woman with hair loss from chemotherapy feeling weak and tired due to low hemoglobin

How Long Do Iron Supplements Take to Work?

Iron deficiency is common ailment that affects all ages and sexes, more so for women during menstruation and malnourished children (girls more often than boys). In order to maintain the required levels of iron in your body, you have to take iron supplements. Ideally with the recommended daily dose of iron intake by diet or by supplements, a patient with low haemoglobin or anemia can resume normal levels within 4 weeks, according to the lifespan of human red blood cells. In this article, we are going to discuss everything about iron deficiency and how long iron supplements take to show results. 

 

According to an estimate of the World Health Organization, about 1.62 billion people in the world are anemic due to iron deficiency. This is a very serious condition and can lead to various health problems such as heart diseases, etc. So it becomes necessary to take necessary steps to cure this problem

What are the Recommended Levels of Iron for Adults?

Adults usually need to take 18 mg of iron daily. However, pregnant women and nursing mothers need to take much higher doses. People who frequently donate blood also need to increase their dose of iron supplements. 

A nutritious and varied diet is the best way to avoid Iron deficiency anemia or any other type of anemia. You should include red meat, eggs, dried fruit, and dark leafy vegetables in your diet.

People with dietary restrictions or preferences can also receive adequate dietary intake, as long as they seek professional nutritionist or dietician counsel if they intend to continue their dietary preferences without any adverse ill health effects.

woman feeling fatigued and lethargic due to anemia

What Is Iron Deficiency?

Iron deficiency is a condition when the body lacks iron either due to inadequate diet or loss of blood. The most common reasons why people become anemic are pregnancy, heavy menstrual flow, and other medical conditions such as colon cancer.

 

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia

 

  •     Pale complexion
  •     Fatigue Pale tongue
  •     Cold hands & feet
  •     Shortness of Breath
  •     hair loss
  •     headaches

 

Common Causes of Iron Deficiency

 

  •     Excessive menstruation during periods
  •     Loss of blood due to any injury
  •     Constipation caused by insufficient fiber in the diet
  •     Intestinal parasites Lack of Red meat in the diet, which is a good source of iron and protein, etc.
biotech lab technician checking blood donational samples in the laboratory

What are the Tests For Iron Deficiency Anemia

 

  •     Hemoglobin test
  •     Hematocrit tests
  •     Serum ferritin test

What Happens if Iron Deficiency Goes Untreated?

If you do not treat Iron deficiency, it can lead to severe complications that include heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, obesity, stroke, etc. Severe health issues can cause permanent damage to the body, such as heart failure and liver cirrhosis. 

Iron supplements are one of the effective ways to treat Iron deficiency anemia. However, patients should know exactly how long iron supplements take to work.

Iron Deficiency Anemia Treatment

Treatment of iron deficiency anemia depends on the cause. Pregnant women should take multivitamins containing folic acid and iron. Those who have lost blood due to other medical conditions should take iron supplements only after checking with the doctor.

In some cases where the level of anemia is severe and may be causing severe and immediate health issues, injectable forms of iron preparations may be needed, or even a blood transfusion to replace a deficiency of red blood cells (in acute situations).

Foods that Hinder Iron Absorption

Coffee, tea, and dairy products decrease iron absorption. That is why it is better to avoid drinking coffee or tea with food.

Avoid taking foods that are high in calcium when you are on an iron supplement course. Other foods that decrease iron absorption are wheat bran, egg yolk, Polk, tea, prune juice, red meat, etc.

Foods that Accelerate Iron Absorption

Iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach or 1 hour before meals. Taking them with food can decrease their absorption as mentioned above.

You should take vitamin C-rich foods along with iron supplements to increase their absorption. You can also consume acidic fruits such as oranges and grapefruits as they increase the body’s absorption of iron from supplements.

Iron supplements should be consumed with water only as other fluids can decrease their absorption. For better results, you can take them after a meal instead of before it.

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taking medication

What Is the Best Way to Take Iron Supplements?

Iron supplements come in different forms such as tablets, capsules, and liquid. You can take them with water or milk after a meal. Make sure to take the recommended daily dosage because too much iron can cause side effects such as vomiting, nausea, and stomach irritation.

How Long Does It Take for Iron Supplements To Work?

The most common dosage of iron is 100mg ferrous sulfate which is divided into two doses with an interval of 8-12 hours. So, How long does it take for iron supplements to work? It takes about 4-6 weeks to notice the results (although not visible).

When it comes to iron absorption, it happens in the duodenum of the small intestine. Iron supplements contain a form of iron known as ferrous. 

Ferrous is not easily absorbed by the body and to make it absorbable, it is combined with another compound called Vitamin C or other acids.

taking medications with a glass of water for prescription adherence

When it comes to absorption, there are some important factors that will determine how fast iron supplements work.

Eating foods with vitamin C at the same time as iron supplements can help in improving its absorption. To improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients you have to eat enough calories every day. 

Iron supplements should be taken after consulting with your doctor and getting approval because if you do not follow the rules then it can lead to many more complications. 

Taking iron supplements is not at all problematic, but you have to be careful about how much iron is required for your body and how often. 

female doctor preparing blood for cross matching before blood plasma donation

Conclusion

Severe Iron deficiency can be fatal, but luckily iron deficiency anemia is very treatable. If you suspect any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor immediately.

It is also important that you educate yourself about the matter before consulting with a doctor because not all doctors are aware of iron-related problems which can lead to further complications if not treated on time.

People usually opt for natural remedies for this problem because they see no need of taking medicines in curing such a small problem. The best natural way to cure this is by consuming iron-rich foods such as beans, spinach, liver, etc.

However, there are people who find it difficult to consume such large amounts of these supplements and that’s where the problem arises. In such cases, the only alternative is to take iron supplements after consulting with your doctor. 

How long Iron supplements take to work depends on several factors such as age, the severity of the condition, and how much iron is required by your body. 

 

So, when you don’t experience any major changes within 4-6 weeks after taking iron supplements then it would be a good idea to consult with your doctor again.

BLOG AUTHOR

Rida Fatima

Rida is studying MBBS at King Edward College. She is passionate about healthy living and mostly writes about health, supplements and vitamins at her own blog site which can be found here.

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