Iron is a mineral that is essential for the normal function of the body. It has many important roles, however, its primary function is to aid in the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. An iron deficiency can result in shortness of breath, fatigue and lightheadedness due to lack of adequate oxygen in the body’s tissues. Thankfully, iron deficiencies can be managed by taking iron supplements.
Iron supplements can be taken intravenously or orally. Many people prefer to take iron pills as these are more convenient. However, these people also experience iron pills side effects that can range from mild to severe.
Iron Supplements Side Effects: If you’re deficient in iron, taking an oral iron supplement will help to supply your body with the iron it needs to produce healthy red blood cells and transport oxygen throughout your body. You will begin to experience an increase in energy and decreased incidents of lightheadedness or shortness of breath as your blood levels improve. You may however, also experience some of the common iron supplement side effects listed below.
- Changes in your bowel habits: Iron supplements can be harsh on the gut. They can result in diarrhea or constipation. You can manage these changes by increasing your intake of fiber. You may also want to consider adding probiotics such as yogurt to your diet.
- Stomach upset: You may experience pain or bloating in your stomach. You may also experience nausea or even actual vomiting. Stomach upsets often occur as a result of ingesting iron pills on an empty stomach. Take a small amount of food to protect your gut. Your doctor may also recommend taking a smaller dose to reduce the symptoms.
- Metallic taste in the mouth: You may begin to notice a metallic taste in your mouth or the development of bad breath. You can manage this by drinking more water or chewing on gum.
- Dark stool: It is normal for your stool to take on a grayish or greenish color when taking iron supplements. However, if you notice streaks of blood, you should notify your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will run tests to determine if you have internal bleeding or if the streaks are simply a side effect of taking iron supplements.
Taking liposomal iron supplements such as Orzax liposomal iron can help you avoid the side effects of taking conventional oral iron supplements.
Can You Overdose on Iron Pills?
While taking iron pills will help to build up your blood to normal levels, it is important to stick to the recommended dosage. It is otherwise possible to overdose on iron supplements. An overdose can result in what is known as iron toxicity. This can occur after taking a single overdose or after taking high doses over a prolonged period. Excessive doses can be lethal.
It is important to seek medical attention if you have overdosed on iron. Initial symptoms of an overdose begin within 6 hours of the overdose. They may seem to improve after 24 to 48 hours. However, the real symptoms of overdose will then begin to appear after this initial phase passes. These symptoms include:
- Low blood pressure
- Racing heartbeat
- Weak pulse
- Fluid in the lungs
- Shortness of breath
- Skin appears to be bluish or grayish in color
Cardiac and liver failure may occur in the final stages.
Treatment of iron overdose includes bowel irrigation to flush out excess iron. A chemical that binds to iron may also be administered to help the body pass the iron through urine. This process is known as chelation. Other treatments for iron overdose include rehydration and breathing treatments.
The best way to avoid an overdose is to consult a doctor and stick to their recommended dosage. Don’t double your dose if you accidentally skip one.