Eating a well-balanced diet will provide you with adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients the body needs to function, but certain health conditions may require mineral supplements such as iron. However, excessive iron in the blood and body can carry side effects such as diarrhea or constipation, nausea, vomiting and headaches. If you are taking an iron supplement and experiencing headaches, speak with your doctor about checking the iron levels in your blood.
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Iron is present in the red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen to every cell in the body. Iron is also essential in providing oxygen to the muscles, as well as helping the body fight off infections. In addition, iron is a necessary mineral in the chemical reactions that produce energy from food.
Headaches cause by mineral deficiencies and overloads are common. According to University of Illinois Medical Center, it is difficult to get too much iron from food sources. However, taking iron supplements can be poisonous, leading to iron-induced headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
Dietary iron is categorized as heme and non-heme. Heme iron is typically found in meats, liver, oysters, fish and poultry and is easily digested by the body. Non-heme iron sources are nuts, seeds, legumes and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of this type of iron. The recommended daily iron intake varies with age and gender. If you have to supplement your dietary iron intake, the National Anemia Action Council suggests that taking the supplement with orange juice or a vitamin C drink will increase the iron absorbance.
Headaches caused by iron supplements may indicate a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis. With this condition, the body’s ability to control iron absorption is compromised. Therefore, a change in diet is suggested. Your physician may put you on a low-iron diet and cease all supplements including iron that you may be taking.
Iron toxicity is a serious condition that affects many people and may even lead to death. According to Dr. Ronald Hoffman, iron overload symptoms may include enlarged liver, loss of body hair, impotence, joint disease and lethargy. If left untreated, the risks of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and liver cancer is increased. Consult your physician to determine if you are getting enough from your daily diet before adding an iron supplement.