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Iron Deficiency Anemia

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If you have iron deficiency anemia, talk with your doctor about taking iron supplement pills and getting enough iron in your food each day. Iron-rich foods include meats, vegetables, and whole grains such as iron-fortified cereals.

To get the most benefit from your iron pills and the iron content of your food:

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  • Take vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or drink orange juice with your pills.
  • Steam vegetables to help them retain their iron content.

Do not take your iron pills:

  • Within 2 hours of taking antacids or tetracycline (an antibiotic).
  • With certain foods, chemicals, and nutrients. These include:
    • Tea, coffee, chocolate, and other food or beverages high in caffeine.
    • Milk and other calcium-rich foods or supplements.
    • High-fiber foods, such as bran, whole grains, nuts, and raw green vegetables.

In some people, iron supplements can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and black stool. Iron is best absorbed if taken on an empty stomach. But if you are having stomach problems, you may need to take the pills with food. If the side effects of your iron pills make you feel too sick, talk to your doctor. He or she may know of another type of iron pill you can take.

If you think you have anemia, do not take iron pills without talking with your doctor. If the iron loss is from intestinal bleeding, taking iron pills may delay the diagnosis of a serious problem such as a bleeding ulcer or colon cancer. If the anemia is not due to iron deficiency, taking iron pills will not relieve the anemia and may cause poisoning (iron toxicity) or iron overload (hemochromatosis).

Keep iron tablets out of the reach of small children. Iron poisoning can be very dangerous.

Preventing iron deficiency

You can prevent anemia in babies and children by following recommendations for feeding infants and by making sure babies and children get enough iron.

If you are pregnant, your doctor will test your iron level at your first prenatal visit, and he or she will give you prenatal vitamins that include iron (30 mg a day). If you are anemic, your doctor will give you a higher-dose pill to take.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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