Iron Supplements for Anemia

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition where you don’t have enough good red blood cells to bring oxygen to all the parts of your body. It can cause tiredness, paleness, dizziness, or shortness of breath. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen in your blood cells. You need iron to make hemoglobin and carry oxygen. When you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough hemoglobin. Not having enough iron is a cause of a type of anemia called iron deficiency anemia. You can take iron supplements to help with this condition.

Iron Supplements for Anemia

Iron deficiency is very common throughout the world and iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common anemias. You can get iron from food but sometimes it is not enough to meet your nutritional needs. If you have iron deficiency anemia, you can try adding more iron-rich foods to your diet.

Your doctor may recommend iron supplements if your iron levels don’t increase through diet alone. Iron supplements can increase your iron levels and they come in pill, liquid or salt form. You may need to try different iron supplements before you find the one that works for you. It’s important to understand that not all iron supplements are the same, as there are heme iron and non-heme iron supplements. If your doctor recommends a non-heme iron supplement, ask for a heme iron supplement as they absorb better.

How Much Iron Per Day for Anemia

The recommended amount of iron you should get from food and supplements in a day depends on your age and sex.

For children:

  • 7-12 months old: 11 mg/day
  • 1-3 years old: 7 mg/day
  • 4-8 years old: 10 mg/day
  • 9-13 years old: 8 mg/day

For women:

  • 14-18 years old: 15 mg/day
  • 19-50 years old: 18 mg/day
  • 51 years old+: 8 mg/day
  • Pregnant women: 27 mg/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 9-10 mg/day

For men:

  • 14-18 years old: 11 mg/day
  • 19 years old+: 8 mg/day

It can be harmful to take too much iron so it is important to make sure your iron supplement fits your needs. It is recommended you check with your doctor to help keep track of how much iron you are getting and if your iron levels are in the normal range for your demographic.

Types Of Iron Supplements

Iron supplements can be taken orally or intravenously. Some people may need to take it intravenously in certain situations, but that would only be on a doctor’s recommendation. Typically, most people take iron supplements orally.

There are a few types of iron supplements available in Canada:

  • Heme iron supplements
  • Non-heme iron supplements
  • Liquid iron

There are some general recommendations for taking iron supplements that you need to follow:

  • Take iron supplements with food or 1-2 hours after you eat
  • Don’t take it on an empty stomach because that can cause discomfort
  • Don’t take it with milk or caffeine if it’s a non-heme iron supplement

Iron supplements, especially non-heme ones, can cause some side effects like constipation temporarily. If the side effects bother you a lot or doesn’t go away, check with your doctor about switching to heme iron supplements which have lower side effects. You may need to get blood tests to check your iron levels. Based on the results, your doctor can tell you how much iron you should be taking a day and how long you need to take it.

Over The Counter Iron Supplements

You can get most iron supplements over the counter. This means you don’t need a prescription. It is still always good to check with your doctor and get regular blood tests to make sure you are taking the right amount of iron and not too much.

Over the counter iron supplements are available in drugstores such as Shoppers Drug Mart and retailers such as Costco. You can also buy iron supplements online through multiple sources. Find more stores that sell iron supplements here.

Best Iron To Take For Anemia

Anemia can negatively affect your quality of life. If you think you have anemia, it is recommended you speak to your doctor about checking your iron levels and iron supplementation. Iron supplements can be of two types, heme and non-heme, and each one absorbs differently.

If you are taking iron supplements without any improvement in your symptoms, then it is time to ask your doctor for heme iron supplements. Heme iron supplements absorb at rates of up to 35% compared to 2% – 20% for non-heme supplements. This makes heme iron supplements, such as OptiFer Alpha, the best iron to take for anemia.


The effects of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Anemia can have a negative impact on your life, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Increasing your intake of iron-rich foods is a standard recommendation, but if that isn’t enough, iron supplements for anemia can help.

There are different kinds of iron supplements, with heme and non-heme iron supplements widely available. Heme iron, with its higher absorption rate, can increase your iron levels with low side effects. Ask your doctor about iron deficiency and anemia, and if you have either of these conditions, follow up with questions about heme iron supplements.


  1. Mayo Clinic: Anemia
  2. Nourish by WebMD: Dietary Iron and Iron Supplements
  3. Cleveland Clinic: Iron Supplement (Ferrous Sulfate)
  4. Healthline: Understanding Iron Supplements for Anemia
  5. National Institutes of Health: Iron
  6. National Library of Medicine: Iron nutrition and absorption: dietary factors which impact iron bioavailability

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