Taking too many supplements? Signs can show up when you go to the toilet – check with GP
Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take
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Without adequate levels of iron, the red blood cells can’t effectively carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. If you do not eat enough foods containing iron, your iron levels may be low. Non-prescribable food supplements are available over-the-counter and can be taken if an adequate iron intake is not being achieved.
The amount of iron you need differs between people. The NHS says that the amount of iron you need is 8.7mg a day for men over 18, 14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50, and 8.7mg a day for women over 50.
The Department of Health and Social Care advises that most people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
The NHS says if blood tests show your red blood cell count is low, you’ll be prescribed iron tablets to replace the iron that’s missing from your body.
Iron deficiency anaemia is treated with iron tablets prescribed by a GP and by eating iron-rich foods.
The Cleveland Clinic states that oral iron supplements can cause several side effects, some of which may show up when you go to the toilet. These include dark stools, upset stomach, and constipation.
Darkened urine is also a possible side effect, according to the Mayo Clinic, though it is less common than some others.
Many of the symptoms of iron deficiency can be mistaken for a normal part of the sometimes stressful lives we lead, such as tiredness and struggling to focus at work.
Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children, so always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.
Hemochromatosis, or iron overload, is a condition in which your body stores too much iron.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) explains iron can be “harmful” if you get too much.
It states: In healthy people, taking high doses of iron supplements (especially on an empty stomach) can cause an upset stomach, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and fainting.
“High doses of iron can also decrease zinc absorption. Extremely high doses of iron (in the hundreds or thousands of mg) can cause organ failure, coma, convulsions, and death.”
Some people have an inherited condition called hemochromatosis that causes toxic levels of iron to build up in their bodies.
The NIH notes the daily upper limits for iron include intakes from all sources, including food, beverages, and supplements.
Nonetheless, a doctor might prescribe more than the upper limit of iron to people who need higher doses for a while to treat iron deficiency.
Indeed, the Department of Health and Social Care advises that most people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
The richest source of iron in the diet includes meat and seafood and for this reason many vegans may suffer from an iron deficiency.
The Mayo Clinic says: “You can enhance your body’s absorption of iron by drinking citrus juice or eating other foods rich in vitamin C at the same time that you eat high-iron foods.
“Vitamin C in citrus juices, like orange juice, helps your body to better absorb dietary iron.”
Red meats are particularly rich sources of iron, and the iron they contain is easily absorbed.
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