Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is elemental iron needed in my diet?"
My doctor says I should take supplements but they're harsh on my stomach. Is this necessary?
Elemental iron is a very important micronutrient in the diet. Iron is important for the synthesis of hemoglobin, the pigment molecule in red blood cells that gives them their red color. The purpose of hemoglobin is the binding and transport of oxygen in the blood stream. Iron deficiency makes it hard for the body to produce adequate amounts of hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells can be produced. Thus, most people are noted to have iron deficiency when a doctor notices that they are anemic on a routine complete blood count. Certain populations are at higher risk for iron deficiency, including women from the blood losses inherent to the menstrual cycle. People though to be iron deficient are often recommended to take iron supplements, however these not infrequently cause GI upset and constipation. But supplements are not the only way to increase dietary iron. Many foods are high in iron and increasing your intake of certain foods can help replete your body's iron stores. Foods that are high in iron include red meat, egg yolks, dark leafy greens, raisins, turkey, beans, lentils, chick peas, soybeans, liver, and artichokes. You need to be evaluated frequently by a doctor to recheck your blood counts and certain tests of your body's iron stores, in order to evaluate how well your increased dietary iron intake is repleting the depleted iron stores in your body. I would recommend you see a primary care physician to be fully evaluated and determine if there are any acceptable alternatives to taking iron supplements in your case.
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