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High Potency Iron Supplements

By Cydney Walker

Iron deficiency can take months to correct because it takes your body 90 to 120 days to make a complete set of new red blood cells, although the process is ongoing. Iron is found inside the red blood cell, which allows oxygen transportation to all cells inside your body. When your iron levels are low, your body isn’t able to perform to capacity because oxygen requirements are taking longer to be met. High-potency iron supplements can load your body with additional iron to maximize absorption, but also maximize iron deposition inside the current volume of red blood cells in your body.

Who Needs Them

Women of childbearing age with heavy menstrual cycles, vegetarians -- especially vegans, followers of raw-food diets or macrobiotic diets -- teenage girls and pregnant women need 18 mg of iron per day to prevent anemia. Most multivitamins contain iron, but zinc, calcium and copper can inhibit iron absorption. A separate iron supplement should be taken one to two hours before or after any multivitamin to increase absorption. Your iron losses can increase if you engage in heavy exercise or strenuous training, endurance training, chronic use of aspirin or non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, or have irritable bowel syndrome, according to an article by Irene Alton published in the handbook “Guidelines for Adolescent Nutrition Services” from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Correction of Anemia

Correction of anemia requires intakes greater than the recommended daily allowance of iron for men and women, 8 mg and 18 mg, respectively. According to Stang and Story, 60 mg of iron 1 to 2 times per day for adolescents with anemia to correct iron deficiency anemia. Deficiency of iron usually resolves in 6 to 8 weeks of taking high-potency iron supplements. Maintenance doses up to 30 mg per day for an additional 1 to 2 months builds iron stores and prevents reoccurrence of anemia in most individuals.

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Constipation

High-potency iron supplements can cause constipation. Usually iron salts of ferrous sulfate will cause constipation. Using water-soluble forms of iron, such as iron bisglycinate or gluconate, prevent constipation.

Absorption

Iron supplements are best taken on an empty stomachs because the acidic environment of your stomach maintains iron stability and the bicarbonate released in your small intestine can limit iron absorption. Slow-release iron supplements increase absorption, but eating foods rich in vitamin C also helps increase iron absorption.

Iron Poisoning

Iron poisoning is a rare occurrence with adults, but can happen with children. Levels found to produce iron poisoning in children exceed doses of 900 mg of iron at one time from high potency iron supplements, according to John Hathcock, Ph.D., in “Vitamin and Mineral Safety.” This level of iron overloads the intestinal tract of children and allows for blood levels of iron to reach high levels. Iron levels found in multivitamins and children’s multivitamins with iron have not been reported to cause iron poisoning.

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