Iron is an important mineral that helps maintain healthy blood. About 4 to 5 million Americans suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia each year.

It is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, causing extreme fatigue and lightheadedness. Children, pregnant women, people on dialysis, and people who have recently stopped smoking are at increased risk, but the condition affects people of all ages.

Hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells, is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Fatigue sets in when the body doesn’t have enough iron to produce enough red blood cells to carry oxygen.

Myoglobin, a protein responsible for transporting and storing oxygen in skeletal muscle, contains iron as well. Children’s normal brain growth and development, as well as the production and function of many different types of cells and hormones, rely on adequate iron intake.

Two types of dietary iron exist, heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme can only be obtained from eating meat, poultry, or seafood.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dark leafy greens are all good sources of non-heme iron. Animal flesh (because animals eat plant foods with non-heme iron) and fortified foods are also sources of this mineral.

Ferritin is found in the liver, spleen, muscle tissue, and bone marrow, and it is responsible for storing and transporting iron throughout the body (a protein in blood that binds to iron).

If anaemia is being suspected, a doctor may check these parameters in the blood.

Suggested Dosages

The RDA for adults 19–50 years old is 8 mg per day for men and 18 mg per day for women, with an additional 27 mg during pregnancy and 9 mg during lactation. [2] Women and pregnant women have higher levels because of blood loss during menstruation and the need for increased blood circulation due to the rapid growth of the foetus.

Iron requirements increase during pregnancy and lactation, and the 11 mg needed by boys and 15 mg needed by girls between 14 and 18 years of age is higher still. Once menopause has occurred, the RDA for women 51 and older drops to 8 mg.

Some women may experience menopause at a later age than others; until this is established, they should stick to the RDA established for younger women.

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum recommended daily intake (RDI) below which adverse health effects are very unlikely to occur. Iron has a daily UL of 45 mg for both males and females aged 14 and up. The maximum safe dose (MTD) for children and adolescents is 40 milligrammes.

Where to Get Your Dinner

Heme iron is most prevalent in animal products but can also be found in seafood. Foods such as cereals, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables that have been fortified with iron are good sources of non-heme iron. Iron is added to many foods in the United States, including cereals, breads, and baby formula.

The body is able to absorb heme iron more effectively than non-heme iron. Non-heme iron absorption can be aided or hindered by a number of factors. When taken together, vitamin C and heme iron enhance the body’s ability to absorb non-heme iron.

Phytates and tannins found in plants, as well as bran fibre and large amounts of calcium (especially from supplements), can prevent the body from absorbing non-heme iron. [3]

  • Oysters, clams, and mussels are all good places to get your heme iron fix.
  • Liver, either from beef or poultry
  • Cuts of meat from internal organs
  • The sardines in the can
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Tuna in light tuna cans
  • Non-heme iron can be obtained from:
  • Supplemented morning cereals
  • Beans
  • The darkest chocolate possible (minimum 45% cocoa)
  • Lentils
  • Scented Potato Spinach
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Bread and rice that has been fortified with nutrients

Do you recommend iron pills?

Fortunately, iron is available in pill form. Women can get all the iron they need from certain breakfast cereals and multivitamins (18 mg). Those with iron-deficiency anaemia or who are at high risk for it may be given iron supplements with a daily dosage of 65 mg or more if they choose to take them over-the-counter.

Constipation and nausea are two of the most frequently reported negative reactions to high-dose iron supplements.

The Iron Supplement Conundrum

Several iron supplements, including ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumarate, and ferrous gluconate, are sold in health food stores and pharmacies. Having both a higher and lower amount listed on the label can also be confusing. If you’re taking a supplement, what are the variations between their forms and what dose should you use?

Iron in its elemental rather than chemical form. Because iron is bound to salts (for example, ferrous sulphate), the larger number on the label represents the chemical compound form, while the smaller number represents only the amount of iron in the compound, also called the elemental iron.

The amount of elemental iron is more relevant because that is what the body can actually use. However, a doctor is not required to note which iron form or elemental iron amount is being prescribed.

An iron supplement containing ferrous sulphate may state, in larger type, that it contains 325 milligrammes of ferrous sulphate but only 65 milligrammes of elemental iron. If your doctor prescribed 325 milligrammes of iron and you only needed 65 milligrammes, how many tablets would you take?

Numerous varieties. Even though the prices and elemental iron content of the various iron supplements vary, they all serve the same purpose of boosting the body’s ability to produce more red blood cells. Some clinical studies have shown that ferrous gluconate, which is typically sold as a liquid, is better absorbed than ferrous sulphate tablets.

A higher dose of ferrous gluconate may be required to treat an iron deficiency because it contains less elemental iron than ferrous sulphate. In addition, the price is higher than that of ferrous sulphate. The introduction of newer, slower-release forms of iron has been shown to lessen gastrointestinal side effects; however, these iron supplements are typically more expensive and contain less iron overall.

If you or your loved one are unsure of the iron supplement type or dosage you need, you should ask your doctor to specify both the elemental amount and the chemical compound amount.

If you don’t have a prescription, you can ask the pharmacist for help understanding your doctor’s order, or they can recommend an appropriate dosage if you do.

Warning Symptoms of Deficiency and Toxic Exposure


Children, women who are menstruating or pregnant, and people whose diet is low in iron are at increased risk of developing anaemia.

Iron deficiency develops gradually over time. [4] The first symptom of the mild form is a deficiency of stored iron, which can result from a low-iron diet or heavy bleeding. When this doesn’t get fixed, it leads to a further iron deficiency and a reduction in red blood cells.

Eventually, iron stores are depleted and a significant amount of total red blood cells are lost, leading to iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA). Regular complete blood count screenings are the gold standard for detecting anaemia (including hemoglobin, hematocrit, and other factors that measure red blood cell volume and size).

If this is low, then the type of anaemia may be determined by checking ferritin and transferrin levels (there are other forms of anaemia not caused specifically by an iron deficiency). There would be a lessening of these indicators with the implementation of IDA.

Affects of IDA:

Weakness, exhaustion
Indecision and inability to focus
Cold intolerance
Rapid heart rate and shortness of breath
Characterized by a lack of coloration, or pallor
Hair thinning and nail fragility
Pica is an abnormal desire for things that are not food.
Oral iron supplements of up to 150-200 mg of elemental iron daily are typically effective in treating IDA. Those who are at a high risk of developing IDA may be prescribed 60-100 mg per day. Long-term high dosages can cause constipation or other digestive upset, so blood levels should be rechecked periodically and supplements discontinued or taken at a lower dosage if levels return to normal.

The populations most likely to be affected by IDA are:

Women who are expecting a child have an increased need for iron in their diets and nutritional supplements because their bodies produce more red blood cells during pregnancy. Infants born to mothers with iron deficiency anaemia are more likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

All pregnant women should start taking 30 mg of iron supplements every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

IDA can occur in women who menstruate, specifically in those who have abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding (bleeding for more than 7 days or soaking through tampons or pads once every hour).

Due to their rapid development, children and infants have special iron requirements.

Poor nutrition and chronic inflammatory diseases are more common in the elderly, which can lead to anaemia.

Avoiding heme iron from meats, fish, and poultry can lead to IDA, so it’s important for vegetarians to eat plenty of non-heme iron foods. Since the body has a hard time absorbing non-heme iron, it’s possible that eating more of these foods or consuming them in a specific way will be necessary to achieve the same results (consuming with vitamin C-rich foods while avoiding eating with calcium-rich foods, calcium supplements, or tea).

Endurance athletes should be aware that running can lead to minor gastrointestinal bleeding and a condition known as “foot-strike” hemolysis, which accelerates the breakdown of red blood cells. The risk of IDA is highest for female endurance athletes who are also menstruating.

Dialysis patients with chronic kidney disease produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO), which tells the body to produce new RBCs. The production of EPO and, by extension, blood cells, is diminished in kidney failure. Additionally, hemodialysis causes some blood loss.
Exactly what is chronic disease anaemia?


Due to the fact that iron absorption is tightly controlled by the body and is reduced when stores are full, iron toxicity is extremely uncommon. The most common causes of excessive iron are taking iron supplements in excess when they are not required or having a genetic condition that causes excessive iron storage.

Notable Indicators:

GI distress
symptoms of nausea and vomiting
Throbbing abdominal pain

Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes an abnormally high concentration of iron in the blood and tissues of affected individuals. Periodically, treatments are administered to drain the blood or the excess iron in the blood.

Hemochromatosis patients are told to cut back on their iron intake and stay away from vitamin C and iron supplements. Untreated iron accumulation in the body raises the danger of diseases like liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and heart disease.

Did You Know?

It is possible to obtain enough iron in a vegetarian/vegan diet with careful planning. If you want to increase your iron stores, try this simple dish that combines sources of non-heme iron and vitamin C:

Mix together cooked beans or lentils, fresh tomato cubes, baby spinach, pumpkin seeds or cashews, and dried apricots or raisins in a large bowl.

Pour over a lemon vinaigrette made with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of honey (optional). After combining ingredients, let them sit for at least 15 minutes while stirring occasionally.