Most people are familiar with the element iron (symbol Fe in the periodic table), which is one of the Earth’s most abundant and useful metals.
Iron is a core component of the alloy known as steel, and you use iron every day if you drive a car! Iron is a building block in the architecture all around us, as well as a building block of all plant and animal life.
Dietary iron is readily available through many types of food. However, nutritional deficiencies, increased iron needs and poor absorption of dietary iron mean that some people aren’t able to get adequate iron from their diets alone. For these reasons, iron deficiency is the #1 most common nutritional deficiency in the United States.
Iron is vital for maintaining energy levels and good health in general because it is an important part of your blood’s hemoglobin. Hemoglobin (in your red blood cells) helps supply your body’s cells with oxygen, so when you are low in iron, your body may not be getting the oxygen it needs. The end result is that you may feel tired, sluggish and worn out.
Iron supplements are recommended by doctors when dietary intake of iron cannot restore a person’s iron levels to normal in a satisfactory timeframe. However, the dose of iron your physician prescribes depends on your current storage level of iron, hemoglobin and the type of iron they want you to take.
Some forms of iron are better absorbed than others and therefore the dose prescribed depends on the type of iron. In addition, your doctor may recommend that you start with a smaller dose of iron and gradually increase the dose to minimize side effects.
1. Jefferson Lab. The Periodic Table of Elements: The Element Iron. Retrieved from: http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele026.html March 8, 2012.
2. National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron. Retrieved from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron/ March 8, 2012.