Iron: benefits, side effects, dosage and interactions

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Iron is one of the most important minerals for human health. Although all human cells contain iron, most of it is found in red blood cells. The health benefits of controlling iron levels include the elimination of fatigue and many of its sources. Iron also plays a vital role in the functioning of the immune system, treating anemia, increasing hemoglobin levels, and more .

Iron overdoses are rare. In most cases, if the body has more iron than it needs, the body stores it for future use. Most people get all the iron they need from their diet, but certain medical conditions may require iron supplements.

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What is iron used for?

Treat anemia

Iron is useful for treating anemia, one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world. Anemia occurs when the hemoglobin is below normal. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and a general feeling of nausea and weakness .

Increase hemoglobin

The main function of iron is to form hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells whose main purpose is to carry oxygen in the blood. The extra hemoglobin is important because people lose blood in many ways, especially as a result of injury. Women lose blood every month during their menstrual cycle, which is one of the reasons why women are more likely to suffer from anemia .

Reduce fatigue

Iron can help deal with unexplained fatigue that affects both men and women. Even for those who are not anemic, low iron levels can reduce energy levels. This is especially true for women of reproductive age .

Iron deficiency fatigue is not only related to normal drowsiness. It causes fatigue, which interferes with a person's daily life, and activities can be strenuous and less enjoyable.

People with low iron levels experience fatigue for several weeks or more. Iron-rich foods and supplements can help raise iron levels and eliminate feelings of fatigue and exhaustion. Cooking with cast iron can also increase food intake.

Increases muscular endurance.

Muscle metabolism and low iron levels are related. Adequate levels of iron help provide the oxygen necessary for muscle contraction and endurance. (Muscle weakness is one of the most common signs of anemia. )

The low iron content also relieves muscle fatigue. Iron deficiency causes inflammation of muscle tissue, causing pain. Iron-rich hemoglobin helps relieve pain while repairing damaged tissue.

Boosts immunity

Iron plays an important role in strengthening the immune system. It promotes the development of hemoglobin, which provides oxygen to damaged cells, tissues, and organs and is essential for the body's ability to fight disease and infection. Consequently, low iron levels can affect immune function and the healing process .

Improves concentration

Research shows that cognitive performance is reduced with iron deficiency . When iron levels in the blood fall, concentration and alertness deteriorate almost immediately. Restoring iron levels to normal can improve concentration and cognitive performance .

Reduces bruising

People who bruise easily can suffer from low iron levels or a true iron deficiency. This is because hemoglobin affects the production and function of platelets, which control blood clotting. Frequent bruising is a sign that internal clotting is not working properly. If low iron levels are causing minor and frequent bruising, iron supplements can help .

Restore sleep

A study published in 2015 shows a link between low iron stores and sleep problems, including restless sleep, sleep apnea, and insomnia. A 2007 study showed that restless sleep in autistic children can be improved with iron therapy .

Possible side effects.

Upset stomach is the most common side effect of iron supplements. Constipation is another very common side effect of some forms of iron. The risk of dietary iron overload is low in most healthy adults. People with certain genetic disorders are at risk for iron overload if their condition causes them to absorb more iron from food.

Iron overload can lead to an accumulation of iron in the liver and other organs, as well as the formation of free radicals that damage cells and tissues. This increases the risk of certain types of cancer.

Taking high doses of iron supplements can cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Iron overdoses are very rare and cause internal bleeding, seizures, coma, and even death.

Iron supplements can reduce the effects of certain medications, including those used to treat restless legs and thyroid problems. Reflux medications can reduce the amount of iron the body absorbs from food and supplements. It is always important to discuss with your doctor whether you should take iron supplements, especially if you are taking any prescription medications.

Dosage and preparation

The recommended doses for oral iron supplements for most adults are between 8 and 27 mg. Higher doses are usually given to pregnant women and people with iron deficiency. Iron supplements should be taken with meals .

Other questions

What is the best way to achieve optimal iron levels?

The best way to achieve optimal iron levels is through diet, not dietary supplements. This minimizes the risk of overdose and ensures a good intake of iron along with other nutrients. It also matters what the iron is combined with: vitamin C improves iron absorption, and calcium and tannins (such as those found in tea and coffee) limit absorption.

Is iron supplementation dangerous if I am not anemic?

Anyone considering taking iron supplements should speak with a doctor. It is possible that a person could attribute symptoms to iron deficiency when the symptoms are actually related to another health condition. Excess iron can be dangerous and iron supplements are only recommended in cases of diagnosed deficiency or when someone is at high risk of deficiency .

Get the word of drug information

Iron is an essential mineral in the human body. Regulating iron levels is important for reducing fatigue, treating anemia, and boosting immunity, as well as many other health benefits. However, it is important not to take iron supplements unless you are iron deficient; talk to your doctor if you feel iron deficient. Your symptoms may be related to another medical condition.

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