Iron Supplements: Uses, Side Effects, and Dosage


Iron is a mineral found plentiful in the hemoglobin of red blood cells and the myoglobin of muscle cells. Iron is vital in transporting carbon dioxide and oxygen from your lungs to other body parts.

People mainly consume iron supplements to prevent and treat the low volume of iron (also called anemia or iron deficiency). For those suffering from iron deficiency, the red blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen to the body as they do not have sufficient iron. Therefore, tiredness is one of the most common symptoms of those who have anemia.

Besides, iron can also be used to improve athletic performance and treat ADHD (also known as attention deficit – hyperactivity disorder) and canker sores. Several people use iron to treat depression, fatigue, inability to get pregnant, and Crohn’s disease. Women take an iron supplement during menstruation to cover the iron loss. Iron-rich food such as ham, chicken, pork, and fish, especially beef, lamb, and liver, can also be used as iron supplements.

How does iron supplement work?

Iron mainly helps the red blood cells to distribute oxygen from your lungs to other parts of your body. When it is distributed, the iron continues to carry the carbon dioxide from all over the body to the lungs so that the lungs can discharge it via the respiratory system. Iron plays an essential part in many vital chemical reactions in the human body.

Why take iron supplements?


Which is also known as iron deficiency but in a more severe state, can be caused by a chronic disease. Cancer, heart issues, or kidney problems are the leading causes of this disease. Taking iron with other medicines like epoetin alfa can boost the effectiveness, help rebuild the red blood cells more efficiently, and modify anemia in those suffering from kidney issues or being cured of cancer by chemotherapy. Instead of taking iron supplements via digestion, you can receive iron intravenously, which is more effective. However, you need to consult your doctor for proper treatment for the latter method.

Iron deficiency

Consuming iron supplements is mainly due to preventing and treating iron deficiency and anemia caused by insufficient iron.

Coughs attributed to ACE inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are medications prescribed explicitly for people with high blood pressure. Sometimes, the drug can lead to a side effect, coughing. Several researches show that taking iron supplements can reduce the seriousness of the side effect or even eliminate the side effect. The ACE inhibitor that can come to mind are enalapril (Vasotec), captopril (Capoten), lisinopril (Zestril), etc.

For learning purposes

It might seem unfamiliar to you when taking iron supplements for learning purposes. However, it has been proven that taking iron supplements may help improve the thinking process and boost children’s learning and memory ability, especially those with anemia or iron deficiency.

Heart failure

Approximately 20% of people who once had heart failure have been found to have lower than the recommended amount of iron in the body. Regarding research, giving these people iron intravenously can significantly improve their symptoms of heart failure. However, taking iron supplements via digestion is not yet known to have the same effect.

Side effects

Iron is mainly considered safe for people as it is taken via digestion as capsules or pills with a proper amount. However, it still can lead to several side effects, such as stomach pain, stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

Moreover, taking iron supplements along with food might reduce the side effects. Yet, there is food that reduces the absorbability of the stomach towards iron supplements as well. Therefore, if possible, the supplements should be taken when the stomach is empty. Try not to take it with dairy products, tea, coffee, and cereals, as the food might cause strong side effects of iron supplements or reduce the absorbability of the supplements.

There are various iron supplements, including ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, and many others. Some of the products, like those having polysaccharide-iron complex, are claimed to lead to fewer side effects. However, there is no clear evidence or research to support the claim.

Iron supplements in liquid form might blacken your teeth.

It seems apparent to acknowledge that high dosages of iron are not safe specifically for children. This mineral is one of the most common causes of poison deaths in kids. A low dose, such as 60mg/kg, is fatal. Moreover, iron poisoning may lead to various serious issues such as stomach upset, intestinal distress, critically low blood pressure, liver failure, and even death. When you suspect anyone has taken more than the necessary volume of iron supplement, contact your doctor or call the nearest food poisoning control center immediately.

There are claims that a large intake of this supplement might increase the likelihood of heart problems. Several studies show that those who have taken large intakes of iron, specifically from food like red meat, will be more exposed to the threat of heart disease. This is highly precise for those who have type 2 diabetes. However, it is still debatable; therefore, it is too soon to say for sure whether iron escalates the likelihood of heart disease.


  • The sufficient intake (AI) of iron for infants who are about 6 months old and less is 0.27 mg/day.
  • For older infants, the recommended daily allowances are:
  • Infants 7 months to 1 – year old can take up to 11 mg/day;
  • Children who are 1 to 3 years old can take up to 7 mg/day;
  • Older children who are 4 to 13 years old might take up to 8 – 10 mg/day;
  • Boys from 14 to 18 years old can take up to 11mg/day while the dosage for girls is about 15 mg/day.
  • For adults, the recommended daily allowance for iron is about 8 mg/day, and men ages 18 and older as well as women ages 51 and older, can also take up about 8 mg/day too. 
  • For women 18 to 50 years, the allowance can be 18 mg/day.
  • For those who are pregnant, the recommended daily allowance should be 27 mg/day.
  • For breastfeeding women, 10mg/day is the maximum.