Iron is an essential nutrient that plays many indispensable roles in our body, such as keeping us healthy and energized all day long. It also makes red blood cells in our body that transfer oxygen to the different parts of our body. One can get iron from iron-rich foods and iron supplements. However, if your body doesn’t have an adequate amount of iron, you may develop anemia, a low amount of red blood cells in the body. Low levels of iron are nowadays usual and can cause troublesome signs and symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, and frequent cycles of illness. Although, It is not facile to observe iron deficiency in its early stages.

Why Do You Need To Take Iron Supplements?

Taking iron supplements is a significant way to reduce or eliminate the iron deficiency. However, one should consume iron supplements because of anemia or the jeopardy of developing anemia. Anemia occurs due to the low iron stores in the body. 

How Do Iron Supplements Work?

Iron is required for the production of Hemoglobin, a vital ingredient in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is essential because it transfers oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. If your body lacks iron, then you can develop anemia. It means your body is not producing enough red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body. Due to anemia, you may feel breathless, lethargic, your skin may become yellowish, and you may have palpitations (observable heartbeats).

When Are Iron Supplements Helpful?

Iron supplements can specifically help people who are susceptible to low iron levels, especially if your body cannot maintain an adequate iron status through diet. It includes pregnant women, infants and young children, women who experience heavy menstruation cycles. Iron supplements are also helpful for people who donate blood frequently, people with cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease. Some individuals who have undergone plastic surgery can also get benefits by consuming iron supplements.  Individuals with heart failure, people who partake in heavy exercise, vegan or vegetarian people, individuals with blood disorders, such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia, and people with alcoholism also need to consume iron supplements for improving their overall health.

It is highly recommended not to consume iron supplements when there is no need. If taken unnecessarily, iron supplements could damage your health.  It can harm body cells, and in some cases, it results in organ failure, coma, or even death. Hence, always consult a healthcare professional and check iron status before taking iron supplements. In addition, always follow instructions given on iron supplements intake by the healthcare professional.

Stages of Iron Deficiency

There are three stages of iron deficiency:

  1. Mild iron deficiency: This stage comprises low iron stores with ferritin levels between 10–30 mcg/L. The typical red blood cell (RBC) count with hemoglobin in mild stages of iron deficiency is above 12 g/dL, and hematocrit for women is above 36% and 41% for men.
  2. Mild functional iron deficiency: This stage of iron deficiency consists of depleted iron stores with ferritin levels lower than 10 mcg/L. A normal red blood cell (RBC) includes hemoglobin over 12 g/dL and hematocrit above 36% for women and 41% for men.
  3. IDA or Iron deficiency anemia: This stage contained reduced iron stores with ferritin levels lesser than 10 mcg/L. Moreover, a red blood cell (RBC) count falling below the normal range with hemoglobin below 12 g/dL and hematocrit below 36% for women and 41% for men.

Side Effects Of Iron Supplements If Taken On Large Amount

Some usual side effects one can get after consuming iron supplements unnecessarily are:

  • Tummy ache
  • Nausea
  • Tummy upset
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

It is recommended to take iron supplements with the consultation of a doctor.

The bottom line

Iron supplements can help suppress an iron deficiency when iron-rich food alone is ineffective. Several people, including pregnant women, infants, young children, and heavy exercisers, are more likely to have low iron levels and take iron level tests regularly. Iron supplements help maintain a good level of iron in the body. Therefore, one should consume iron-rich food as well for a healthy life.