Let’s have a look at the different types of food iron, different forms of supplemental iron and the latest research on iron supplementation.
The two different types of iron we get from our food is heme and non-heme iron. Heme and non-heme iron are both obtained from all animal foods. Heme iron should be readily available for absorption into our bodies.
Non-heme iron is only obtained from plants. We are not able to absorb non-heme iron as quickly and easily as heme iron. But if you are avoiding animal protein, then you can get better iron absorption with the use of vitamin C. This is particularly so when eating whole food forms of vitamin C containing bioflavonoids eg citrus foods/capsicum. Recent studies suggest that vitamin C supplementation be taken on the same day but away from iron for best effects.
There are a few different forms of iron in supplement form. Some of these are not very well absorbed at all. The various forms of iron include ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, ferric polymaltose, ferric bisglycinate/glycinate and ferrous amino acid chelate.
The least bioavailable are ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulfate and are known to cause more than a 50% chance of digestive complaints.
Bisgylcinate and amino acid chelate forms of iron are similar and are the best forms to use – we only stock these forms. Bisglycinate is the pick of the litter.
The most common side effects from iron that is not being absorbed properly are constipation and nausea.
Supplemental iron does like to compete with other minerals and medications, so taking your iron supplement away from minerals such as calcium and magnesium by around 2 hours will be of more benefit.
Recent research on taking iron supplements has showed that taking the supplement first thing of a morning and every second day will obtain better absorption than high dose every day or multiple spaced-out doses per day.
There are many reasons for iron deficiency, so it is worth investigating with your natural health practitioner if iron supplementation is not helping increase your iron levels.