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What is the Best Way to Take Iron Supplements

Updated on August 14, 2014

In many underdeveloped countries where people do not consume healthy diet taking supplements to overcome nutritional deficiencies is very common. More than 50% of population in Pakistan especially women take iron and calcium supplements and majority of these people are taking these supplements without physician's prescription.

Taking iron supplement can cure iron deficiency anemia which is very common in women but latest researches show that an overdose or incorrect dose of iron supplement can cause problems as severe as death. Iron when taken in amount greater than required is very harmful.

Iron Supplement (pills)
Iron Supplement (pills) | Source

How to Choose Iron Supplement

Iron supplements are available in market in many forms. Some forms are better digestable than others.

  1. Consult your physician before making any choice as he/she can better prescribe the dosage and the type of supplement you may need.
  2. Iron supplements come in the form of pills, extended release tablets as well as in liquid form. Pills are better absorbed in the blood than extended release tablets and are easily available. Liquid iron on the other hand is easy to swallow but can be bitter in taste.
  3. Iron supplements come in either ferric or ferrous form. You should not choose between the two without doctors prescription.

How to Enhance Iron Absorption

Iron absorption is influenced by several factors.

  1. Many nutrients are thought to interfere and inhibit iron absorption, therefore, it is better to take iron supplement separately: do not combine it with other nutritional supplements. Calcium should be avoided with iron supplement and, therefore do not take iron supplements with milk or other dairy products as they contain plenty of calcium. When you have to drink milk take iron supplements at least an hour before it.
  2. Iron supplements have also been proved to inhibit zinc absorption in body so zinc and iron should also be taken at separate times.
  3. It is a well researched fact that iron absorption is best when your body is low in iron stores, so better take iron supplements on empty stomach. When there is enough iron in your body excessive iron is excreted by the body. The best time is 1 or 2 hours before breakfast.
  4. Some nutrients are linked with increased iron absorption: vitamin C enhances iron absorption to as much as 30 percent, vitamin A and B complex is also needed for iron absorption so they can be taken along with iron supplement but do not take these supplements without your physicians advice.
  5. Antioxidants like polyphenols too have been linked with decreased iron absorption so do not take iron pills with herbal teas and coffee as they are rich in polyphenols. Polyphenol bind themselves with iron in intestine forming a non-transportable complex which can not be absorbed in blood stream and is excreted in feces.
  6. Take enough liquid along with iron supplement so that it readily dissolves in stomach and can get absorbed in intestine. If iron does not get dissolved in stomach it will excrete from body rather than getting absorbed.

Best Time to Take Iron Supplements

  1. Iron absorption is best on empty stomach so better take iron supplements before breakfast or before any other big meal.
  2. Carefully follow the dosage time. If you skip one dose do not take double dose other day.
  3. To minimize possible side effects of iron supplements, they can be taken between the meal but it will reduce iron absorption to greater extent. If you suffer from constipation or other gastrointestinal problems due to iron intake better divide the dose in two or three so that you can better digest and absorb iron supplement.

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I found just what I was needed, and it was entetraining!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Yes I agree with this article. I'm 7 mths pregnant and low in iron because I did drink a lot of tea in 2nd trimester and tried to take iron and it never absorbed. Thank you I can learn to drink oj with iron 2 hrs after meal or an 1 hr before big meal. This was. Helpful!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i agree with your article.....keep up the good work!!!

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree that this is a supplement where you should consult a doctor first. This is because the body has no way to eliminate excess iron other than through blood loss (such as menstruating women). Unless you are a menstruating women or a growing child, you should only take iron if you have been tested as deficient in it by your doctor.


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