Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States. If your doctor has diagnosed you with iron deficiency anemia and prescribed iron supplements, he may have recommended that you take your supplements with grapefruit juice. It may sound odd to recommend taking a vitamin supplement with a specific kind of fruit juice, but there's a reason for this recommendation.
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Efffects of Iron Deficiency
If you don't get enough iron, you may feel sluggish and tired. If you're fatigued all the time, it can be difficult to function in both your personal and professional life. You may also have headaches, be irritable, look pale, and feel weak, cold and confused. Children who don't get enough iron may not grow as well as they should and may have behavioral and attention problems. Pregnant women with an iron deficiency are at risk of giving birth to low-birth-weight or premature babies.
What Causes Iron Deficiency?
Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding are often iron deficient. Menstruation can also cause iron stores to become low. Bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract -- your stomach, intestines, esophagus and mouth -- can reduce your iron level as well. People who don't eat enough iron-rich foods often suffer from iron deficiency, as well as teenagers whose bodies are growing rapidly. Some people have medical conditions that prevent iron from being absorbed into their bodies properly.
Iron and Vitamin C
If you have an iron deficiency, your doctor might prescribe iron supplements and advise you to consume a diet high in iron-rich foods such as beef, pork, chicken, organ meats, seafood and leafy dark-green vegetables. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron better. Grapefruit is rich in vitamin C, so taking your supplement with a glass of grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit with an iron-rich meal will help you get the full benefit of the extra iron you're consuming. Grapefruit can affect the efficacy of some medications, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines you're taking.
Grapefruit juice isn't safe for everyone -- it interferes with your body's ability to metabolize statins, a type of heart medication, so if you take statin drugs you'll need to avoid grapefruit juice. Fortunately, you can get the same benefits from other fruit juices -- orange and pineapple juice, for example, also contain ample amounts of vitamin C. Practice caution when taking iron supplements -- make sure you don't accidentally exceed the dosage recommended by your doctor, and store the supplements in a safe place, out of reach of children or pets. Too much iron is toxic, and even one very large dose can cause organ damage and prove fatal.