Relation Between Iron Supplements and Constipation

Have you ever observed that after taking some supplements prescribed by your doctor, you stool may have become reddish in color, or harder to pass and you feel constipated?  You have most likely been prescribed Iron supplements.  Iron supplements are frequently given to specific set of people for health reasons. Usually such supplements are given on the advice of the doctors when they feel that patients is lacking in mineral Iron in their blood. Irons helps in maintaining good overall health but at the same time there are been many known side effects of Iron when taken as supplements. Let us understand the role of iron, its side effects and how to avoid or minimize the side effects.

Role of Iron in Our Body
Iron plays an important function in the body and it is also an essential part of the blood. Iron is essential part of the blood component called hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is the portion of the blood which carries out the most important function of the circulatory system – carrying Oxygen in the blood and returning back the Carbon Dioxide back from the cells.

Oxygen we breathe can get bound to hemoglobin and thus carried to all the cells when blood reaches them. When the blood reaches the cells, tissues and muscles, the oxygen is transferred to the cells.  If iron is lacking in the hemoglobin or the blood, oxygen would not be bound and cells would become oxygen deficient and begin to die.  Similarly when cells have used up the Oxygen and transformed it into Carbon Dioxide it needs to be carried back to the Lungs with the help of blood hemoglobin so that it can be expelled.  If Carbon Dioxide is not disposed efficiently then we will suffer from many serious diseases due to increase in toxins in the blood.

Iron also helps in enhancing the action of many enzymes which help in digestion process.  When we are lacking in Iron it can cause Anemia which causes weakness and lack of energy.  It also helps in keeping us alert and due to that it can cause slow learning ability when we lack in iron.  Iron is also vital part of bone marrow which creates the blood in the body.

However it has been observed that there is direct relationship between Iron supplements and constipation in most people.  Let us see some more details on this issue.

When is Iron Supplements Prescribed

Although Iron is the most commonly available mineral in the earth still we can become deficient in this mineral. This can be caused due to many factors.  For example in menstruating women due to heavy blood loss they can become Iron deficient.  Similar is the case for teenage girls.  Pregnant ladies also develop anemia since they need more blood for the baby and may not have sufficient amount of Red Blood Cells for the increased amount of blood.

Some people are not able to able to absorb the Iron properly and they can also become Iron deficient.  This can happen in elderly people and also in babies who are not breastfeeding.  People who take animal meat have better Iron content since that is easier to absorb in the body as compared to Iron from plant sources.  You may also end up losing Iron through urination and sweating and hence people who do very heavy exercise can loose Iron faster.

To compensate for the Iron loss or lack of proper Iron absorption doctors prescribe Iron supplements.  The most common side effects of Iron supplements is constipation and that is one of the reasons for constipation during pregnancy since pregnant ladies are often prescribed Iron supplements.

How Does Iron Supplement Cause Constipation


Studies have shown that iron can slow down the digestive system and many times contributes to slow down of the bowel movements.  Iron in raw form and in too much quantity irritates the bowels and also affects the nerves and the muscles.  When there is excess Iron than what can be absorbed naturally it also affects the intestines and the Liver function.  This can lead to constipation of diarrhea.  It can also cause other side effects like dark colored stools, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain.

How To Avoid Constipation and Stomach Problems Caused By Iron Supplements

Since Iron supplement frequently cause constipation and sometimes diarrhea here are some precautions to take.  Always take the supplement with food so that it will not irritate the intestines and cause bowel problems.

You should divide the supplements in portions ideally thrice a day so that it can be absorbed better as body cannot absorb too much or Iron in a short while.  Preferably take in liquid form instead of pills as you can directly control the quantity.  Also taking the Iron in natural form increases the absorption and does not have the side effects since they are  least constipating form of iron source. Some of the food which are Iron rich are Banana, Apples, Soybeans, oatmeal and iron-fortified cereals.

How to Improve the Absorption of Iron In Body

Vitamin C has been observed to increase the absorption of Iron.  Therefore you can take more Citrus fruits which will help as they contain lots of Vitamin C.  Example of citrus fruits include, lemon, lime or Oranges.  For those who take meat may take red meat and Liver in moderate quantities.  Also take food when you take the supplements so that it can be absorbed better.  In case of supplements if that is causing constipation frequently you can ask you doctor about reducing the dosage so that it can minimize the chances of bowels problems.

A Natural Solution for Iron Deficiency and Constipation

We would also suggest Amla powder as supplement (click to buy Amla here) since this fruit is the best known source of Vitamin C.  Since Vitamin C increases the Iron absorption, if you take this fruit juice or powder it will help you absorb the Iron in a better manner and avoid the supplement related constipation.  The best part is this is also a mild and natural laxative and increases the hemoglobin content and can be taken by pregnant ladies also.  For more information read Amla for Constipation Relief.

The optimal solution would be to ensure that you take Iron in more natural form so that you are not deficient and can avoid the complications like constipation which happen when we take Iron supplements.

Back to Top