Iron is an essential mineral that transports oxygen to every cell in your body. Iron surpluses are housed in the liver, spleen, bone marrow and muscles. People who are iron-deficient may develop anemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness. Iron supplements are sometimes suggested to improve iron levels and treat anemia. The best time of day to take an iron supplement will depend on when you eat your first meal.
Iron should be taken on an empty stomach to ensure full absorption. It's generally recommended that adults take an iron supplement with 8 oz. water or fruit juice one to two hours after meals. Children should drink 4 oz. liquids with iron. You may avoid stomach upset by taking iron right after eating. Over-the-counter iron supplements are available in chewable, capsule, tablet and liquid forms.
Anemia can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as bleeding ulcers or heavy blood loss during menstruation. Iron deficiency due to anemia typically requires 50 to 100 mg elemental iron three times per day, notes the National Institutes of Health. The suggested dosage for anemic children is 5 mg divided into three daily doses. In severe cases of anemia, iron should be administered intravenously in a health-care facility. It normally takes two to three months of treatment to reverse anemia and six months for the body to build up an iron reserve. People who are iron deficient because of uncontrolled bleeding require ongoing iron therapy. Talk to your health-care provider about taking iron supplements for your specific condition.
General Dosing Recommendations
The recommended daily intake of iron for non-anemic individuals is 8 mg for men of all ages and women over age 50. Women of childbearing age should consume 18 mg iron each day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Pregnant women should get 27 mg iron daily.
Taking iron with certain foods may deplete its value. Avoid eating eggs, cheese, yogurt, whole grains and spinach one to two hours after taking iron. It's also best not to drink milk, coffee or tea. Iron supplements should be taken at least one to two hours apart from calcium supplements and antacids to reap the maximum benefits from each.
Common side effects associated with iron supplements include upset stomach, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and heartburn. The FDA says taking up to 45 mg iron daily is generally considered safe. Iron toxicity can occur when taken in amounts that far exceed the recommended dosage. Severe iron toxicity can cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting and, in rare cases, can be fatal.