Do iron supplements cause constipation? And should you stop taking them?
Do you know that 49% of children in Pakistan are deficient in iron, according to the United Nations? Due to the lack of access to good nutrition and nutrition education, children and adults in Pakistan fail to get the required amount of essential nutrients. This makes strategies like fortification and supplementation all the more critical. But do you know that too can go wrong? Excessive intake of nutrients like iron can cause some side effects, constipation being considered the most common one. But do iron supplements cause constipation?
Iron supplements are commonly prescribed to individuals with iron deficiency anaemia or those who require an extra boost of iron in their bodies. While these supplements can effectively address iron deficiency and improve overall health, they may also come with certain side effects that you should be aware of.
Why Are Iron Supplements Important?
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in transporting oxygen throughout the body and supporting overall health. Iron supplements come in various forms, such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous fumarate, and are often prescribed to individuals with low iron levels.
Iron supplements can provide several health benefits, including increased energy levels, improved cognitive function, and enhanced immune function. They are particularly crucial for pregnant women and individuals with chronic conditions affecting iron absorption.
Do Iron Supplements Cause Constipation?
Taking iron supplements can cause various side effects, like inhibiting calcium absorption. But do iron supplements cause constipation? One of the potential side effects of iron supplements is constipation. Iron can slow down the movement of stool through the digestive tract, leading to dry, hard stools and difficulty passing them. This effect can be concerning, especially for those who are already prone to constipation.
How Do Iron Supplements Cause Constipation?
The exact mechanism of how do iron supplements cause constipation is not fully understood, but several factors contribute to it:
- Reduced Gut Motility: Iron has been shown to slow down the movement of the gastrointestinal tract, known as gut motility, in various research studies. This reduction in gut motility can lead to longer transit times for food and waste material in the intestines, resulting in constipation.
- Formation of Insoluble Compounds: Iron supplements can form insoluble complexes with other dietary components, such as dietary fibre and phytates. These complexes are not easily absorbed in the intestines and can contribute to constipation.
- Oxidative Stress: High levels of iron in the intestines can lead to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage the cells lining the intestines and disrupt their normal functioning, possibly leading to constipation.
- Changes in Gut Microbiota: Iron supplementation may alter gut microbiota composition, which can influence gut motility and overall gastrointestinal function. Dysbiosis caused by changes in gut microbiota has been associated with constipation.
It is important to note that not everyone experiences constipation as a side effect of iron supplements, and the severity of constipation can vary from person to person. If you experience constipation while taking iron supplements, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate advice and potential adjustments to the supplementation.
Factors Contributing to Constipation
Several factors can contribute to constipation while taking iron supplements. These include:
- Dosage: Higher doses of iron supplements may increase the risk of constipation. It is essential to take the prescribed dosage as a healthcare professional directs.
- Individual Sensitivity: Each individual may respond differently to iron supplements. Some people may be more prone to constipation than others.
- Hydration: Inadequate hydration can exacerbate constipation. It is crucial to drink plenty of water while taking iron supplements.
- Dietary Habits: A diet low in fibre and high in processed foods can contribute to constipation. Incorporating fibre-rich foods can help promote regular bowel movements.
How To Manage Constipation While Taking Iron Supplements?
Now that you have an answer to do iron supplements cause constipation? Fortunately, there are several ways to manage constipation while taking iron supplements:
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can soften stools and make them easier to pass.
- Fibre-Rich Diet: Consuming foods high in fibre, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can promote bowel regularity.
- Take with Food: If the iron supplement causes stomach upset, taking it with food can help reduce discomfort.
- Probiotics: Probiotic supplements or foods can support gut health and may help alleviate constipation.
What Are Alternative Sources of Iron?
Alternative iron sources are available for those who find it challenging to tolerate iron supplements. Foods rich in iron, such as lean meats, legumes, leafy greens, and fortified cereals, can naturally boost iron levels without causing constipation.
So, do iron supplements cause constipation? Yes, they do. But there are a number of ways which you can opt for to prevent this. The best way to treat constipation is to take Ez-Col. Ez-Col is made from senna leaf extract, which is an FDA-approved treatment for constipation, providing relief within 6 to 12 hours.
So don’t let your iron stores deplete in fear of getting constipated!