What’s the best way to take iron supplements?

Dr Mark Porter / 20 February 2019

Dr Mark Porter responds to a reader who gets an upset stomach from iron supplements.



Q: Do you have any tips on taking iron supplements? I have a mild deficiency and am on daily iron pills, which are giving me an upset stomach.

A: The side effects of iron supplements are typically caused by unabsorbed iron remaining in the gut, so anything that soaks it up should help. Don’t take them with tea or coffee, as these inhibit absorption; swallow with a small glass of orange juice as vitamin C enhances it.

New research suggests that less can mean more. Put simply, if you take a large dose of iron the body shuts down absorption to prevent overload (too much is toxic). So it may be better to take supplements on alternate days. 

However, it’s important to see your GP first before taking an iron supplement, to find out the cause of the deficiency. Never self-treat, as deficiency can be a sign of bleeding that needs further investigation.




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