Iron is an essential mineral required for the optimal functioning of our bodies, but does it make you poop?
Iron pills may make you poop more because it can cause diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and darkened stools. Iron not absorbed by the body feeds bad bacteria in the gut, therefore causing an upset stomach. It is therefore better to take slow-releasing iron supplements that may ease the effect on bowel movements.
Keep reading to find out how you can prevent constipation and diarrhea as a result of taking iron, as well as some additional side effects and precautions!
What Is The Most Common Side Effect Of Iron?
If you are planning on taking an iron supplement, you may be wondering which side effect you are most likely to experience, diarrhea, constipation, or nausea?
In a literature review published in the journal PLOS ONE in 2015, researchers examined the side effect of iron pills in 43 different trials on 6,831 adults. They discovered that ferrous sulfate supplements were associated with the worst GI side effects.
In the 27 studies conducted, 12 percent of people experienced constipation from iron pills, while 11 prevent experienced nausea in 30 studies conducted. Lastly, iron pills caused diarrhea in 25 different studies, with 8 percent of the participants. Most importantly, they discovered that it was not the dosage of the iron supplements that caused these side effects.
So, if it was not the dosage then what were they doing wrong? Keep reading to find out how you can prevent these side effects when taking your own supplements!
Tips To Prevent Diarrhea From Iron
If you are experiencing diarrhea as a result of iron supplements it may be a good idea to take a more gentle alternative or a slow-release option.
Even better, you can increase your iron levels by simply making some changes to your diet. According to Livestrong, some good sources of iron include:
- Chicken livers. Only three ounces of cooked chicken liver packs 142 calories and approximately 10 milligrams of iron. They are also affordable and an excellent source of protein.
- Oysters. A 3-ounce serving of raw Pacific oysters provides 69 calories and over 5 milligrams of iron. Not bad at all! Just be careful not to give raw oysters to older people or young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system.
- Clams. A 3-ounce serving of cooked clams provides 126 calories and 3 milligrams of iron, with 22 grams of protein.
- Fortified breakfast cereal. One cup of fortified puffed-wheat cereal packs onl6 44 calories and 4 milligrams of iron. Just be wary of the sugar content, and choose options with lots of fiber and fewer refined carbohydrates.
- Beef. A 3-ounce serving of 70 percent lean meat provides 230 calories and just over 2 milligrams of iron. Plus, it’s super tasty!
- Spinach. One cup of raw spinach contains 7 calories and nearly 1 milligram of iron. It is also an excellent source of protein and fiber!
If you are experiencing constipation as a result of your iron intake, then keep reading for some more tips to prevent this!
Tips To Prevent Constipation From Iron
Similar to diarrhea, constipation can be disruptive to our daily routines, and can leave you feeling anxious, uncomfortable, and frustrated. If iron is the cause of your constipation troubles, then here’s what you can do to remedy this, according to Nogel:
- Choose iron bis-glycinate. This is much better than most over-the-counter supplements, as it has a higher bioavailability and stomach-friendly divalent iron. It is absorbed much more efficiently by the body, meaning you are much less likely to have any stomach problems.
- If iron supplements have regularly caused constipation problems in the past, then it may be a good idea to split your pill in half for the first week while your system acclimatizes.
- If you do not experience constipation after the first week of taking half, you can begin to take the entire pill every day.
- Alternatively, you can take iron every other day. This means the iron treatment may take a little longer, but you are drastically reducing your incidences of side effects.
- You can also take a stool softener in conjunction with your iron supplements to correct constipation problems. Be sure to consult your doctor first as to which one is best for you.
- Boosting your fiber and probiotic intake may also help to get rid of diarrhea.
- Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids (at least 6-8 glasses per day) to get things moving along.
Some foods rich in fiber include:
- Whole grains
Additional Tips and Precautions When Taking Iron
Watch how you take your iron
Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. However, this may be the reason why some people experience stomach upset. It is therefore better to take iron with a small amount of food to prevent this from happening.
Avoid milk, calcium, and antacids
Milk, calcium, and antacids should not be taken at the same time as iron supplements. You should wait a minimum of two hours after consuming these items before taking your iron supplements.
You should also avoid the following foods until at least two hours after consumption of iron:
- High caffeine drinks or foods
- High fiber foods such as whole grains, bran, and raw vegetables
Take some vitamin C
Some doctors recommend taking a vitamin C supplement or consuming orange juice with your iron pill. This helps the iron to be better absorbed into your body. Drinking only 8 ounces (240 ml) of fluid with an iron pill is also helpful.
Tell your doctor about the medicines you are taking
Iron tablets may interact with other drugs you may be taking and cause them to not work as well. Some of these include:
- Hypothoiderism medications
- Parkinson disease
- Seizure medications
It is advised to wait at least two hours between doses of the above drugs and your iron tablets.
Is It Possible To Overdose On Iron?
According to Livestrong, it is most certainly possible to experience iron toxicity by taking too much. In fact, even a mild case of iron toxicity can increase your chances of the following:
- Heart attack
- Cirrhosis of the liver
Insider tip: The type of iron supplement you are taking does make a difference when it comes to dosage. The tolerable upper limit set by the Institute of Medicine recommends that you take no more than 45 milligrams of iron per day.
What Are The Upper Limits of Iron Intake?
According to the Institute of Medicine, most healthy adults can take up to 45 milligrams of elemental iron per day without exceeding safe amounts. Your doctor may prescribe a higher dosage, such as 50 to 60 milligrams, to remedy iron-deficiency anemia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Your iron requirements may also slightly increase if you have recently had surgery or lost a lot of blood. If you have a condition that causes malabsorption of nutrients or an inflamed digestive tract, you may need to consult your doctor for a personalized dosage.
Dosage Based On Type of Iron Supplement
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, different types of iron supplements contain different percentages if elemental iron. Due to this, the total dosage of an iron supplement you can take before toxicity occurs is dependent on the form of iron you are taking. Here are some of the different forms:
- Ferrous fumarate supplements contain 33 percent of elemental iron. The upper limit of intake for this type of supplement (without the supervision of a doctor) is 136 milligrams daily, which provides you with only 45 milligrams of elemental iron.
- Ferrous fumarate supplements contain 33 percent of elemental iron. The upper limit of intake for these supplements (without the supervision of a doctor) is 136 milligrams daily, which gives you only 45 milligrams of elemental iron.
- Ferrous sulfate supplements contain 20 percent elemental iron, meaning you can safely consume 225 milligrams daily of this type.
- Ferrous gluconate contains only 12 percent elemental iron, so you can safely take up to 375 milligrams of this type of iron supplement.
Do iron tablets make you lose weight?
According to Healthline, iron plays a vital role in assisting your body with creating energy from nutrients in the foods you eat. Iron helps carry oxygen to all of the cells in your body, and this includes your muscles. As a result, this helps your body burn through more fat.
Why does iron turn your stools black?
According to WebMD, black poop may be a side effect of iron pills taken to treat anemia. This is when you do not have enough red blood cells to carry the oxygen around your system. If this troubles you, you can always talk to your doctor. However, black stools are usually a good indicator that your iron supplements are working as they should.