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What are guidelines for taking iron supplements?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
When you do take iron, take it separately from your calcium and your vitamin C as iron decreases the absorption of these or vice versa. If you are not iron-deficient, make sure your multivitamin does not contain iron. Eat normally. Only take iron if anemia is a chronic problem and you are specifically directed to do so by a doctor. If you are a vegetarian, be sure to have your red blood cell count checked annually just to ensure that you are not iron-deficient. If you are a vegetarian and are eating a balanced diet, you are probably getting enough iron from other sources. If you are a woman and still menstruating, have your iron levels checked before you decide to take iron. Most menstruating women do not require iron supplements.
Talk to your doctor about the guidelines for iron supplements. Ask whether he or she recommends them for you and, if so, the best way to take them. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for iron varies depending on  age, gender and particular circumstances.

For example, the DRI for iron in adult men is 8 milligrams (mg) per day. In non-pregnant women ages 19 to 50, the DRI is 18 mg per day. That rises to 27 mg per day during pregnancy and 9 to 10 mg per day while breast-feeding. After age 50, the DRI for iron is the same for men and women, 8 mg per day.

Too much iron can cause serious side effects, so be sure to follow carefully your doctor's guidelines for taking iron supplements. Also, make sure your doctor is aware of any prescription or nonprescription medications that you're on. Iron may interact with certain drugs, raising the risk of side effects.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.