Taking an Iron Supplement? Experts Explain How to Time It So the Pill Is Properly Absorbed

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If you’ve been diagnosed with an iron deficiency, your doctor may have recommended that you begin taking an iron supplement in order to get your levels within a healthy range. Of course, you want to make sure you’re taking iron pills in a way that will maximize absorption, because the most common symptoms of iron deficiency — including fatigue, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, headache, and brittle nails — can be unpleasant, to say the least. We asked experts for some tips for getting the most out of each supplement.

When Is the Best Time to Take Iron?

“It is best to take iron supplements on any empty stomach,” Minh Nghi, DO, internist with Texas Health Physicians Group, told POPSUGAR. “This will maximize absorption.”

Kara Dionisio, ND, BSc, MSc, naturopathic doctor and clinic director of Health Squad, added that taking iron at bedtime can help prevent you from noticing any stomach discomfort it might cause. Fortunately, “tolerance to iron usually improves over a few weeks,” Dr. Dionisio told POPSUGAR. She noted that new research suggests that taking iron every other day, instead of on consecutive days, may increase absorption by 34 percent, so you should discuss your dosing schedule with your doctor.

Can I Take Iron With Other Medications or Vitamins?

To boost iron absorption, both experts recommend taking iron with vitamin C, like orange juice. However, you shouldn’t take iron with milk or antacids, because iron is best absorbed in an acidic environment, Dr. Nghi explained. You should also avoid taking iron with coffee, black tea, dairy (including milk, yogurt, and cheese), and other minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, curcumin, or fiber supplements, as Dr. Dionisio said these will interfere with iron therapy.

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