If you, or your child, suffer from the complications associated with anemia, or any other iron deficiency, there is no doubt you understand the implications and the importance in the use of iron supplements. For some individuals, especially children, iron supplementation often results in side effects that lead many to discontinue use.
Adequate iron intake is generally recommended through proper diet. Eating foods high in iron, especially leafy, green vegetables are ideal. For some adults and children, however, this iron intake, through diet, is not sufficient to meet the daily requirements.
Unfortunately, the side effects of iron supplementation also pose a health concern. For individuals who are deficient in natural iron, supplementation is usually recommended at levels ranging as high as 325 milligrams per day. Side effects associated with this dosing of iron supplementation may include nausea, constipation, diarrhea, headache pain and abdominal pain.
While many physicians recommend taking iron supplements with a meal, as a way in which to offset potential health complications, patients who are iron deficient commonly find that this method of administering iron often results in the malabsorption of up to 66 percent of the iron taken. So, as a patient who is iron deficient, how do you balance the side effects while still acquiring the right amount of iron to offset anemia or other iron deficient conditions?
First, you will want to avoid those drugs that may interact with your body’s natural ability to absorb iron. Such supplements include the use of antacids, histamine blockers and even tetracycline. To boost your iron absorption, consider taking an added dose of vitamin C every day as vitamin C has been shown to slightly improve the degree to which the body processes and absorbs iron.
If you continue to suffer from malabsorption of iron, your physician may recommend intramuscular injections of iron as an option for improving your iron deficiency. However, even with intramuscular injection of iron, you will experience complications associated with side effects of a different kind; headache, flushing, hypotension and even a risk of seizure.
In recent years, there has been an approval of a nasal spray that provides some degree of iron supplementation. In fact, many patients who suffer from anemia, and are unable to tolerate the use of orally administered iron supplementation, find the nasal spray as a viable alternative and even used in combination with intramuscular injections.
As with any nutritional deficiency, the key to your optimal health lies in the early diagnosis and treatment. Unless caused by illness or injury, a deficiency in iron is most likely the result of many years of poor eating or dietary habits. When considering iron supplementation, it is important to discuss the side effects and disadvantages to oral iron supplementation and work to find other options for improving iron deficiency rather than becoming non-compliant in your care.