Do Iron Supplements Cause Constipation?

Iron is an important mineral that your body needs for growth and development. In fact, iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body's tissues and organs (via LIVESTRONG). While most people get enough iron through their diet, some people, like those with iron-deficiency anemia, may require a higher daily intake of iron. As a result, it's not uncommon for people who are iron deficient to take supplements. However, most iron supplements typically contain way more iron than you actually need.

For example, the recommended daily allowance of iron is 18 milligrams for women under 50 and 8 milligrams for men, while the average iron supplement contains 65 milligrams or 360% of your daily value, per LIVESTRONG. Because iron can be hard on the digestive tract, consuming this much iron can lead to constipation. In some cases, iron supplements can even cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

How to add more iron to your diet

Fortunately, you don't necessarily need to take iron supplements to get more iron in your diet. You can improve your health and help prevent anemia by eating more iron-rich foods, per Healthline. For instance, red meat is nutritious and relatively high in iron. According to a 2016 review published in Nutrients, iron deficiency may be less common among people who eat beef, chicken, and fish. Just one 3.5-ounce serving of ground beef contains 2.7 milligrams of iron, which provides 15% of the daily value for iron (via Healthline).

Legumes are also a great source of iron. In addition to being heart-healthy, legumes are packed full of important nutrients, like iron and potassium. Some common legumes include lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas. A single cup of cooked lentils contains a whopping 6.6 milligrams of iron. This accounts for 37% of the daily value of iron. Other nonmeat iron-rich foods include liver, pumpkin seeds, spinach, tofu, and broccoli (via Healthline). However, if you do think you need iron supplements, you should consult a doctor before taking anything.