Is it Necessary to Take an Iron Supplement After Menopause?

Taking an iron supplement is usually only necessary for women who are still menstruating or who suffer from iron-deficiency anemia (typically caused by heavy menstrual flow or internal blood loss due to ulcers or overuse of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications). Your doctor can confirm iron-deficiency anemia with a blood test. Gastric bypass surgery can also limit your body’s ability to absorb iron.

If you are no longer menstruating, there's only a slim chance you're low on iron. We all need small amounts of iron to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in blood. However, a woman’s iron needs drop to just 8mg a day after menopause, less than half the amount required during childbearing years.

Excess Iron Can Be Harmful

If you get enough iron in your diet, and most people do, taking a supplement could actually harm your health. While excessive amounts of some other vitamin and mineral supplements are easily flushed from the body, any extra iron you get builds up in the heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs. Over time, this can lead to heart problems, liver disease, and diabetes. High iron intake is even more dangerous for people with hemochromatosis, a common genetic disorder in which the intestines absorb more iron than the body needs.

Food Sources of Iron

You’re better off getting the iron you need from food. Dark meat and seafood like oysters are the richest sources of heme iron, which is the most easily absorbed form. But there are plenty of iron-rich vegetarian options as well, such as dried beans, cooked greens, apricots, and raisins. Since these contain non-heme iron, however, they’re best eaten with foods high in vitamin C or fermented foods such as miso, yogurt, and sauerkraut, all of which form a bond with this type of iron, making it easier to absorb. Plant compounds in coffee, tea, and casein (a protein in milk), on the other hand, may impair iron absorption.

Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency

You could be low in iron if you have:

1. Fatigue     2. Lightheadedness     3. Dizziness     4. Cold hands or feet     5. Hair loss     6. Brittle nails     7. Headache         8.  Shortness of breath   9. Pale skin     10. Restless legs syndrome

If you're experiencing some of these symptoms, I suggest taking to your health care provider.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian for Healthy Goods

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