Iron Supplements Are Known For Causing GI Issues — Not This One
As a dietitian, I hear all too often about people’s negative experiences1 with iron supplements. “They upset my stomach.” Or, “They changed my bathroom schedule.” This side effect is typically enough to sour someone’s perception towards these beneficial supplements and make them stop use altogether.
And that’s really concerning to me! Because many people take iron supplements after talking with a healthcare professional and/or getting bloodwork done that shows low iron status. In fact, approximately 10 million Americans are deficient in iron2 – and it's one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide.
Iron is an absolutely essential mineral. It’s responsible for making two oxygen-carrying proteins (hemoglobin and myoglobin), so low iron levels often make you feel dizzy and tired (and impact your immune health.)
But it is possible to find an iron supplement that can help keep your levels in check and not wreak havoc on your digestive system. You just need to know what to look for.
Forms of iron supplements
Supplemental iron comes in many different forms. On a supplement bottle, you may see words like:
- Ferrous sulfate
- Ferrous gluconate
- Ferrous bisglycinate chelate
- Ferric citrate
- Ferric sulfate
Without getting too much into the science here, these names refer to different chemical structures that deliver elemental iron into your system.
Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN previously told us that chelated minerals "require less stomach acid to be absorbed and tend to have a better absorption rate, so that, even when there is less stomach acid, there tends to be less upset."
How much iron you take at a time has also been shown to impact the GI system. An incorrect dose may lead some people to feel queasy or blocked up.
That’s pretty high considering the daily recommended amount of iron for men and women ranges from 8 to 18 milligrams daily—with women encouraged to reach the higher end of that range. Pregnant women need even more (27 milligrams daily) because of the significant increase in blood volume during this time.
But if you’ve had insufficient or deficient iron levels or other indicators of low iron (e.g., hemoglobin, hematocrit, ferritin, etc.), there’s a decent chance a healthcare professional recommended taking a high dose approach. For example, a healthcare professional may recommend 325 mg of ferrous sulfate (which delivers 65 milligrams of elemental iron, which is the the clinical consensus dose for correcting truly low iron) for the short-term until sufficiency is achieved and then a lower maintenance dose after that.
In these scenarios when a higher dose may be recommended, consider starting with a lower amount and slowly increasing it to figure out your threshold.
Multivitamins that contain iron (and not all of them do), provide much smaller amounts, typically about 50-100% of the daily recommended amount4. Iron-containing multis are a great choice for folks to provide an effective amount of iron to help raise insufficient levels or maintain optimal ones while optimizing your intake of other micronutrients.*
mindbodygreen’s ultimate multivitamin+
Due to iron’s pivotal role in health, we made sure to include an effective dose of 9 milligrams of ferrous bisglycinate chelate iron in ultimate multivitamin+.*
Many multivitamins exclude iron (and other minerals like calcium and magnesium) purely because the ingredients themselves take up a lot of space in capsules and can be expensive when premium chelated ingredients are used.
Multivitamins also don’t always have a positive reputation for being gentle on the stomach (due to potent doses of multiple ingredients that aren't in their most gentle form).
But our customers agree that's not a problem with ultimate multivitamin+—here's what they have to say about how easy this effective formula is on the stomach:
I can take this on an empty stomach
“I love this vitamin because it doesn't upset my stomach when I take it on an empty stomach which many vitamins do!”
Easy on the stomach
“I am so happy I tried this vitamin. It is easy on the stomach and I combine it with other vitamins and feel the difference. Will be ordering them again.”*
A breeze to take
“What I really like about these is that even though they are bigger capsules they for me are easy to swallow. They are also very easy on my stomach!”
I finally don’t feel queasy with this supplement
“I am extremely sensitive to multivitamins. I have not been able to tolerate any, and I have tried so many. Until now! I currently only take a half dose right now, but plan to progress and test a full dose later. I have absolutely no issue with the half dose which is a huge victory for me.”
Iron can be a tricky mineral to supplement with, and many people have had not-so-great past experiences with it.
But most people could use some support with getting enough iron in their diet, and a high-quality multi with iron—like ultimate multivitamin+—is a comprehensive, well-rounded choice for most people.
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and mindbodygreen's supplements editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and enjoys connecting people to the food they eat and how it influences health and wellbeing.