Home » How to Take Iron Supplements for Best Absorption? [Complete Guide]

How to Take Iron Supplements for Best Absorption? [Complete Guide]

how to take iron supplements for best absorption

Taking iron supplements are used in case of iron deficiency anemia. But the question is how to take iron supplements for the best absorption. In this post, you will find how and when to take iron tablets correctly.

You should take iron supplements at a proper time to avoid interference with other substances that are essential for your body.

For example, you shouldn’t take iron pills with calcium at the same time.

So, it is necessary to know the best time to take iron supplements for the best absorption.

In this article you will learn:

What Does Iron Do for the Body?

It is one of the vital minerals your body needs to develop and grow. The human body needs iron to build hemoglobin. 

Also, iron is needed for building some hormones and energy metabolism.

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells. It is responsible for transporting oxygen to your body cells.

For that reason, too low levels of iron can cause shortness of breath and fatigue.

In contrast, taking too much iron can bring about the toxicity of iron.

Benefits of Iron Pills

What is iron good for? 

Your body needs iron for many critical functions. Getting enough iron is essential for energy metabolism and a healthy immune system. Also, your body needs iron to regulate body temperature.

Plus, taking iron supplements can help women to have a healthy pregnancy. It supports both mom and baby health. It helps lower the risk of low birth weight and premature birth caused by low levels of iron.

As well, lack of iron affects your energy levels negatively and decreases your focus.

So, taking iron pills correctly is crucial to treat symptoms of iron deficiency such as fatigue. 

Best Time to Take Iron?

Taking iron supplements on an empty stomach can help your body to absorb the most of it.

But in case of nausea, you should take it after a meal or before going to bed.

Also, foods such as lemon that contains vitamin C can boost the absorption of iron significantly. That is because of acidic features.

To put it briefly, the best time for taking iron supplements for best absorption is in the morning on an empty stomach.

But, if it causes bloating and upset your belly, you should take iron pills at night before going to bed.

How to Take Iron Pills?

The best way to increase ferrous fumarate absorption is to take it on an empty stomach if it doesn’t upset your stomach.

Here are some useful tips for improving iron absorption as follows.

  1. Don’t take iron supplementation with foods that decrease iron absorption, like calcium. Dairy products such as milk block iron absorption in the gut. 
  2. Also, iron absorption is impaired by drinking tea. Studies show that tea inhibits iron absorption. Drinking a lot of black and green tea can cause anemia (iron deficiency). 
  3. Plus, caffeine drinks reduce iron absorption. For that reason, take iron at least a couple of hours after or before caffeinated foods. 
  4. As well, a study shows that iron absorption falls by drinking alcohol.

Usually, iron supplements are prescribed for a limited time (a few months). That is to avoid further health issues, for example, liver and stomach damages. 

Also, you can add foods high in iron to your diet to prevent iron deficiency naturally. 

Foods rich in iron are spinach, lettuce, liver meats, wheat bran, legumes, pumpkin seeds, red meat.

How Much Iron Should I Take?

How much iron do I need?

According to NHS recommended daily intake of iron is:

8.7 milligrams for an adult man 14.8 milligrams for adult women under 50 8.7 milligrams for a woman over 50


But, your body may need to get more iron daily. Accordingly, you should ask your doctor’s advice.

What Helps Iron Absorption?

Since vitamin C increases iron absorption, taking iron medicine with foods high in vitamin c helps absorb iron.

Foods that give plenty of ascorbic acids (vitamin needed to absorb iron) are: 

  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, and lemons) 
  • Green vegetables (broccoli, parsley, kale, and cabbage)
  • Kiwis
  • Oranges
  • Rosehip
  • Mango
  • Sweet yellow peppers
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Blackcurrants
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Persimmons
  • Cranberries
  • Watermelon

By the same token, iron absorption is enhanced by eating foods that are full of iron (heme and non-heme form). Here are the best foods for iron absorption as below:

  • Liver
  • Chicken
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Lean red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Tofu
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Nuts
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Soya

How to Take Iron Pills Without Getting Sick?

To repeat, iron is best absorbed with vitamin C and on an empty stomach. But, taking iron pills may cause stomach discomfort such as stomach cramps. 

For that reason, taking iron with food will prevent stomach discomfort and other common adverse effects like diarrhea and nausea.

Apart from the digestive discomfort, you may have an allergy to iron tablets. 

Moreover, taking iron supplements help if the root cause of anemia is iron deficiency. 

But, iron supplements can’t help with aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and vitamin deficiency anemia. Therefore, you have to consult a doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatments.

How Soon After Taking Iron Supplements Will I Feel Better?

How long does it take to get iron levels up?

It differs from person to person. But, based on users’ reports you may feel better between one to four weeks after taking ferrous sulfate.

However, your doctor may recommend taking iron for a much longer time to get the iron levels up and treat anemia. 

Most importantly, your doctor may recommend taking iron pills even after all symptoms of anemia have improved.

What are the side effects of iron supplements?

Oral iron intake can cause side effects such as stomach upset and nausea. 

But, you can prevent those side effects by taking iron supplements with your foods. 

However, do not take iron supplements with foods such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Teas
  • Cereals
  • Caffeine products

What are the side effects of iron pills ferrous sulfate?

A meta-analysis shows that iron supplements in the form of ferrous sulfate can significantly increase gastrointestinal disturbance in adults.

Should I Take Iron Supplements?

Your body can naturally get iron from foods. Taking iron supplements can help people with iron deficiency anemia. Iron medication helps manage symptoms of low iron levels like fatigue, weakness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

In short, iron medicine can help people who can’t get sufficient iron from their daily diet like vegetarians.

Even more, women may need to get extra iron during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Plus, people with an ulcer or gastrointestinal disorders need iron supplements to raise their iron levels and rebuild red blood cells.

Can You Take Too Much Iron?

Taking too much iron can cause constipation, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and you may feel sick.

Most importantly, high doses of iron can cause serious health hazards. For that reason, iron supplements must always be unaffordable for children.

In a significant overdose of iron supplements (vomiting blood, feeling unconscious, or a seizure), without doubt, call an official emergency.

How to Check Iron Levels at Home?

Since hemoglobin levels and oxygen levels are tightly related to each other, you can check iron levels at home with a hemoglobin testing kit. 

Low oxygen levels can be a sign of low levels of iron. That’s why tiredness or difficulty in breathing are symptoms of iron deficiency anemia.  

When your organs can’t get enough oxygen because of a low level of hemoglobin, the respiratory rate will increase to get more oxygen.

But, visit a doctor for tests such as serum iron test and transferrin test to measure proper iron levels.

check iron levels at home

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Fisher, A. E., & Naughton, D. P. (2004). Iron supplements: the quick fix with long-term consequences. Nutrition journal, 3, 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-3-2


Spritzler, Franziska. “12 Healthy Foods That Are High in Iron,” January 27, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-iron-rich-foods


“Iron: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.” Accessed June 26, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-912/iron

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Tolkien, Z., Stecher, L., Mander, A. P., Pereira, D. I., & Powell, J. J. (2015). Ferrous sulfate supplementation causes significant gastrointestinal side-effects in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one, 10(2), e0117383. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117383