Even if you follow a healthy, varied diet, mineral and vitamin deficiencies still do happen. They can occur when you don’t eat enough veggies, fruits, and whole grains or if you suffer from certain health conditions.
No matter the cause, taking nutritional supplements can be a great way to replete your mineral and vitamin levels, improving your health.
One of the most common supplements that people around the globe take is iron. It’s a crucial nutrient, so its deficiency needs to be addressed quickly. But how can you know if your iron supplements are working?
- Iron pills are a good way to increase your intake of this important mineral, especially if you suffer from a deficiency.
- Iron supplements bring positive results quite quickly, and you can see improvements very fast.
- There are many ways you can figure out whether iron pills are improving your iron deficiency.
- From improved symptoms to boosted well-being, it’s easy to spot the benefits of iron pills.
So, read on to figure out if your iron supplements are working.
Why does your body need iron?
Iron is one of the most important minerals for your body. Because of that, it’s crucial to consume enough iron-rich foods. But sometimes, this isn’t enough, especially if you don’t follow a balanced diet.
Some of the most common functions that iron contributes to include:
- Muscle metabolism
- Cell growth
- Building healthy connective tissue
- Cellular functions
- Synthesis of hormones
- Neurological development
Iron is also essential for a healthy pregnancy, maintaining stable bodily temperature, and better athletic performance.
One of the most important functions of iron is that it helps your body make hemoglobin – a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body. So, if you’re deficient in iron, your body is under-oxygenated.
As you can see, it’s essential to maintain adequate levels of iron, no matter what type of diet you follow.
What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency anemia has several symptoms, depending on the severity. Some of the most common symptoms of anemia include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Headache, dizziness, and lightheadedness
- Cold hands
- Fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Inflammation of the tongue
- Poor appetite
In most people, iron deficiency symptoms start with fatigue and poor circulation. These are the first signs you should look out for. If you haven’t addressed this issue for a long time, more symptoms will develop.
If you’ve suffered from iron deficiency for some time, you might experience more severe symptoms. Because of that, it’s important to react as soon as possible when you notice that something’s wrong – so talk to your doctor as soon as you notice the symptoms.
Untreated iron deficiency anemia can lead to severe health issues. These include extreme fatigue, internal bleeding, and pregnancy complications, among others.
What are some of the most common symptoms that iron pills are working?
As you can imagine, the most common signs that your iron pills are working include lesser symptoms of iron deficiency. Here are some of the most common signs:
1. More energy
One of the first things you’ll start noticing after your iron pills start working is increased energy levels. You will stop feeling as fatigued as you used to, and completing everyday tasks will become much easier.
People with iron deficiency anemia tend to require more sleep to compensate for their low energy levels. So, when you start noticing that you’re more energized throughout the day without needing a nap, it’s a good sign that your iron pills are working.
2. Healthier skin
When you’re anemic, your skin tends to be pale and translucent. So, when you start noticing that your skin is glowing and looking more healthy-looking, your pills are definitely working.
What’s more, you can notice healthy redness in your cheeks and less see-through skin. This benefit is particularly visible on your face, especially around your eyes where the skin is the thinnest.
Some people might also experience skin issues like dryness or acne. These can also be caused by low iron levels. As a result, an improvement in this area can also indicate that your iron supplements are working as they should be.
3. Boosted immune system
People who suffer from anemia have weakened immune systems. This is because iron is one of the nutrients responsible for your body’s ability to protect you against diseases, viruses, and bacteria.
Because of that, treating iron deficiency improves your immune system’s strength and boosts your body’s own defense against illnesses.
So, if your pills are working, you may notice that you’re getting sick less frequently and feel healthier overall.
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4. Better concentration
Since your energy levels are improved, your concentration also becomes much better. Low iron levels can often lead to the inability to focus on working, performing basic everyday tasks, and even getting to sleep on time.
Once your iron levels improve, though, your concentration and focus will come back, making it easier to accomplish simple things that have seemed impossible before.
So, be on the lookout for this sign.
5. A stable appetite
Adequate iron levels are closely linked to the health of your digestive system. For example, iron contributes to stable appetite and hunger levels as well as the absorption of certain other minerals.
When your iron pills start increasing your iron levels back to normal, you will notice that your appetite is back to normal. You will find it much easier to eat at regular intervals and won’t experience days when you’re not hungry at all.
6. Improved mental health
Iron plays a crucial part in your cognitive health. So, along with better focus and concentration, you’ll also notice an improvement in your anxiety and depression levels.
Low iron can cause tiredness, which leads to performing all your daily tasks slower and less efficiently. In turn, studies show that it can trigger anxiety and depression.
So, feeling much happier after taking iron supplements is a very good sign that your pills are actually working.
7. Better circulation
The lack of iron often leads to poor circulation in your body. This can lead to cold hands and feet, especially during rest.
So, once your body starts to get enough iron each day, your hands and feet will stop being cold all the time. This also means that your body has started producing more hemoglobin, so oxygen is more easily transported throughout the body.
On the other hand, if your pills aren’t working, your symptoms might stay the same or become more severe. You might also get more headaches and experience shortness of breath.
If you notice these symptoms, you should definitely consult your doctor. If you don’t, you might develop more severe issues that will require stronger treatment.
You should also contact your doctor right away if you experience prolonged irregular heartbeat and chest pain.
Is it better to take iron supplements in pill or liquid form?
In most cases, both types of supplements – in iron and liquid form – are absorbed in the same way by your body.
But some studies indicate that taking iron supplements in liquid form can make it easier for your body to absorb this mineral.
There is conflicting evidence concerning this, so it’s still not essential to give up on your iron supplements in pill form.
What’s more, some people might tolerate supplements in a liquid form better than those in pill form. This is because liquids are much easier and faster to absorb, which often makes them a preferred choice of mineral and vitamin supplementations.
So, it’s always important to do your research and choose what works for you best.
How long does it take for iron pills to work?
Usually, it takes about two to three weeks to see any significant improvement in your iron deficiency symptoms. After all, your body needs time to replenish iron levels and reach an appropriate amount again.
You may also need to take the iron supplement every day for several months to ensure that your iron levels are completely built back up again.
So, don’t stop taking your iron pills when you see the first symptoms of improvement.
Even though your symptoms improve greatly, it’s still important to finish your treatment as prescribed by your doctor. This is because if you’ve been suffering from iron deficiency anemia for a long time, your body needs more than a few weeks to get back to normal levels.
This also prevents the return of your anemia.
What is the best form of iron supplementation to take?
Aside from coming in pill, chewable, and liquid forms, different iron supplements contain different forms of iron. These iron types include ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, and ferric sulfate.
One of the most common forms of iron found in iron supplements is ferrous sulfate. This type is the best absorbed and the most frequently prescribed iron salt.
But it also triggers digestive system issues in some people who are particularly sensitive to supplements.
Other types of iron salts are less gentle for your stomach and much harder to absorb. They’re usually prescribed when you’re still iron deficient after taking ferrous gluconate iron supplements.
This is because they tend to be stronger, so they can help treat severe iron deficiency anemia in its severe cases.
In addition, you can look for various iron supplements if your doctor gives you an option to choose from. For example, there are plenty of vegan versions of iron supplements for those following plant-based diets.
You can also choose iron supplements specifically made for pregnant people, athletes, and many more. So, there’s something for everyone.
How can you improve the absorption of iron from supplements?
Some studies show that iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Then, your intestines can easily get all the iron from your iron supplements without being interrupted in any way.
But some people find that taking supplements on an empty stomach makes them nauseous or even gives them stomach cramps. So, if that’s the case for you, try having a bit of food with your iron pills.
Another thing you can do is to change your iron supplementation form. There are different forms of iron supplements, each containing different chemical components. Some of them, such as iron sulfate, can be irritating to your stomach.
So, if you notice stomach discomfort, talk to your doctor about changing your iron supplementation. Luckily, there are some other iron pills available that contain fewer irritating ingredients.
It’s also beneficial to take your iron supplements with vitamin C-containing beverages. For example, taking iron pills with orange juice can help your body absorb as much iron as possible without triggering any stomach issues.
Should you take iron pills with iron-rich foods?
Research differs when it comes to how you should take iron supplements. Some studies suggest that you should take iron pills on an empty stomach to ensure that your digestive tract focuses on the absorption of iron.
On the other hand, some research shows that taking iron supplements with food can be easier for your body since your stomach is less likely to feel irritated.
What’s more, some other research mentions that iron supplements are better absorbed when you take them with iron-containing foods. For instance, taking your supplements during meals with red meat, beans, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, or organ meats.
This can not only improve absorption but also add more iron to your diet, especially the heme kind, which comes from animal-derived products.
So, if you follow a diet that allows meat, taking your iron supplements during dinners containing these foods can improve the absorption of iron from iron pills.
What can interfere with the absorption of iron?
Generally, iron is well-absorbed on an empty stomach, so there are not many foods and drinks that you should avoid when taking iron supplements.
But there are some that you should stay clear from.
For instance, you should avoid drinking milk, taking calcium, or ingesting antacids about two hours before taking your iron supplements. These foods and substances can be harmful to the absorption of iron, especially from supplements.
You should also avoid high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, raw vegetables, bran flakes, and similar foods. Plus, foods and drinks containing caffeine or theine interrupt the absorption of iron as well.
So, be sure to avoid these.
In addition, taking iron supplements can interfere with certain medications. These include penicillin, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, pills for osteoporosis, and medications for Parkinson’s disease, seizures, and hypothyroidism.
Because of that, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any iron supplements. After all, it’s never safe to diagnose yourself with any condition, especially the ones that require specific medication.
Can iron supplements not work?
Taking iron supplements is a good way to raise your iron levels. But sometimes, they might not work. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
One of the most common reasons is that people don’t stick to the guidelines their doctors have prescribed them.
What’s more, sometimes people might experience malabsorption of nutrients, which means that your body doesn’t absorb micronutrients as well as it should. This can be caused by various health disorders that only your doctor can diagnose.
Sometimes your pills might not contain enough iron to replenish your iron levels. When that happens, your pills will not improve any of your symptoms.
So, it’s important to get regular checkups when you suffer from iron deficiency anemia.
On the other hand, you might also experience adverse symptoms if your pills contain too much iron. These symptoms might include nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and faintness.
If you experience these, you should discuss them with your doctor and adjust your dosage if necessary.
Taking too much iron from your pills is a bad idea for your iron deficiency as well as your overall health.
Can iron supplements be dangerous even if you suffer from anemia?
Iron pills are the first line of defense against iron deficiency anemia. They help replenish your iron levels, improving your iron deficiency symptoms.
But it’s important to stick to the recommended dose that your doctor prescribed you. This is because iron can be harmful if you take too much of it, even if you’re iron deficient.
Some of the most common symptoms of iron overdose include upset stomach, constipation, anemia, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Generally, iron overdose isn’t very common but can occur, especially when taking iron supplements. So, when you do take them, make sure that you’re doing so carefully and under the control of your doctor.
There are many ways you can figure out whether your iron pills are working or not. If they are, you should continue taking them until all your symptoms disappear. And if they’re not, you should contact your doctor to look for another treatment strategy.
Having adequate iron levels is incredibly important for good health. So, if you notice any iron deficiency symptoms, make sure to react right away.