The problem with iron supplements

iron supplement

The problem with iron supplements

iron supplement

I see a definite pattern with the children that come to see me.

Many of them will have been to see a GP or gastroenterologist about their health issues.

A lot of them will have been told to take oral iron supplements.

And only a few of them will actually have had their iron levels checked, and been diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia.

Because iron is good…..right?

Not necessarily. There are side effects of iron supplements.

If you are not actually low in iron, taking an iron supplement can be very harmful.

For a start, your child could have haemochromatosis. This is a condition of iron overload, and the symptoms mimic iron deficiency.

But a more common issue is the detrimental effect taking an iron supplement can have on your child’s gut health, and I don’t just mean constipation.

Affect of iron supplements on gut health

Studies have shown that giving iron supplements to young children will skew their microbiome in the wrong direction.

  1. It will decrease Bifidobacterium (a very beneficial bacteria in your gut)
  2. It will increase harmful bacterial like pathogenic E. Coli and Clostridia
  3. It will increase calprotectin – a measure of gut inflammation

If you think your child needs an iron supplement…

  1. Test their iron levels on blood test or Hair Tissue Mineral analysis. A blood test may be free from your doctor. If your child hasn’t had a blood test before, just use a numbing cream before you go for the blood draw.
  2. Work with a practitioner (like us!) who is going to help determine the root cause of low iron. This might be a bacterial overgrowth, a parasite, effect of medication or just a plain old lack of iron in the diet.
  3. Increase iron containing foods. Always start with food. It is absorbed differently to supplemental iron, and doesn’t carry the same risk. If your child doesn’t eat meat, speak with me about the appointments we offer for fussy eaters.
  4. Take a probiotic proven to help iron absorption
  5. Take a low dose iron supplement if necessary. I prescribe iron every week. I am not ‘anti’ iron supplements. But I never prescribe without testing levels first, and I always prescribe low-moderate doses whilst working on the root cause.

PMID: 25143342

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