Iron has been used for therapeutic uses for thousands of years. It was used by the Egyptians to cure baldness and by the Greeks it was used in wine to restore male potency. It is the most plentiful element on earth and it is an essential trace mineral for humans. Two-thirds of the iron present in the body - about 3.5 g to 4.5 g - are in the blood and the rest is stored in the liver, spleen, bone marrow and muscles.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, myoglobin and a cofactor of several essential enzymes. Of the total iron in the body, 60 to 70 percent is stored in hemoglobin (the red part of red blood cells - a component of myoglobin, an iron-protein complex in muscles. When the muscles work harder this complex helps in getting them extra energy.
How This Mineral Works in Your Body:
Transports oxygen and contributes to the storage of oxygen in the cells
Prevents and treats iron-deficiency anemia due to dietary iron deficiency or other causes
Stimulates bone-marrow production of hemoglobin, the red-blood-cell pigment that carries oxygen to body cells
Forms part of several enzymes and proteins in the body
Essential for protein metabolism
Assist in the production of thyroid hormones, connective tissue and several brain neurotransmitters
Maintains a healthy immune system
May help alleviate menstrual pain
May stimulate immunity in iron-deficient people
May promote learning in children with iron deficiency
Many women, of child-bearing age, with heavy menstrual flow and women with long or short menstrual periods (common in teenage girls)
Anyone with inadequate caloric or dietary intake or increased nutritional requirements
People over the age of 55
Pregnant or breastfeeding women
Those who abuse alcohol or other drugs
People with a chronic wasting illness
Those under excess stress for long periods
Anyone who has recently undergone surgery
Athletes and workers who participate in vigorous physical activities
Anyone who has lost blood recently such as from heavy menstrual periods, an accident or long-term, undetected gastrointestinal bleeding
Vegetarians with inadequate dietary intake
Infants from 2 to 24 months
Where This Mineral is Found:
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
**People with normal iron levels in their body absorb about 10 percent of the food iron consumed from food; however, an iron-deficient person can absorb about 20 to 30 percent.
How to Use:
A prescription is required for some forms of an iron supplement
Take whole, as a tablet or capsule, with a full glass of liquid. Do not chew or crush it. Take along with food or immediately after food consumption to lessen stomach irritation
When taking orally, dilute in at least an 8 oz. glass of water or another liquid. Take with your meals or 1 to 1-1/2 hours after your meal unless otherwise advised by your physician.
Chewable tablets should be chewed well before swallowing.
As an enteric-coated tablet, take whole with a full glass of liquid. Take with your meals or 1 to 1-1/2 hours after your meal unless otherwise advised by your physician.
Ferritin, an iron protein complex
Obtained both naturally and synthetically
Recommended Daily Intakes:
Suggest Intake: 10-18 mg
Men: 10 mg
Women: 15 mg
Pregnant: 30 mg
Lactating: 15 mg
Children: 10 mg
Do not take if you have:
An allergy to any iron supplement
Hemosiderosis or hemochromatosis (conditions involving excess iron in body)
Had repeated blood transfusions
Consult your doctor if you have:
Any plans to become pregnant while on mediation
Had peptic-ulcer disease, enteritis, colitis
Had pancreatitis or hepatitis
A history of alcoholism
Excess vitamin C - problematic in people with iron-storage disorder
Deficiency is a common occurrence. Frequently check with your physician for symptoms of anemia or slow blood loss in your stool.
If your family has a history of heart disease, consult your physician before adding an iron supplement to your diet.
Being pregnant increases the need for iron. Consult with your physician. In the first 3 months of pregnancy, take an iron supplement only if prescribed by your physician.
You probably do not require a supplement if you are healthy and eat a well balanced diet, however you should consult with your physician.
Your infant might need supplementation, namely if they are premature. Consult with your physician.
Keep in a cool and dry location and away from direct light, but do not freeze.
Keep safely away from children, with a childproof cap. Unfortunately, children have been known to overdose on Iron tablets due to their likeness to candy.
Do not keep in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and dampness may alter the action of the mineral.
It is advised that you consult with your physician for the proper dose for your condition
Iron can build up to harmful levels (hemosiderosis) in patients with chronic kidney failure, Hodgkins disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
Extended use in high doses can cause hemochromatosis (iron-storage disease), leading to bronze skin, diabetes, liver damage, impotence and heart problems.
Symptoms of Deficiency:
Heart palpitations upon exertion
Pale appearance to skin, mucous membranes, nails
Decreased mental capacity, learning deficit
Signs and symptoms: What to do:
Early signs: Diarrhea with blood, severe nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting with blood : Discontinue use of mineral and consult with your physician.
Late signs: Weakness; collapse; pallor; blue lips, hands, fingernails; shallow breathing; convulsions; coma; weak, rapid heartbeat : Discontinue use of mineral and consult with your physician.
Too much iron may result in an increased risk of cancer and coronary disease : Discontinue use of mineral and consult with your physician.
Dial 911 (emergency), 0 for operator or call your closest Poison Control Center for immediate attention.
Lab tests for deficiency detection:
Total Iron-Binding Capacity (TIBC)
Microscopic exam of red blood cells
Effect on lab tests:
Iron may cause unusual outcomes in serum bilirubin, serum calcium, serum iron, special radioactive studies of bones using technetium (Tc-99m-labeled agents) and stool studies for blood.
Signs and symptoms: What to do:
Abdominal pain : Discontinue use. Call physician immediately.
Black or gray stools (always) : Nothing.
Blood in stools : Seek emergency treatment
Chest pain : Seek emergency treatment.
Drowsiness : Discontinue use. Call physician when convenient
Stained tooth (with liquid forms) : Mix with water or juice to lessen effect. Brush teeth with baking soda
or hydrogen peroxide to help remove stain.
Throat pain : Discontinue use. Call physician immediately.
Interacts with: Combined effect:
Allopurinol : May cause excess iron storage in liver.
Antacids : Does not allow sufficient iron absorption.
Calcium : Combination necessary for efficient calcium absorption.
Cholestyramine : Decreases effect of iron.
Copper : Aids in copper absorption.
Iron supplements (other) : May result in excess iron storage in liver.
Pancreatin : Decreases absorption of iron.
Penicillamine : Decreases penicillamine effect
Sulfasalazine : Decreases effect of iron.
Tetracyclines : Decreases tetracycline effect Take iron 3 hours before or 2 hours after taking tetracycline.
Alcohol : Increases the utilization of iron and may cause organ damage
Milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, tea, coffee, spinach, bran, whole-grain and cereals : Decreases the body's uptake of iron
Vitamin C : Enhances the body's uptake of iron