How Much Iron Supplement Should a Woman Take?

Low iron can cause unexplained fatigue and weakness.
Low iron can cause unexplained fatigue and weakness. (Image: HEMARAT/iStock/Getty Images)

If you find yourself unusually tired all the time, you could be lacking in iron, especially if you're a woman. Iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you menstruate, you are at an increased risk of iron deficiency due to the loss of iron during your period. Consult a doctor to determine whether you have low iron and what dosage, if any, of a supplement you should take.

Iron Supplement Guide

The recommended dietary allowance of iron for women between the ages 19 and 50 is 18 milligrams a day. Menopausal women, usually over the age of 50, have a reduced need for iron -- 8 milligrams -- due to the end of the menstrual cycle. Pregnant women need an increased amount of 27 milligrams, while a lactating mother requires 9 to 10 milligrams daily. Premenopausal women and athletes may be at risk of low iron and should consult a doctor for a blood test to determine their blood-iron levels.

Iron in Your Food

Iron supplements can help you reach your recommended daily allowance, if your diet doesn't have enough. Dietary iron comes in two forms -- heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found in seafood and meats, while nonheme iron is found in plant sources such as dried beans and lentils, leafy greens and fortified cereals. If you are a vegetarian, you are more likely than a meat eater to require iron supplements because the body absorbs nonheme iron from plant sources less efficiently than the heme iron from animal foods.

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