Like most mineral nutrients, the majority of the iron absorbed from digested food sources or supplements is absorbed in the small intestine, specifically the duodenum. Iron enters the stomach where it is exposed to stomach acid and changed into a form that allows it to be easily absorbed. From there it enters the mucosal sites of the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine) where most of the iron absorption takes place.
Knowing how iron absorption takes place can be helpful in determining how to best maximize your iron intake by being mindful of the nutrients you combine.
If you are a vegetarian or avoid red meat, for example, you’ll need to maximize the amount of non-heme (plant based) iron your body will absorb.
One simple way to improve the body's absorption of non-heme iron is the addition of Vitamin C, which can be a powerful iron absorption booster. Simply adding a squeeze of lemon to your water or taking a Vitamin C supplement can help you get the most out of your iron-rich foods or iron supplements. By the same token, it's also important to be mindful of the foods and supplements you consume that could be iron inhibitors.
From your morning pick-me-up to your over-easy egg, there are a number of foods and minerals that inhibit iron absorption. Some common iron inhibiters include:
1. Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. Parenting Science. Boosting iron absorption: A guide for the science-minded. Retrieved from: http: http://www.parentingscience.com/iron-absorption.html March 7, 2012.
2. National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron. Retrieved from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron/#h8 March 7, 2012.