Iron is an important mineral in the human body that can cause a variety of health symptoms if not adequately supplemented and stored.
Premenopausal women tend to lose iron each month with their menstrual bleeding. However those who do not eat iron rich foods, have intestinal inflammation causing malabsorption issues, or experience gastrointestinal bleeds may also be at risk.
Testing for iron is important as it is possible to over-supplement. Too much iron supplementation can lead to problems, especially in those who have the iron-storage disease known as hemochromatosis.
For those who need more of this beneficial mineral, iron helps in these five big ways:
1) Iron is a part of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is what moves oxygen from the lungs into the tissues. If this does not occur properly then people often feel fatigued, out of breath, appear paler, and have cold hands and feet.
2) Iron is a part of myoglobin. Myoglobin is what moves oxygen into muscles, which is important for exercise. Low levels may be the reason for sore, tired muscles without a known cause, such as in fibromyalgia.
3) Iron is required for proper thyroid function. It helps with T4 to T3 conversion, which is important as T3 is the more biologically active thyroid hormone. The thyroid is critical to many functions in the body from endocrine to cardiovascular to digestive systems.
4) Iron helps with growth and healthy bone building. This is important for both men and women at all ages as iron anemia may stunt growth in childhood and lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis later in life.
5) Iron improves cognition. This is due to the fact that being iron deficient may result in poor memory and brain fog.
Before running out and buying the nearest iron on the shelf, keep in mind it is important to test the complete blood count (CBC) and ferritin markers to see whether you are low in iron (anemic), have suboptimal levels, are normal, or have too much iron.
Supplements can be harsh on the stomach and cause constipation. Therefore it is important to buy a good quality form that will be absorbed efficiently and that contains vitamin C. Testing should be repeated in order to make sure that it is working.
Incorporate more iron-rich foods such as spinach, oysters, white beans and red meat into your rotation. Consider cooking with an iron skillet.
For those who take medication for thyroid, ulcer or heartburn, or take minocycline, doxycycline, Cipro, Levaquin, or lisinopril, iron supplements should be taken at least four hours away from these medications.
Fox, S. Iron Supplements Boost Physical Performance in Women. Web. 20 April, 2014. Retrieved from
London, S. Iron Supplements Improve Cognition and Health in Anemic Kids. Web. 20 April, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/812601
National Institutes of Health. Iron – Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. Web. 20 April, 2014. Retrieved from
University of Maryland Medical Center. Possible interactions with: Iron. 20 April, 2014. Retrieved from
Reviewed April 23, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith