Iron, a common metallic element, is important to the body's production of hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein-iron compound that carries oxygen to the body’s cells. Myoglobin is found in muscles. It is responsible for the red color of muscle as well as its ability to store oxygen. In addition, iron is required for many enzymes, a healthy immune system, and energy.
Signs of iron deficiency include:
- Hair loss
- Brittle hair
- Fragile bones
- Digestive problems
Iron deficiency may be caused by heavy menstrual bleeding, intestinal bleeding, ulcers, long-term illnesses, and a poor diet.
Sources of Iron
Food sources include liver, lean red meat, poultry, eggs, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. Many herbs contain iron, such as paprika, kelp, and peppermint.
The most common prepared form of iron is ferrous sulfate. Other forms are ferrous succinate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous lactate, and ferrous glutamate. Iron supplements should only be taken under the direction of a medical professional.
Guidelines and Cautions
For the treatment of iron deficient anemia, adults may be advised by their physician to take 65-mg of an iron supplement three times per day. Since these supplements are absorbed best without food, take between meals.
Proper absorption of certain medications is affected by iron supplements. Therefore, iron supplements should be taken at least two hours before or after any of the following medications:
- Disodium Etidronate
People who have cancer should not take an iron supplement unless directed by their treating physician. Excess iron can suppress the cancer-killing action of cells called macrophages that engulf and devour bacteria and other foreign invaders, and interfere with the activity of lymphocytes—the white blood cells that play an important role in the immune system.
- Iron can be fatal to children. Do not give iron to children and keep iron supplements out of their reach.
- Calcium, dairy products, antacids, caffeine, and unprocessed whole grains inhibit the absorption of iron.
Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.