Though iron supplements can be helpful for those who need them, one of the most common (but not-so-helpful) iron pill side effects is constipation. Constipation occurs in up to 10 per cent of those who take iron pills, according to Dr. Mary Pickett, M.D. (See References 1). Often, the discomfort of constipation offsets any relief of iron deficiency symptoms. But with some preparation and following a few helpful guidelines, you can stop constipation before it stops you from getting the iron you need.
Drink an extra two to four glasses of water a day while taking iron supplements. Since dehydration contributes to constipation, getting enough fluids goes a long way toward preventing iron-related constipation.
Take a fibre supplement. Fibre is known to ease constipation, and one of the simplest ways to include fibre in your daily routine is by taking a supplement. Fibre supplements are available in powder, wafer, capsule and chewable tablet form. Choose what's most palatable to you and take it regularly (no pun intended).
Eat foods high in fibre, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. The best way to get added fibre is to eat it. And prunes are not the only option. Choose a few foods you enjoy and find ways to add them to your usual meals and snacks.
Take slow-release iron tablets, which are designed to distribute iron to your body gradually over several hours. Since a smaller amount of iron is being released at any given time, your system may be better able to process it and you could find this type of iron pill much easier to take.
Add flax seed oil, an Omega 3 supplement that's high in fibre, to your foods. Or take it in capsule form. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol, which have a dehydrating effect. Earl Mindell's "New Herb Bible" recommends cascara, an herb available in capsule form, for occasional constipation sypmtoms. (See References 2)
Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Michael Picco, M.D., advises the following precautions (See References 3): "If you have intestinal problems, consult your doctor before adding a fibre supplement to your diet. Also, ask your doctor or a pharmacist whether a fibre supplement may interact with any medications you take. Fibre supplements can decrease the absorption of certain medications, such as aspirin, warfarin and carbamazepine. Fibre supplements can also reduce blood sugar levels, which may require an adjustment in your insulin dosage if you have diabetes."