For adult males and menstruating women, the daily need for iron absorption is around 1 mg and 1.5 mg, respectively. However, one must eat much more than that to achieve this. This is because our systems absorb only a small portion of the iron in our meals.
How Much Iron From the Food is Absorbed?Your body's ability to store iron determines how much will be absorbed from your diet. The average western diet that includes animal products provides the body with roughly 18% of the available iron, whereas a vegetarian diet only provides about 10%. Even though your diet contains high iron foods, you can absorb far less than that. Read more on meat vs plant-based iron here.
Your body's level of stored iron depends on how much iron is absorbed. The liver is one of several locations in the body where iron is stored. The quantity of iron your body absorbs from meals decreases if your reserves are sufficient. On the other hand, low iron reserves improve your body's capacity to absorb iron.
Why do You Need Iron?Iron is a crucial mineral as it facilitates the movement of oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also an essential part of hemoglobin which is a protein in red blood cells, and delivers oxygen from the lungs to the entire body.
Approximately two-thirds of the body's iron is contained in hemoglobin. Also, a lack of iron prevents the body from producing enough healthy red blood cells that transport oxygen and a shortage of red blood cells characterises Iron deficiency anemia.
Your body cannot get sufficient oxygen if its red blood cells are inefficient. Fatigue, which may impair everything from cognitive function to the capacity of your immune system to fight off infections, is a sign that your body is not receiving enough oxygen.
Also, severe iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the possibility that your child may be delivered prematurely or smaller than average. Additionally, iron serves additional crucial roles and is also responsible for maintaining healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails.
Do You Need to Take an Iron Supplement?It is common for many people to incorporate oral iron supplementation in addition to consuming meals that have high sources of iron. The advantage of supplementation is that it reduces your symptoms by raising your body's iron and hemoglobin levels.
Elemental iron is the name given to the iron in your body. Also, different levels of elemental iron are included in oral iron supplementation. Therefore, it is important to check the label of the supplement you chose to ascertain the amount of elemental iron it contains. Additionally, your body will absorb more iron when there is a higher level of elemental iron.
Oral iron supplementations are often used as the first method of treatment to address iron deficiency anemia, in which the body produces insufficient quantities of healthy red blood cells that circulate oxygen through the entire body. This is because red blood cells need iron to make enough hemoglobin, which allows them to transmit oxygen to all of your tissues, and without enough hemoglobin, red blood cells won’t function properly.
Your body may reestablish a healthy level of iron with the use of iron supplements. But as soon as you start using the supplements, you should be able to tell if they're effective. Furthermore, for optimal absorption, you should refrain from eating specific foods like raw vegetables or milk for a few hours prior to taking your iron supplementation.
An oral supplement's objective is to increase your body's capacity to generate that hemoglobin and, ultimately, your body's iron reserves. Oral iron supplementations, however, are not a perfect solution. Sooner or later, you might realize they're not fulfilling your requirements, which might require you to consider other alternatives.
If you're found to have iron-deficiency anemia, your physician will probably suggest the following strategies to address the condition:
- Eating iron rich food, such as meat (this includes organ meats like liver), some kinds of seafood, leafy greens like collards and broccoli, and legumes.
- Taking oral iron supplements. The typical daily need for elemental iron is 150–220 mg; however, the dosage depends on the individual.
Below are some of the justifications that may prompt your doctor to consider other options for treating your anemia than oral iron supplementation:
- There are adverse effects from the supplement. You may encounter typical side effects, including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Additionally, you could eventually find this to be unbearable. Many individuals quit taking their iron supplements when the adverse effects become intolerable.
- Your body does not absorb the iron in the supplements very efficiently. Also, enteric-coated iron supplements may help prevent some unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects. However, the coating may reduce the iron tablets' potency.
- Your medication regimen is difficult for you to manage. For example, some individuals must stagger their schedules, so they take their iron supplements a few hours prior to or after taking their antacids. Antacids may prevent the body from absorbing iron from supplements, and some of them include calcium, which also prevents iron absorption.
- Iron insufficiency is still a problem for you. If, even after taking your oral supplement religiously, you still have anemia, it could be time to try another treatment.
Options Available if an Iron Supplement is Ineffective:
Intravenous IronIf your doctor determines that oral iron supplementation isn't helping, they may suggest intravenous (IV) iron as their next action. Iron is injected into a vein using this therapeutic procedure through a tiny tube called a catheter. The whole infusion procedure might take numerous hours to complete in a healthcare facility.
IV iron therapy is often advised when a person has to increase their body's iron reserves swiftly. IV iron is significantly more quickly absorbed into circulation than iron from an oral supplement. For instance, physicians often advise IV iron for patients who have iron-deficiency anemia brought on by gastrointestinal bleeding or certain gastrointestinal conditions impairing iron absorption.
However, it could also be a choice if you've tried the oral supplement approach without success. Depending on your specific treatment plan, you may need repeated iron injections to increase your body's reserves.
Blood Transfusions.The body needs some time to adjust to iron supplementation and begin producing healthy red blood cells. As a result, blood transfusions may be appropriate for patients who can't wait, such as those with severe, life-threatening anemia. Although the transfusion won't treat iron deficiency anemia, it will ensure that the body gets the transient influx of healthy red blood cells that it desperately needs to transport oxygen through the entire body.
Eventually, you and your doctor might need to observe your iron levels to determine what works for you. After receiving intravenous iron or a red blood cell transfusion, you might want to try returning to ingesting oral iron pills.
Additional Supplements.Vitamins and minerals are vital to human health because they are involved in several basic metabolic processes that support critical cellular activities. All B vitamins assist the body's process of converting food (carbohydrates) into energy-producing fuel glucose. These B vitamins, commonly known as B-complex vitamins, also aid the body in the metabolism of fats and proteins. For healthy eyes, skin, hair, and liver, b complex vitamins are essential.
They also support the healthy operation of the neurological system. Since all B vitamins are water-soluble, the body does not store them. The following vitamins have similar uses as iron:
Vitamin B2.Vitamin B2 is one of the eight B vitamins and is usually known as riboflavin. In addition, riboflavin functions as an antioxidant, battling harmful substances known as free radicals in the body to lessen or assist avoid some of the damage they cause. Riboflavin is also required for the body to convert vitamin B6 and folate into forms that it can use. Additionally, vitamin B2 is necessary for developing and forming red blood cells.
Vitamin B12.Vitamin B12 also called cobalamin, is essential in maintaining healthy nerve cells. In addition, it aids in synthesizing DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material. Also, vitamins B12 and B9, support the body's absorption of iron and the production of red blood cells.
Furthermore, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a substance important in the immune system and mood, is created when folate and B12 operate together. Also, to regulate blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, vitamins B12, B6, and B9 collaborate.
Vitamin C.Supplemental vitamin C may enhance the body's ability to absorb iron from food. Also, iron that is difficult to absorb, such as that found in plant-based sources, may be made simpler to absorb with the help of vitamin C. Given that meat is a significant source of iron, this is particularly helpful for those who avoid eating any meat. Therefore,taking only 100 mg of vitamin C may increase iron absorption by 67%.
Vitamin C may thus assist those who are predisposed to iron deficiency in lowering their risk of anemia. Furthermore, raising your intake of foods high in vitamin C or taking a vitamin C supplement may help if you have low blood iron levels.
By stimulating the creation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen all over your body to energize your cells and provide energy, multivitamin supplementation often improves hemoglobin (Hb) content.