Low Iron & Yeast Infections

Iron supplement tablets
Iron supplements may increase the risk of candida infections. (Image: BWFolsom/iStock/Getty Images)

Yeast, or candida, is a ubiquitous fungus that is part of your normal flora. However, it can cause opportunistic infections if you have reduced immunity. The infection can affect any part of the body, and the symptoms may be mild or life-threatening. In fact, invasive candida infections are becoming increasingly common. Your doctor may recommend antifungal medications to control the infection. Certain supplements such as iron may promote the growth of candida, so talk to a doctor before using them.

Iron

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in nature. Iron is essential for human life and is an important component of the red blood cells that carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Iron also helps produce energy. Your body requires 7 to 27 milligrams of iron per day, depending on your age and overall health. You can get the iron you need from foods such as red meat, poultry, legumes, green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Iron supplements may help manage conditions certain conditions related to iron deficiency. The recommended dose varies; talk to your doctor to find one that is right for you.

Role in Candida Infections

The role of iron in candida infections is complex. On one hand, iron improves the immune function and increases the susceptibility of candida to antifungal medications in the laboratory, says a study published in the September 2006 issue of the journal "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy." At the same time, iron also improves the virulence of the candida species, which is the ability of the pathogen to invade the host or human cells, according to the authors of the study. Another study in the March 2011 issue of the journal "PLOS Pathogens" also points out that individuals taking iron supplements to treat anemia and related disorders have an increased risk of getting candida infections. Cheryl Garrison, executive director of the Iron Disorders Institute and the author of the book “The Iron Disorders Institute Guide to Anemia,” explains that pathogens such as candida need free iron to invade human cells. However, a protein called lactoferrin -- found in saliva, tears and the vagina -- binds to the free iron and thereby prevents yeast infections. But, individuals with certain types of anemia have low levels of lactoferrin and may be more susceptible to candida infections.

Side Effects

Increased use of iron supplements can also lead to upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and heartburn. It may also cause iron overload, which is characterized by skin discoloration, diabetes and liver damage. And the supplements may interfere with certain pain medications, antacids and antibiotics.

Precautions

You do not need a prescription to buy iron supplements but you should talk to a doctor before using them to avoid complications. Also, make sure that the supplements have been tested for safety and efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration or an independent testing agency such as the United States Pharmacopeial Convention.

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