Site Map

Taking iron supplements

Eating iron-rich foods is a key part of treating anemia caused by low iron levels. You may also need to take iron supplements as well to rebuild iron stores in your body.

Images

Iron supplements

Information

ABOUT IRON SUPPLEMENTS

Iron supplements may be taken as capsules, tablets, chewable tablets, and liquids. The most common tablet size is 325 mg (ferrous sulfate). Other common chemical forms are ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate.

Ask your health care provider how many pills you should take each day and when you should take them. Taking more iron than your body needs can cause serious medical problems.

Blood counts return to normal after 2 months of iron therapy for most people. You may need to continue taking supplements for another 6 to 12 months to build up the body's iron stores in the bone marrow.

TIPS FOR TAKING IRON

Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Yet, iron supplements can cause stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea in some people. You may need to take iron with a small amount of food to avoid this problem.

Milk, calcium and antacids should NOT be taken at the same time as iron supplements. You should wait at least 2 hours after having these foods before taking your iron supplements.

Foods that you should NOT eat at the same time as you take your iron include:

Some doctors suggest taking a vitamin C supplement or drinking orange juice with your iron pill. This can help the iron absorb into your body. Drinking 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of fluid with an iron pill is also OK.

Tell your provider about all the medicines you are taking.

SIDE EFFECTS

Constipation due to iron pills is common. If constipation becomes a problem, take a stool softener such as docusate sodium (Colace).

Nausea and vomiting may occur with higher doses, but they can be controlled by taking the iron in smaller amounts. Ask your provider about switching to another form of iron rather than just stopping.

Black stools are normal when taking iron tablets. Talk to your provider right away if:

Liquid forms of iron may stain your teeth.

Keep tablets in a cool place. (Bathroom medicine cabinets may be too warm and humid, which may cause the pills to fall apart.)

Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children. If your child swallows an iron pill, contact a poison control center right away.

References

Brittenham GM. Disorders of iron homeostasis: iron deficiency and overload. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 36.

Silbermins D, Metjian A. Hematology. In: Harward MP, ed. Medical Secrets. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 14.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 4/17/2021  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2021 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.