Iron is an essential element for women whether they are of child bearing age or not. A deficiency in iron can lead to problems in thyroid function, hormone production and mental health ailments such as depression. Additional benefits from taking iron supplements may include increased energy, cognitive function and an improved immune system.
For years I took an elemental (or non-heme) iron known as ferrous sulfate. Ferrous sulfate can be found in multi-vitamins, fortified cereals and common iron supplements such as FemIron. Although this is the most common form of dietary supplemental iron, ferrous sulfate is not very easily absorbed. Several times I stopped taking it because of digestive problems such as constipation and nausea. Over the last year or so, I’ve found other iron supplements that work much better than ferrous sulfate.
1) Heme Iron
First, one can choose a heme iron. Non-heme or elemental irons are derived from fruits, grains and vegetables while heme iron is derived from hemoglobin or animal meats (most often liver extracts). Experts believe that heme-iron is more easily absorbed than non heme-iron thus eliminating many of the negative side effects caused by elemental irons.
2) Hematinic Formulas
Although heme iron is a great option for non-vegetarians, it was not an option for me as I do not eat red meat. Instead I found that hematinic formulas worked best for me. These are a combination of various vitamins and minerals to aid in the overall health of the blood. These formulas contain high levels of iron along with vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin A, copper and manganese. Putting all of these nutrients together can better help the body absorb and assimilate the iron.
3) Iron Bisglycinate
This form of iron is typically a little more expensive than ferrous sulfate, but is said to be worth the added expense. Known as the “gentle iron”, iron bisglycinate is made to be more easily digested thus eliminating problems of constipation and flatulence.
4) Liquid Iron
Because liquid vitamins do need to dissolved, they more readily make their way through the bloodstream. This same principle works with liquid iron. Do your homework however as some liquid irons contain a lot of sugar and artificial ingredients. ‘
It is important to note that you should only take an iron supplement if you are sure that you are anemic or have an iron deficiency.