Oh Good, It Turns Out That We’ve Been Taking Iron Supplements All Wrong

Vitamins are simple enough, right? Take one a day, with food, and the more you do it, the better you’ll feel overall?

Well, according to one NHS doctor, when it comes to iron supplements... not so much.

Dr Karan Rangarajan, more commonly known as Karan Rajan, is an NHS surgeon and TikTok creator that spoke over the weekend about iron deficiencies and what we can do to help ourselves.

What you need to know about increasing your iron intake

Dr Rajan opened with: “you can’t eat your way out of a true iron deficiency.”

While there are iron-rich foods such as spinach, replenishing your iron levels through these alone will not be effective.

The surgeon said to restore iron stores from a state of deficiency, you’d need around 100-200g of elemental iron per day, every day, for several weeks or longer.

To put that into context, he said: “That’s the equivalent of eating six kilos of cooked chickpeas or five kilos of beef every single day.”

While he assures that diet can be adjunct to treat iron deficiency, you’ll most likely need iron supplements.

He added that if you do take supplements, taking them every other day is more effective than taking them every day. This is because alternate day dosage improves iron absorption more than daily dosing.

He did urge, however, that if you have an iron deficiency, it’s important to get down to the root cause otherwise you’re just “papering over the cracks.”

If you are going to start taking iron supplements, Medical News Today warns: “iron supplements may cause or worsen constipation”.

“Experts suggest that unabsorbed iron in the gut may cause stools to harden and other gastrointestinal side effects, such as pain and bloating.”

If this occurs, speak to your GP.

Signs of iron deficiency 

According to the NHS, symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia can include:

  • tiredness and lack of energy

  • shortness of breath

  • noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)

  • paler than usual skin

  • headaches

  • hearing ringing, buzzing or hissing noises inside your head (tinnitus)

  • food tasting strange

  • feeling itchy

  • a sore tongue

  • hair loss – you notice more hair coming out when brushing or washing it

  • wanting to eat non-food items, such as paper or ice (pica)

  • finding it hard to swallow (dysphagia)

  • painful open sores (ulcers) in the corners of your mouth

  • nail changes, such as spoon-shaped nails

  • restless legs syndrome