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Side Effects of Iron Supplements for Women over 50

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Side Effects of Iron Supplements for Women over 50
Red iron supplement pills on a white background. Photo Credit: Richard Goerg/E+/Getty Images

Health professionals with the Office of Dietary Supplements report that adult women under the age of 50 should consume at least 18 milligrams of iron each day to keep their bodies healthy. In contrast, women over the age of 50 only require 8 milligrams of iron each day. This difference in dietary iron requirements for women exists because women over the age of 50 are typically entering menopause, a normal phase of life during which women stop having a monthly menstrual period. The side effects associated with iron supplements are typically the same for women under or over the age of 50. If you get more iron than you need, you may experience potential side effects.

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Bowel Movement Changes

Bowel movement changes may occur as a side effect of iron supplements. You may experience watery, urgent bowel movements accompanied by abdominal fullness, pain or cramping. Alternatively, certain women over the age of 50 may develop constipation or infrequent, hard bowel movements. Talk with your physician if you experience recurrent bowel movement problems or notice blood in your stools. Bloody stools or severe stomach pain may be a signs of an iron overdose. Additionally, chronic constipation or diarrhea may cause additional health problems, such as bowel impaction or dehydration.

Upset Stomach

Digestive tract irritation may occur after you take a dose of a vitamin that contains iron. Iron supplements may cause side effects of nausea, stomach pain or heartburn, the University of Maryland Medical Center warns. These upset stomach symptoms may also result in chest pain, sore throat or appetite loss. If stomach discomfort is severe or does not subside, seek additional care from your primary health care provider.

Flu-like Symptoms

Iron supplements may result in the emergence of flu-like side effects. You may develop a fever, chills, headache or body aches, Group Health Cooperative warns. Unusual skin reactions may also occur, such as a rash, numbness, tingling or itching. Seek additional care from your doctor if you develop flu-like symptoms, as these side effects of iron supplements may also be signs of an infection.

Intake Limits

The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements explains that iron toxicity in the body can happen easily, simply because very little iron is released from the body. The upper safe limit for daily iron intake is 45 milligrams, but this amount should never be ingested unless you are directed to do so by your physician. Symptoms of iron toxicity are constipation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

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