Four Women Friends at the Beach ca. 2000 Trinidad and Tobago

What is iron?

Iron is essential to manufacture hemoglobin , which enables red blood cells to transfer oxygen to the body’s tissues . It is widely available in foods including meat , fish , grains and vegetables and the average diet provides sufficient iron ( See What It Is ) .

Symptoms of iron deficiency: Iron deficiency  (which is treatable with iron supplements) can cause symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache and pale skin. It is most common in menstruating women but also is commonly seen in children and pregnant women (few men are deficient in iron, and some may be at risk for iron excess ) .

Iron supplementation may reduce unexplained fatigue in women of child-bearing age who are not anemic but have ferritin levels in the lower end of normal range, inhibit dry cough associated with ACE inhibitors, and help to reduce symptoms of restless leg syndrome in people with low ferritin levels ( see What It Does ) .

Food containing natural iron. Fe: Liver, avocado, broccoli, spinach, parsley, beans, nuts, on a black stone background. Top view.

Which form of iron is best ? 

Iron comes in many chemical forms and formulations , including pills, liquids, and gummies . If taken with just water, all are about equally well-absorbed , so less expensive forms , such as ferrous sulfate , are fine . However , with larger doses, some people experience gastric discomfort and/or constipation . Taking with food may reduce discomfort, but also reduces absorption of certain forms of iron , such as ferrous sulfate , while other forms are better absorbed in the presence of food , such ferrous bisglycinate and ferrous glycinate . Note that some supplements include vitamin C to increase iron absorption but this is unlikely have a significant effect, and there is concern that slow- or timed-release products may lead to reduced absorption of iron (see Forms of Iron and Avoiding Stomach Upset ) .

Best iron supplements : One product was Not Approved for failing to disintegrate within the required time ( See What CL Found ) . Among the products that passed testing and were ” Approved ” for their quality , CL selected its Top Picks based on quality, cost, dose , and absorption .

How much iron to take, safety and side effects: For correcting iron-deficiency anemia in adults: 100 mg to 200 mg daily, divided into two or three separate doses; this should be done only under physician supervision. When used as a treatment for other conditions, doses between 40 mg and 250 mg have been used. Unless treating a deficiency or specific condition, limit your daily intake of iron from supplements and fortified foods to no more than 45 mg to avoid side-effects and the harmful effects of excessive iron . Iron can also interfere with certain drugs. (See How much to take? and Concerns and Cautions) .

Don’t take iron with tea, as well as other minerals , as this may decrease iron absorption ( see what to avoid when taking ) .