10+ reasons to begin taking iron supplements

Have you been feeling more tired than usual lately? Or perhaps you’re feeling unusually cold, especially in your hands and feet. Are you getting infections more often? These are all classic symptoms of iron deficiency.
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Without enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy red blood cells, therefore leaving you without enough oxygen. Having insufficient oxygen will make your body exhausted, affecting all areas of functioning. Iron is also important for healthy hair, skin and nails.
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Most people are able to get sufficient iron from food alone. Iron-rich foods include spinach, shellfish, legumes, liver, red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, turkey, broccoli, tofu and dark chocolate. Although including these foods in your diet certainly doesn’t hurt, certain factors put you at greater risk for iron deficiency. Below are 10 reasons you might want to consider taking iron supplements.
1. You are pregnant
Pregnant women need significantly more iron than women who are not pregnant. Per National Institutes of Health recommendations, pregnant women should get 27 milligrams of iron a day. If you do not have enough iron during pregnancy, you may be at risk for pre-term labor.
2. You are breastfeeding
When you breastfeed, the baby is taking some of your iron. It is therefore a good idea to supplement.
3. You are menstruating
Menstruation depletes the body’s iron stores. This is why women are more likely than men to have iron deficiency.
4. You are an athlete
It is believed that athletes need more red blood cells to give them sufficient oxygen to keep exercising. If you are an athlete or are highly active, taking iron supplements is advised.
5. You give blood regularly
Each time you give blood, you lose some of your iron. This is why people with consistently low iron levels are not recommended to give blood. If you do donate blood regularly, however, iron supplements can help you make up for what you’ve lost.
6. You are on kidney dialysis
Kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin, which tells the body to make red blood cells. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, you may not have enough red blood cells and therefore not enough iron. Furthermore, you lose blood when you are on dialysis, and dialysis diets often limit iron intake, which is why supplements could be helpful.
7. You are on iron-depleting medications
Some iron-depleting medications include Cipro, Levaquin, Panmycin, Zantac, Prilosec, Colestid and Prevalite. Angiotensin converting enzyme (or ACE) inhibitors also deplete the body’s iron.
8. You have an ACE inhibitor-associated cough
If you take an ACE inhibitor, you might experience a dry cough as a side effect. A study found that taking iron supplements increased the amount of nitric oxide in the body, which in turn alleviated ACE inhibitor-associated coughs.
9. You have ADHD
A 2014 study found that iron deficiency was strongly associated with ADHD, especially in children.
10. You are vegetarian or vegan
Vegetarians and vegans often do not get enough iron from their diet alone and are therefore at a greater risk of iron deficiency.
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If any of the above apply to you, taking iron supplements can be beneficial. It is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before starting iron supplements, as too much iron can also have negative health effects. However, most people respond well to iron supplements, which can be an important step in addressing iron deficiency.
Resources Healthline, WebMD, and WebMD

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