Anemia refers to a group of conditions that reduce your blood’s capacity to carry oxygen to important organs, like the brain, muscles and heart. Untreated anemia is a very serious medical problem: it can cause or worsen heart failure; it can cause heart attacks; it can cause abnormal heart beats; it can increase your risk of falls; and, it can even cause death.
There are several types of anemia. The three most common types:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia (Rarely, a metformin side effect).
- Folic acid deficiency anemia.
Each type of anemia requires a different treatment plan.
How Do I Treat Iron-deficiency Anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia occurs when hemoglobin, the protein in your blood that is responsible for carrying oxygen, loses it’s iron content. Iron is an essential part of the protein; it attracts the oxygen to hemoglobin.
If you have iron deficiency anemia, you’ll experience fatigue and/or dizziness. As other types of anemia present with identical symptoms, you must do a blood test to confirm a diagnosis. Please do not wait to see your doctor if you’re experiencing unusual fatigue or dizziness. Iron deficiency anemia symptoms may the first indicators of serious medical conditions, like colon cancer and celiac disease.
Once your doctor confirms a diagnosis, you can treat iron deficiency anemia with iron supplements. 50mg of elemental iron three times daily is the usual dose. Take the iron tablets for 3-6 months, until your hemoglobin and iron levels return to normal.
What are the Side Effects of Iron Tablets?
Although the side effects of iron supplementation are not serious, they are bothersome
- Heartburn is common. If you experience acid reflux, consider taking Tums (calcium carbonate) for heartburn
- Constipation is also common. Strategies for preventing constipation include increasing your water and fiber intake. You may want to take a stool softener, like Colace, too.
If the above side effect prevention strategies don’t work for you, consider reducing your iron dose. With a lowered dose, you may need to take iron tablets for a longer time, though.
“Enteric coated” and “sustained release” iron tablets are touted as less-irritating alternatives. In our opinion, these products are over-priced, and are likely harder for your body to absorb. Stick with the cheaper supplements.
Are Iron Tablets Safe for Pregnant Women?
Yes. In fact, iron is an important component of prenatal care.
- Separate doses of iron from doses of antacids, antibiotics or Parkinson’s medications by at least two hours.
- If you’re experiencing persistent side effects of iron tablets, don’t hesitate to titrate your dose to the recommended dose.
- The “best” iron tablet for iron deficiency anemia is the cheapest tablet.
- If iron supplements don’t work for you, consider taking birth control pills (if you’re a women!). They can reduce blood loss due to menstruation. Birth control pills have more side effects (like blood clots) than iron supplements, though.