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Iron Supplementation - The options

UPDATED 06/12/2015

The information below has now been put into a PDF document that you can download.

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In general there are three forms of iron supplement -

• The simple substances like ferrous sulphate through ferrous fumarate, ferrous bisglycinate, and so on

• Various forms of haem iron (also spelled heme)

• Ferritin

The simple substances do vary with the more complex molecules often being regarded as being gentler and less constipating than the basic - that is, bisglycinate is usually preferred to sulphate.

Haem iron and ferritin both wrap the iron up in more complex molecules and they have much less impact on the gut.

Haem and ferritin will be more expensive than the cheapest supplements but compared to some, such as Floradix, they are not particularly expensive. Don't forget that black pudding is still available as a good dietary source!

Simple supplements, haem and ferritin are each absorbed by different mechanisms. These three mechanisms appears not to interfere with each other at ordinary dose levels.

As I do not need to take iron, this is all based on reading and not personal experience.


Haem -

Ferritin -

Results may vary over time.

A snippet about why ferritin might be particularly important:

Ferritin iron is absorbed by a different mechanism than iron salts/chelates or heme iron. Recognition of a second, nonheme iron absorption process, ferritin endocytosis, emphasizes the need for more mechanistic studies on ferritin iron absorption and highlights the potential of ferritin present in foods such as legumes to contribute to solutions for global iron deficiency.

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Iron is vital for the transport and utilisation of oxygen.

People consume two types of iron : heme and nonheme.

Heme iron is derived from organic sources such as the blood proteins, haemoglobin and myoglobin contained in meat & is more readily absorbed.

Nonheme is inorganic and derived from grains, nuts, fruits & vegetables.

When ingested it is in the form of ferric iron. Humans can't absorb ferric iron but when it reaches the stomach, gastric juices change it to ferrous iron & it is absorbed in the lower intestine . (That's why stomach acid or possibly supplementing Betaine is so important).

Substances known to increase bioavailability of iron and its absorption are:

Vit C, alcohol, beta-carotene and meat (especially red).

Ferritin is a protein that nearly every cell in the body produces. One ferritin molecule alone can hold up to 4,500 atoms of iron. It serves as a containment device for when there is ample quantity or there is potential harm to ones health.

Elevated serum ferritin can be an indicator that disease causing microorganisms are present.


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A helpful post, thank you. Any chance it could be pinned?

I know that iron supplements should be taken ideally with orange juice but am wondering whether there are any that can be taken with water? Currently experiencing worsening low stomach acid that seems to be aggravated by taking an iron supplement with orange juice.



Because in both ferritin and haem supplements, the iron is held inside a large molecule, I suspect that the taking of acid alongside them is not necessary. Indeed, taking acids alongside these forms of iron might not even have been formally trialled.

Further, with both ferritin and haem the gut is protected from the direct effects of iron.

These forms of iron supplement are more expensive than the common ferrous sulphate. (But I don't think they work out as expensive as Floradix or Spatone.)

If you or anyone do try ferritin and/or haem supplements, please post back how you get on with them. We have lots of feedback about the basic iron supplements (much of it negative), but only a few about ferritin and/or haem supplements.


Ah, thanks for explaining and really do need to try one of the alternative types. Will report back in due course.

Thanks again.

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I've been taking haem iron for a while and should really get my ferritin rechecked - will feed back any results I get.

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My haem iron supplement can be taken with water, with or without food. I think the only thing known to affect the absorption of haem iron is calcium, so I try and take it away from my multivitamin or any particularly calcium rich food.

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acc1 - what make do you take? Thanks.


I take Proferrin. Bit expensive unfortunately but it's the only thing I've tried that I can tolerate. Works out at about £35 for a bottle of 90 tablets from a US website I use.



Thank you. I shall be very interested when you do get some results! :-)

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