If you've read about my story or have viewed my videos on getyourironup.com or on YouTube, then you know that I struggle with Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA). My diagnosis came at the age of 16 but full understanding and acceptance came many years later. Now at the age of 48, and after nearly having a heart attack due to the trace amounts of iron in my system, I am learning all I can about IDA. In fact, my friends joke and call me the "Iron Queen." They all know that I won't let a single opportunity slip by to use what I have learned to educate and warn others about the dangers of IDA.
Despite what I now know about IDA, I will readily admit that I have been a victim of what I like to call the "Anemia Cycle." The numerous stories I hear from other IDA patients let me know that I am not alone. This is how it goes – symptoms, testing (hopefully a full iron panel), diagnosis, iron pills, SIDE EFFECTS, discontinued use of iron pills, denial, anemia doesn't improve…anemia worsens. Sound familiar?
I have tried more oral iron supplements than I can begin to count and the side effects (constipation, extreme stomach pain and/or diarrhea) have almost always been so unpleasant that I all but stopped taking them and went into denial. Also, when I did take the supplements, I was taking them in the wrong way. I was a big tea and coffee drinker and the tannin contained in both were blocking my iron absorption. Bioavailability is a huge factor in iron absorption that is not well known. There are many things that you should and should not take along with your iron supplement.
The most commonly asked question at getyourironup.com is, “Which oral iron supplement should I take to combat my IDA?” I wish that I had a simple answer for that but I am still searching for the perfect one. First and foremost, you and your physician have to know the underlying cause of your anemia before you can establish a treatment plan.
According to the Iron Disorders Institute’s “Guide to Anemia,” the most commonly recommended types of oral iron supplements are ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate and carbonyl iron, all of which are non-heme types of iron and are available over-the-counter. The names are confusing and difficult to remember to say the least, and if you are not a medical professional, it takes a good bit of research to understand the differences between them. Heme-based iron pills are not so commonly found over the counter, but can be obtained with a prescription. I encourage you to read about iron deficiency anemia, anemia of chronic disease and the diet for iron deficiency with or without anemia before taking iron pills.
As I write, I am excited to report that I’m having some pretty great results from a new oral iron supplement I am trying – at least it is new to me. I am anxious to have my next iron panel done in a few weeks so that I can compare my current ferritin (stored iron) to that of my last labs. Given that my ferritin was at “2” and should be somewhere between 50 and 150, I guess it has nowhere to go but up, right? I promise to keep you posted and share the results – and hopefully the product – very soon!
I would love to hear about YOUR experiences with oral iron supplements. Please feel free to leave a comment or send an email.
Until next month, stay healthy and get your iron up!
Posted on Wed, September 25, 2013
by Ronnetta Griffin