Iron Supplements for Falling Hair and Brittle Nails

Ever considered iron supplements? Perhaps you should, particularly if you have problems with thin hair or brittle nails! This is all because iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells and a strong immune system. A deficiency limits oxygen delivery to cells which can result in fatigue and a compromised immune system.

Sources of iron

There are two different types of iron, heme which comes from animal produce and nonheme which is derived entirely from plants. About 15% to 35% of heme iron in the food is absorbed by the body whereas only 2% to 20% of nonheme iron in the food consumed is absorbed.

Foods that contain heme iron include red meats, chicken, chicken liver, calves liver, pork, clams, shrimp and fish including halibut and fresh tuna. Nonheme iron can be found in many plant foods including beans such as lima, navy, black and pinto, blackstrap molasses, raw tofu, green leafy vegetables and raisins. Vitamin A helps utilise the iron from storage sites although in developed countries, a lack of vitamin A is not often encountered.

Foods that help and hinder iron intake

Some foods deplete the iron stores in the body and some work against the absorption of it. The tannin in a cup of green or black tea (not herbal tea) reduces your iron stores with every cup taken. Phytates, found in high fibre foods like bran will also decrease iron stores.

Iron absorption in the body increases when the body’s storage is low and decreases when storage is high. This is the body’s natural way of trying to avoid toxicity due to an overdose of the mineral.

Do I need to take iron supplements

You should consider taking iron if you fall into any of these categories:

  • you are pregnant
  • you have heavy menstrual periods
  • you have thinning, falling hair
  • you have brittle nails

The World Health Organisation considers iron deficiency the number one nutritional disorder in the world. So do think about whether you should take supplements!

How to take iron supplements

Vitamin E shouldn’t ideally be taken at the same time as iron as they will cancel each other out. Calcium also impedes iron intake.

Despite this, iron, calcium and vitamin E are often sold together in a multi vitamin. If you can, you should try to find supplements where these are separate and you should take iron at the other end of the day from taking vitamin E and calcium.

If you feel you are particularly short of iron, tae a separate course at least 3 hours after a conflicting vitamin or mineral (eg calcium, vitamin E).

It is hard for the body to absorb iron without vitamin C in the body and this vitamin should ideally be taken at the same time as iron rich foods.

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