Iron

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Gentle Iron, a better solution

Nov 9, 2000 (Updated Nov 9, 2000)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Boosts iron levels, helps treat anemia, no side effects

Cons:Potentially toxic - must be kept out of reach of children.

Most people don't need iron supplements. In fact, too much iron can be harmful to your health. Some people even have to avoid the common sources of dietary iron, because they have a genetic predisposition to over absorb and store excess iron. I feel it's necessary to include that caution before going further, because I want to make the point that you really shouldn't take an iron supplement unless you have a demonstrated need for iron. There are some symptoms which can give you a clue that you need to be tested: fatigue, shortness of breath, and learning problems in children.

A simple blood test called a CBC, or complete blood count, gives the first evidence of need for iron. From that, your health care provider can tell the number and size of your red blood cells. What's size got to do with it? People with iron deficiency may have a normal number of red cells, but they may be too small. It's also possible to have normal-sized red cells, but too few of them. Either condition is called anemia. The causes tend to be different, though.

If your red cells are too small, one common cause is iron deficiency. If you have too few red cells, your doctor may want to do some additional tests to find out why. You may simply not be getting enough iron, but you may have some unrecognized bleeding, or your body may be destroying red cells for some reason. It's important to find out why, so that the underlying condition can be addressed rather than simply treating a symptom. Pre-menopausal women may loose too much blood during their menstrual cycle, leading to anemia from that cause. Some doctors treat this with birth control pills, rather than iron substitutes as it treats the underlying cause.

Another possible cause of anemia is GI bleeding (stomach or intestine). This could be something as simple as irritation from aspirin, ibuprofen, etc - or it could be from an ulcer, esophageal varices (varicose veins), hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, or even cancer somewhere in the GI system. If your bowel movements are black, and you're not already taking iron supplements, GI bleeding is quite likely and must be investigated. Dark green or black bowel movements are common when iron supplements are taken. This is because you can’t generally absorb all the iron and it passes on through. Unfortunately, iron supplements can cause GI bleeding in some people. If your bowel movements are sticky and black in color, or if there are red streaks (visible blood), call your doctor ASAP. Either would be a definite sign of GI bleeding and must be investigated. All causes of GI bleeding are treatable, but it takes a doctor to make the diagnosis.

A deficiency of certain vitamins can also contribute to anemia. This is commonly due to a deficient diet or eating disorder, but may be a result of certain medical conditions which cause poor absorption of nutrients. Anemia can also be a symptom of lead poisoning - particularly in young children.

Iron is necessary for good health, but it is also one of the more dangerous dietary supplements. It is among the most common causes of accidental overdose in children. It is also among the most lethal. If too much iron is ingested, treatment must begin immediately.

If you’re still with me, I want to tell you about a different kind of iron supplement. In general, I believe that generic formulations are as good as brand names, and similar products will have similar results. In this case, though, I’ve found an iron supplement that has proven very effective for me, without the usual side effects of iron supplements.

The brand name I’m using is Gentle Iron from Solgar. It contains Iron Bisglycinate. There may be other brands with the same iron compound and there may be other chelated iron products that are as effective and gentle as this product. You’ll have to read the labels. I definitely recommend a chelated iron product over the conventional supplements. So far, I’ve seen no change in the color of my bowel movements, so I suspect I’m absorbing more of the iron than I would from another supplement. I also haven’t experienced the constipation which is so typical of other iron supplements (and my major reason for avoiding them). It doesn’t upset my stomach, either. Best of all, despite the fact that I’m currently receiving chemotherapy, my hematocrit went from 31 to 35 in under 2 weeks, so I can say that it was very effective for me, too.

You may not be able to find a chelated iron product in your local grocery store or pharmacy. I found mine in a local health food store. It’s also available on-line at Drugstore.com and at Vitamins.com (today, the price is lower at Vitamins.com) . The price is higher than for conventional supplements, but at just over $6 for 90 capsules, that’s still less than $2/month. I consider that a bargain for the effect I’ve gotten and the side effects I haven’t had.

This product is NOT less toxic than other iron compounds. In fact, I seem to be absorbing it far better than others, so I would consider it more likely to cause toxicity in case of an overdose . The bottle does have a “child resistant” cap, but we all know how useful those are sometimes -- keep it out of reach of children.

Gentle Iron is a vegetable based product.
From the Drugstore.com web site:
Solgar's Gentle Iron® Vegicaps® are free of corn, yeast, wheat, soy and dairy products and are formulated without the use of preservatives, artificial flavors or colors.


Certain foods and medications can affect the absorption of iron. Generally, anything high in calcium (dairy products, spinach, antacids, etc) will decrease absorption. Vitamin C and fruit juices can help increase absorption. Iron is absorbed better on an empty stomach, but it can be irritating to the stomach lining, so you may need to take it with food -- just avoid those dairy products. In researching this review, one thing came as a surprise to me, tea and coffee can also decrease your absorption of iron.

For more information on Iron Deficiency and Iron supplements, see the National Institute of health web site at:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/ironsupplementssystemic202305.html#CATEGORY.SEC


Recommend this product? Yes

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