How to Take Iron Supplements

If you were recently told by your doctor to start iron supplements, you may have a few questions. In today's blog, I want to share some of the most common questions you might be asking yourself about iron supplements including the best ways to maximize your results!

Why do I need to take iron supplements? 

  • Your doctor most likely recommended that you start iron supplements because you are iron deficiency, anemic or at risk of developing anemia. 

Who is most likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia?

  • Anyone can develop iron-deficiency anemia, although the following groups have a higher risk:
    • Menstruating and pregnant women.
    • Frequent blood donors.
    • People who have kidney failure (especially if they are on dialysis), because they have trouble making red blood cells.
    • Vegan and vegetarians.

How Do iron supplements work? 

  • Iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin, which is an essential ingredient in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is very important as it carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. 
  • It you don’t have enough iron, you can develop anemia, which means you aren’t making enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body. You may become short of breath, tired and have lack of energy. Your skin may become pale and you can experience heart palpitations and hair loss. 

How should I take my iron supplement?

  • Iron supplements should generally be taken on an empty stomach. It is best to take it at least one hour before or two hours after  a meal.
  • If you’re using a tablet form,it's best to swallow the tablet whole. Don’t try to crush, chew or break it. If you’re using a liquid form, measure the medicine carefully. Use a dosing syringe, not a kitchen spoon. You may not get an accurate dose of the medication if you don't use a proper dosing syringe.
  • It is recommended to store iron  supplement at room temperature, and keep it out of reach of children.

Other instructions to keep in mind:

  • Although iron supplements generally works best on an empty stomach, you may want to take it with food if you notice it is causing you an upset stomach. Although less may be absorbed, your doctor will most likely prefer your iron be taken with food rather than not taken at all.
  • Iron supplements should NOT be taken with milk, caffeine, antacids or calcium supplements.
  • Taking your iron supplement with vitamin C (for example, an orange or some fresh squeezed orange juice) can increase the absorption of iron.

What are the possible side effects associated with iron supplements? 

    • Iron supplements can cause constipation, so drinking plenty of water can help mitigate this reaction. You may need to take a stool softener along with the supplement. Iron supplements can cause several other side effects. These may include:
      • Heartburn.
      • Loss of appetite.
      • Stomach cramps.
      • Nausea.
      • Diarrhea.
      • Dark poop (stool).
    • The side effects of ferrous sulfate (iron) supplements are usually temporary. They should go away as your body gets used to the medication.



When will I start to feel better?

  • It may take one to four weeks (after you start your iron supplement) before you start to feel better. Continue to watch your symptoms and take note of side effects. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your provider. 

How long will I have to take an oral iron supplement?

  • Your healthcare provider will let you know how long you have to take an iron supplement. After your hemoglobin and iron levels are back to normal, you may need to continue the iron supplement for another six months. You may have intermittent blood tests to measure your iron level.


About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...