Iron deficiencies are the most common nutrient deficiency. It is more common in women due to child bearing as well as menstruation. However, it can be managed by taking iron supplements. These supplements help supply the body with iron ensuring there are adequate levels to meet the body’s demand.
Iron supplementation however can cause side effects in some people. Some people taking iron supplements suffer side effects such as constipation, diarrhea and nausea. There have also been some people that have experienced weight gain after they started taking iron supplements. This leads to the question, do iron supplements cause weight gain?
Iron supplements and your weight
A small 2016 study published in the Egyptian Journal of Haematology reported a possible connection between taking iron supplements and weight gain. Thirty three participants taking iron supplements were observed for 3 months. The study reported that 30 of the patients gained weight during the period. However, there have been no conclusive studies showing a relationship between weight gain and iron supplementation. Reports on weight gain while taking iron supplementation remain anecdotal.
It is generally thought that weight gain is in fact a side effect of having an iron deficiency. This has been attributed to fatigue experienced due to low hemoglobin levels. You are less likely to have the energy to exercise and maintain your weight if you’re feeling weak, lightheaded or fatigued. Fatigue is also related to an increase in cravings. This makes it difficult for people with low iron levels to eat healthy food or resist unhealthy foods.
People with iron deficiencies are also more likely to gain weight because of low thyroid hormone levels. Low thyroid hormone levels are a direct result of iron deficiency. People with iron deficiencies are therefore more likely to struggle with weight loss until they bring their iron levels back to normal.
Taking iron supplements is therefore more likely to have the opposite effect to gaining weight. You will have more energy to exercise and maintain a healthy weight. You will also have more balanced thyroid hormone levels. This will help you get rid of stubborn weight.
Iron supplements will also help your body burn fat. Iron plays an important role in carrying oxygen to the tissues in your body. This includes the muscles. With adequate supply of oxygen to the muscles, your body will burn fat more efficiently. This will contribute to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you have noticed an increase in weight after starting on iron supplements, consider paying attention to your diet and increasing your activity levels. You may also want to speak to your doctor as there may be other underlying health issues that are causing you to gain weight.
Dealing with side effects
Taking iron supplements can result in various side effects. Some of the most common side effects patients experience include:
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Stomach pain
- Staining of the teeth (temporarily)
These symptoms can cause you to limit your level of activity, resulting in weight gain. They may also contribute to giving into your cravings. It is therefore important to learn how to manage side effects. One effective way to avoid side effects of iron supplements would be to seek iron supplements that are gentle on the gut such as liposomal iron supplements. Another way of managing the side effects is by paying attention to your diet. Eat more whole foods and take your iron supplements with your food to protect your gut. Be sure to consult your doctor to determine the right dosage of iron for your needs.