Iron deficiency may be managed with an iron-rich diet, iron supplements and high dose IV iron.

Overcoming Iron Deficiency

Making sure you and your family stay healthy and safe is of paramount importance to you.
Here are three treatment options you can pursue to overcome iron deficiency:

1. Diet – Getting the iron you need, every day1

Our daily supply of iron comes from two kinds of naturally occurring iron in foods – heme and non-heme. Heme is a large source of dietary iron mostly found in animal proteins, and is more easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron is less readily absorbed by the body and usually comes from dairy foods, eggs, and all plant-based foods.

Animal protein is a combination of heme and non-heme

Dairy and eggs are non-heme

Plant foods are non-heme only

What should I eat to get the iron I need?2

On average, a woman needs around 18mg of iron on a daily basis. When you’re pregnant, that percentage goes up considerably to around 27mg a day.

Foods rich in non-heme iron – less easily absorbed by the body

Apricot (dried)

Baked beans

Black eyed beans

Wholemeal bread

Breakfast cereals

Cashew nuts

Chickpeas

Cumin, turmeric and thyme

Edamame (soya bean)

Figs (dried)

Kale

Mung beans

Parsley

Prunes

Raisins and sultanas

Red kidney beans

Spaghetti (whole wheat)

Spinach

Watercress

Spring onions

Swiss chard

Tofu

Walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds

Foods rich in heme iron – easily absorbed by the body

Beef

Lamb

Salmon

Tinned tuna

Chicken

Pork

2. Oral iron supplements3-4

What are the pros and cons of oral iron supplements?

Pros

Oral iron supplements are usually the first-line of treatment against iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia as they are a simple, effective, low cost treatment option.

Cons

It takes a long time, up to six months usually, for the benefits of oral iron medication to be seen. Oral iron supplements may have gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation and dark stools.

3. Intravenous iron3-4

Intravenous iron is a procedure where iron is administered though the vein into the body. It is commonly known as iron infusion.

Who should receive intravenous iron therapy?

  • Those with moderate to severe iron deficiency anaemia who require rapid correction of body iron stores. For example, prior to elective or emergency surgery.
  • Those with existing intestinal conditions that affect the absorption of oral iron supplements.
  • Those who see ineffective results from oral iron therapy.
  • Those who cannot tolerate the gastrointestinal side effects of oral iron therapy.

What are the pros and cons of oral iron supplements?

Pros

Treatment with intravenous iron is considered to be safe and highly effective. In comparison to oral iron therapy, intravenous iron enables higher and faster replenishment of body iron stores. Some intravenous iron therapy may even be completed in 15-60 minutes and improvements may be observed shortly after treatment.

Cons

Intravenous iron infusion may cause low-risk side effects such as hypertension, flushing and infusion reaction.

Taking everything into consideration including the severity of your condition, your lifestyle, your finances and your own personal choices, your doctor will advise you on which treatment is best suited for you. Always check with your doctor before starting any medication.

Reduce these in your diet and lifestyle:5-7

Tea and coffee

Milk and dairy

Wholegrain cereals

High in phytic acids, wholegrain cereals may stop you from absorbing iron from other foods and supplements

Liver and certain types of fish

Try to reduce or avoid these when pregnant, or trying to become pregnant

Calcium

Too much Calcium may affect your body’s ability to absorb iron

Frequent blood donations

This may lead to iron deficiency

For delicious and healthy iron-rich recipes,

  1. Hemochromatosis Help. Heme iron vs. non heme iron in food. Available at: https://hemochromatosishelp.com/heme-iron-vs-non-heme-iron/. Accessed: April 2020.
  2. Nutrition Australia. Iron. Available at: https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/iron/. Accessed: June 2020.
  3. Cançado RD, Muñoz M. Intravenous iron therapy: how far have we come?. Rev Bras Hematol Hemoter. 2011;33(6):461‐469. doi:10.5581/1516-8484.20110123.
  4. DeLoughery T, G: Safety of Oral and Intravenous Iron. Acta Haematol 2019;142:8-12. doi: 10.1159/000496966.
  5. National Health Services. Conditions. Iron deficiency anaemia. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/. Accessed: April 2020.
  6. Kathryn L. Beck, Cathryn A. Conlon, Rozanne Kruger, Anne-Louise M. Heath, Christophe Matthys, Jane Coad, Beatrix Jones, Welma Stonehouse. Blood Donation, Being Asian, and a History of Iron Deficiency Are Stronger Predictors of Iron Deficiency than Dietary Patterns in Premenopausal Women. Volume 2014 |Article ID 652860 | 7 pages | https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/652860.
  7. Vifor Pharma. Iron deficiency. Choose your food wisely. Available at: https://irondeficiency.com/choose-your-food-wisely. Accessed: April 2020.