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  • Iron

    General Information

    Iron is an essential mineral for the human body and plays an important role in the delivery of oxygen to vital organs. Foods rich in iron include beef, liver, and lamb. Other food sources of iron include seafood, nuts, beans, lentils, cereals, and grain products.

    Common Name(s)


    Scientific Name(s)


    How is this product usually used?

    Iron is taken by mouth. It is available in chewable (e.g., gummies, tablets), caplet, capsule, strip, lozenge, powder, and liquid form.

    The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron to maintain good health depends on a person’s age, sex, whether they have passed menopause, and whether or not they are pregnant or breast-feeding. Higher daily consumption of iron is recommended for premenopausal women, particularly if they are pregnant. Individuals who have iron deficiencies often require a much higher daily iron dose than the RDAs depending on how deficient their iron stores are.

    Table 1. RDAs for iron (4)






    0-6 months

    0.27 mg*

    0.27 mg*



    7-12 months

    11 mg

    11 mg



    1-3 years

    7 mg

    7 mg



    4-8 years

    10 mg

    10 mg



    9-13 years

    8 mg

    8 mg



    14-18 years

    11 mg

    15 mg

    27 mg

    10 mg

    19-50 years

    8 mg

    18 mg

    27 mg

    9 mg

    >51 years

    8 mg

    8 mg



    * Adequate intake

    Iron is best absorbed when taken with juice (containing vitamin C) on empty stomach; however, it can be taken with food if you experience stomach upset. If iron must be taken with food because of stomach side effects, do not take iron with calcium-rich foods such as dairy products.
    Iron supplements should be taken a few hours before or after taking other medications.

    What is this product used for?

    Iron is used as part of maintaining good health. Iron is also used by people to help increase the number of red blood cells and improve their function.

    Iron has been found to be effective in treating iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. Iron has also been shown to benefit people with anemia linked to chronic kidney failure or chemotherapy.

    People have also used iron to prevent cough linked to taking an ACE inhibitor medication (e.g., captopril, enalapril, ramipril) or to improve learning and performance in iron-deficient children. However, there is insufficient reliable data to support these uses and additional studies are needed to confirm the benefits of iron in these conditions.

    At doses above the RDA, iron is used by people to help prevent iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. At doses of 16 mg to 20 mg of iron supplement per day, it is used to help pregnant women meet their recommended intake for iron, when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet.

    Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

    What else should I be aware of?

    The most common side effects of iron include stomach irritation or pain, heartburn, constipation, dark stools, urine discoloration, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Taking iron with food is recommended to help reduce these side effects. Liquid iron can stain teeth black.

    Iron may interfere with the following foods and medications:

    • antacids
    • bisphosphonates (e.g., alendronate, etidronate, risedronate)
    • dairy products
    • H2 antagonists (e.g., ranitidine)
    • levodopa
    • levothyroxine
    • methyldopa
    • mycophenolate mofetil
    • proton pump inhibitors (e.g., omeprazole)
    • quinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, norfloxacin)
    • tetracycline antibiotics (e.g., doxycycline, minocycline)

    All iron products should be kept out of the reach of children because taking too much iron could seriously harm a child.

    You should see your doctor before taking iron if you have a stomach or intestinal condition (e.g., ulcer, ulcerative colitis), history of kidney/liver diseases, or family history of heart disease or diabetes. You should also consult your health care professionals if you are pregnant or breast-feeding or diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, as the daily required amount of iron can be significantly increased during these periods.

    Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist or other health care provider. Tell your health care practitioner about any natural health products you may be taking.


  • Health Canada. Licensed Natural Health Products. Iron. Available: (Accessed 2 July 2014)
  • Iron monograph. Natural Standard Database. (Accessed 2 July 2014).
  • Iron. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Available: (Accessed 24 August 2011)
  •  Iron. National Institutes of Health. Available: (Accessed 2 July 2014)
  • Ferrous Gluconate. Lexicomp. Available: (Accessed 2 July 2014)