Certain foods and supplements can interact with iron supplements. If you need to take iron supplements, you will want to be familiar with how to maximize the absorption of iron so you can get your iron stores back to normal as quickly as possible. One common recommendation for those who are taking these supplements is to take them with orange juice rather than water.
Doctors prescribe iron supplements if you are deficient in iron. This is the mineral deficiency that occurs most often in the world and in the United States. Because of the risk for toxicity from too much iron, you only want to take these supplements when they have been prescribed by a doctor, especially if you are male or a postmenopausal woman, since iron deficiency is rare in these groups.
Taking your iron supplements along with orange juice can increase the amount of iron that you absorb from the supplements. Other sources of vitamin C work in the same manner if you don't like orange juice or don't have any on hand. You could also take a vitamin C supplement at the same time as your iron.
Since iron is better absorbed in smaller amounts, split your daily iron supplements into two or three doses. Not everyone wants to drink three glasses of orange juice per day, so you also can consume another source of vitamin C. Eating a food rich in vitamin C rather than drinking orange juice can help with some of the other side effects of taking iron supplements. Eating food with iron supplements limits the risk of stomach irritation, and eating plenty of foods with fiber can help prevent the constipation that sometimes occurs when taking these supplements.
Take your iron supplements at a different time than you take antacids or consume calcium-rich foods, since both can interfere with iron absorption. Tannins in tea and phytates in whole grains and beans also limit iron absorption. If your body's stores of vitamin A and copper are low, you will not absorb as much iron as you would if you had sufficient stores of these nutrients.
Although many people do not consume enough iron in their diet, a multivitamin and mineral supplement will usually provide sufficient iron to prevent deficiency. However, those who are deficient in iron will need to take separate iron supplements, and taking this along with orange juice can help to increase the amount of iron that is absorbed.