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Iron

Iron

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

About

Iron is a mineral. Most of the iron in the body is found in the hemoglobin of red blood cells and in the myoglobin of muscle cells. Iron is needed for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide. It also has other important roles in the body.

People take iron supplements for preventing and treating low levels of iron (iron deficiency) and the resulting iron deficiency anemia. In people with iron deficiency anemia, the red blood cells can't carry enough oxygen to the body because they don't have enough iron. People with this condition often feel very tired.

Iron is also used for improving athletic performance and learning problems, and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), restless legs syndrome (RLS), and canker sores. Some people also use iron for Crohn's disease, heart failure, breath-holding attacks in children, growth in children, depression, fatigue, improving thinking, and the inability to get pregnant.

Women sometimes take iron supplements to make up for iron lost in heavy menstrual periods. Iron-rich foods, such as pork, ham, chicken, fish, beans, and especially beef, liver, and lamb are also used.

How does it work?

Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen from the lungs to cells all over the body. Once the oxygen is delivered, iron then helps red blood cells carry carbon dioxide waste back to the lungs to be exhaled. Iron also plays a role in many important chemical reactions in the body.

Traditionally used for

Anemia caused by chronic disease.
Iron deficiency during pregnancy.
Coughs caused by ACE inhibitors.
Improving thinking.
Heart failure.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS).
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Breath-holding attacks.
Fatigue.
Physical performance.

Dosage

By Mouth:

Iron-deficiency in adults: 50-100 mg elemental iron three times daily. Doses between 30-120 mg weekly have been used in adult women. For treating children with iron deficiency anemia: the dose is 4-6 mg/kg per day divided into three doses. For both adults and children, 2-3 months of treatment can reverse anemia but might not rebuild the body's supply of stored iron. Therefore, treatment is usually continued another 6 months to build up the body's iron reserves.

For preventing iron deficiency in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends iron supplements for some groups. For breast-fed infants, elemental iron 1 mg/kg/day is recommended from ages 4-6 months. Infants from 6-12 months should get 11 mg/day from food or supplements. For pre-term infants, 2 mg/kg/day for the first year is recommended. This should be continued until the baby is switched to formula or otherwise getting enough iron from food sources. Formula-fed children get enough iron from infant formula. Toddlers aged 1-3 years usually get enough iron from foods to meet the recommended daily amount of 7 mg/day; however, a supplement can be added if needed.

For improving learning and thinking skills in iron-deficient adolescents: 650 mg ferrous sulfate twice daily.

For cough caused by ACE inhibitors: 256 mg ferrous sulfate daily.

For restless legs syndrome (RLS): Ferrous sulfate 325 mg twice daily for 12 weeks.

Possible Side Effects

Iron is SAFE for most people when it is taken by mouth or injected into the vein in appropriate amounts. However, it can cause side effects including stomach upset and pain, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Taking iron supplements with food seems to reduce some of these side effects. However, food can also reduce how well the body absorbed iron. Iron should be taken on an empty stomach if possible. If it causes too many side effects, it can be taken with food. Try to avoid taking it with foods containing dairy products, coffee, tea, or cereals.

There are many forms of iron products such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate, and others. Some products, such as those containing polysaccharide-iron complex (Niferex-150, etc), claim to cause fewer side effects than others. But there is no reliable evidence to support this claim.

Some enteric coated or controlled release iron products might reduce nausea for some people; however, these products also have less absorption by the body.

Liquid iron supplements may blacken teeth.

High doses of iron are LIKELY UNSAFE, especially for children. Iron is the most common cause of poisoning deaths in children. Doses as low as 60 mg/kg can be fatal. Iron poisoning can cause many serious problems including stomach and intestinal distress, liver failure, dangerously low blood pressure, and death. If you suspect an adult or child has taken more than the recommended amount of iron, call your healthcare professional or the nearest poison control center immediately.

There is some concern that high intake of iron might increase the chance of developing heart disease. Some studies show that people with high intake of iron, especially from food sources such as red meat, are more likely to have heart disease. This may be especially true for people with type 2 diabetes. But this is controversial. Other studies do not show that iron increases the chance of heart disease. It is too soon to tell for sure if iron increases the chance of heart disease.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Iron is SAFE for pregnant and breast-feeding women who have enough iron stored in their bodies when used in doses below the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of 45 mg per day of elemental iron. The UL is the highest level of intake at which no harmful side effects are expected. However, iron is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in high doses. If you do not have iron deficiency, do not take more than 45 mg per day of elemental iron per day. Higher doses frequently cause stomach and intestinal side effects such as nausea and vomiting. High levels of hemoglobin at the time of delivery are associated with bad pregnancy outcomes. Hemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that contains iron.

Diabetes: There is concern that a diet that is high in iron might increase the risk of heart disease in women with type 2 diabetes, although this has not been proven. If you have diabetes, discuss your iron intake with your healthcare provider.

Stomach or intestinal ulcers: Iron might cause irritation and make these conditions worse. Use iron with care.

Intestinal inflammation, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease: Iron might cause irritation and make these conditions worse. Use iron with care.

Hemoglobin disease, such as thalassemia: Taking iron might cause iron overload in people with these conditions. If you have a hemoglobin disease, don't take iron unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider.

Premature infants: Giving iron to premature infants with low blood levels of vitamin E can cause serious problems. The vitamin E deficiency should be corrected before giving iron. Talk with your healthcare provider before giving iron to a premature infant.

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