hemoglobin levels in the body. Typically, the iron in supplements may be different from the elemental iron in the body. The higher the elemental iron in the supplements, the higher will be the iron absorbed by the individual. It is therefore necessary to check the amount of elemental iron in the supplements, that could be either prescribed or purchased over the counter.
What is the ideal dose of iron supplements to avoid side effects of iron pills?
One of the reasons for side effects of iron pills is the incorrect dosage and frequency of consumption. It is necessary to understand the right dosage or requirements, which will help prevent any possible side effects of iron pills. The actual requirement may differ from person to person and will depend on various factors. Typically, individuals are recommended elemental iron anywhere between 100 mg to 200 mg per day. In most cases, patients are recommended to take the supplements in multiple doses throughout the day to facilitate greater absorption. This can be avoided if the individual takes extended-release formulations of iron supplements.
Precautions while taking iron oral supplements to avoid side effects of iron pills
It is essential to take a few precautions while taking iron oral supplements, and this will help avoid any potential side effects of iron pills. For instance, iron supplements are known to have best results when taken on an empty stomach. However, certain individuals may experience some kind of stomach upset if the supplements are taken on an empty stomach. It may therefore be necessary to take the supplements along with food to prevent an upset stomach. Iron supplements are not to be taken alongside or mixed with certain food products or supplements/medications. For instance, patients on calcium supplements are not to take the two together.
Similarly, individuals taking antacids to treat acidity are also advised to not take the two together. Finally, individuals are strictly advised to avoid taking iron supplements with either milk or products that contain caffeine. The above products or medications may impact the intake of iron supplements by reducing the actual iron levels absorbed by the body. Consequently, the desired outcomes of the supplements will not be achieved. The ideal method of taking the supplements is to combine the oral iron supplements with vitamin C, which will help increase the absorption of iron into the body. Patients are typically advised to take iron supplements with orange juice for best results.
Commonly reported side effects of iron pills
As mentioned above, there are a limited number of possible side effects of iron pills. These side effects are not serious in nature, and can be resolved with simple measures. In certain cases, there may be a need for some kind of medical intervention to resolve the side effects, while in most cases, the effects can be handled easily. For instance, patients are likely to observe a dark discoloration of the stools, when on the supplements. Individuals may end up with an upset stomach as a result of the pills. As mentioned earlier, a simple method helps to eliminate this problem. Patients may experience constipation as a result of the increased intake or absorption of iron into the body.
This can be handled with stool softeners which will alleviate the problem and help patients get back to routines. There is also the possibility of individuals experiencing heart burn as one of the possible side effects of iron pills. The best method to handle this is to use liquid forms of the supplements; studies have revealed that liquid forms of the supplement do not result in pill induced gastritis.