Things To Remember When Taking Iron Supplements

There are two forms of dietary iron, heme iron and non-heme iron.

Heme iron supplements are highly effective since they are the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. They don’t require vitamin C to boost their absorption rate. Besides, the types of food you eat don’t affect their absorption. In addition, heme iron supplements rarely cause unpleasant side effects as caused with non-heme iron supplements such as flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea.

If you are taking non-heme iron supplements and you want the treatment to be as effective as possible, it’s best to take your supplements on an empty stomach. This can increase your risk of side effects, but it will help with absorption. If you take the tablets during mealtimes, your body will absorb less of the iron and you will need to prolong your treatment. You can also try getting plenty of vitamin C in your diet as this helps with iron absorption. Some people try drinking orange juice when they take their supplements, for example.

You should bear in mind that high levels of iron will cause your stools to become black in color. This may seem bizarre at first, but it’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. You may also experience a few initial problems as your body adapts to the supplements. Stomach pain, diarrhea and constipation are all common in the early stages.

Dietary Reference Intakes For Iron (mg Per Day)


14 to 18 years7.7 mg11 mg45 mg
19 to 30 years6 mg8 mg45 mg
31 to 50 years6 mg8 mg45 mg
51 to 70 years6 mg8 mg45 mg
More than 70 years6 mg8 mg45 mg
14 to 18 years7.9 mg15 mg45 mg
19 to 30 years8.1 mg18 mg45 mg
31 to 50 years8.1 mg18 mg45 mg
51 to 70 years5 mg8 mg45 mg
More than 70 years5 mg8 mg45 mg

The UL or Tolerable Upper Intake Level for iron intake is 45 mg per day. Consuming iron supplements more than this amount; especially on empty stomach may cause severe side-effects such as constipation and nausea.

(AI:  Adequate Intake; EAR: Estimated Average Requirement; RDA: Recommended Dietary Allowance; UL: Tolerable Upper Intake Level)