Iron supplements are usually recommended only for people who suffer an iron deficiency due to dietary restrictions or pregnancy. Iron supplements can cause a number of unpleasant side effects, which are mostly gastrointestinal. One of the side effects is gas and gas pain caused by the buildup of gas bubbles in the intestines.
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Iron Deficiency Anemia
Individuals suffering from iron deficiency anemia are often prescribed therapeutic doses of iron supplementation. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, such doses can cause a number of gastrointestinal side effects, including constipation, diarrhea, dark-colored stools and/or abdominal distress. Dividing the doses and taking them spread out over a few hours with food may help reduce side effects. The Office of Dietary Supplements also notes that enteric-coated or delayed-response iron supplements may also limit symptoms.
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to suffer an iron deficiency, since their body must supply nutrition for both the mother and the fetus. According to "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," the number of immune deficiency cases with and without anemia is thought to be high. In the United States, pregnant women are recommended to begin a routine low-dose iron supplementation regimen when diagnosed as deficient. The "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" notes that no hard evidence exists that the lower doses cause gastrointestinal problems.
MedlinePlus notes that iron-deficiency anemia is a common diagnosis in children, which can be caused by a diet lacking iron-rich foods, blood loss, rapid body growth and the inability to absorb iron well. If your child has been prescribed an iron supplement to help maintain iron levels, the website FamilyEducation.com recommends beginning the child on only one-half or one-third of the suggested dosage. Work up to full dosage over a span of two to three weeks to acclimate the body to the supplement and to help avoid gastrointestinal side effects.
Your diet can play a vital role in helping avoid any side effects associated with iron supplementation. The Mayo Clinic claims that foods high in fiber can help relieve abdominal symptoms, including constipation. Eating 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily promotes soft and bulky stools, helping reduce abdominal pressure and pain. Foods rich in fiber include whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. Prunes, plums and pears are especially high in fiber. Drinking lots of water every day also helps relieve abdominal symptoms.
A number of non-prescription remedies that can help relieve gas buildup can be found at your local pharmacy. According to the Mayo Clinic, some products are added to food so that you do not produce more gas, while products that contain simethicone break up gas bubbles in the intestines. Activated charcoal tablets may also help reduce gas pains.