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 –  Iron is required by the human body to produce hemoglobin, the red blood cells that perform the vitally important task of transporting oxygen to all the cells of the body and returning carbon dioxide. Without enough iron, the body becomes anemic and suffers from lowered hemoglobin. Iron-deficient anemia can cause a feeling of lethargy and weakness and, in extreme cases, can even cause death. While a healthy diet is sufficient to maintain iron levels under normal conditions, additional sources of iron may be required for anemia associated with chronic disease or iron deficiency. Iron stores may be low in women experiencing particularly heavy menstrual flows, pregnancy, and kidney disease, blood loss from traumatic injuries or ulcers, celiac disease, Crohn's disease or due to medications.
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Do I Need Iron Supplements?

There are natural sources of iron that may be included in the diet including, meat, fish, beans, lamb, chicken and liver. However, if you decide with your physician that you need an iron supplement, there are many varieties. Iron supplements come in two primary forms, ferrous and ferric salts, and are offered in a variety of delivery methods. There is a wide range of specific formulations of iron, including ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, carbonyl iron and iron dextran, as well as heme iron polypeptide (HIP) and polysaccharide iron complex (PIC). Although the ferrous forms are usually more easily absorbed.

Iron Supplement Options

Iron supplements can come in pill, capsule or liquid form. Some supplements come in time-released capsules, to allow the body to absorb iron over time. There are also iron supplements with vitamin C added, to encourage the absorption of iron. For children, iron supplement drops are available. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends iron supplements under the direction of a physician. It is important to work with your physician on the correct dose and formulation before starting any iron supplements.

Is Iron Safe to Take?

There are important side effects and safety considerations to be aware of if you need to take an iron supplement. Iron side effects include stomach pain, nausea, constipation and diarrhea. There is a danger of overdose or iron toxicity, which can cause serious conditions and even death. In addition, iron supplements can interfere with the absorption of certain medications, including antibiotics, biophosphates, levodopa and other medication. Accidental iron ingestion in children can be fatal and is a leading cause of poisoning so it is important to keep iron supplements in a safe place.

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