7 Myths of Iron Deficiency Anemia Treatments

Posted October 9, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body's tissues. As the name implies, iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron. Without enough iron, your body can't produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin). As a result, iron deficiency anemia may leave you tired and short of breath.

Myth 1: I take a multivitamin; I am fine.


  • Many multivitamins DON’T have iron.

  • This is by design, because some people are harmed by more or supplemental iron.

  • Don’t start taking iron unless guided by your healthcare provider.

  • Many of the supplements on the market also may not have enough iron to help replace iron losses from higher amounts of bleeding or certain medical disorders.

Myth 2: Medicines Don’t Affect My Iron Absorption


  • False.

  • If you take stomach medicines or have low stomach acid, you won’t be absorbing iron well or at all.

  • Iron needs stomach acid to absorb into your body.

  • These stomach medicines include anything that reduces your stomach acid, such as those used for heartburn or reflux.

  • Calcium supplements, whether used for indigestion or other reasons, also reduce iron absorption.

  • Bile acid sequestrants sometimes used to lower cholesterol, also reduce iron absorption.

Myth 3: Anemia means I am low in iron


  • You can be low in red blood cells for a lot of reasons.

  • Iron deficiency is just one of them.

  • You can also be low in B12 and/or folate.

  • Or you can be low in all of the above.

  • Anemia can be a sign of a more ominous condition, such as kidney failure, cancer and more.

  • You can get anemia from chronic inflammation or blood diseases.

  • Make sure that you explore the cause of your anemia with your doctor.

  • You can have too high of iron levels and still be anemic.

Myth 4: I am vegetarian, I must need extra iron


  • This is not always true.

  • Vegetarians are at higher risk for deficiency due to the fact that less iron is absorbed from plants.

  • However, vegetarians who pay close attention to their diet intake and aren’t of child-bearing age may be fine.

  • Other vegetarians, especially men, are probably adequate in iron.

  • A vegetarian diet may be very beneficial for a person with a disorder called hemochromatosis.

  • However, if a vegetarian has any of the risk factors listed above, they certainly may need supplemental iron.

Myth 5: I eat a balanced diet, so I get all the iron I need.


  • Not necessarily true.

  • The foods richest in iron are rarely eaten anymore, such as the liver.

  • Whale meat has 72 grams of iron. Organ meats have the highest amounts of iron.

  • This makes our current food sources, in comparison, look super-low.

  • Some foods appear to have a bunch of iron, such as fortified cereals.

  • In reality, the type of iron added to cereals can be very poorly absorbed.

  • Even if you think you eat a balanced diet, you need to check in with your doctor about getting a blood ferritin level.

Myth 6: Spinach and Red Meat are Great Sources of Iron


  • This is also false.

  • Spinach has a small amount of iron and the iron in spinach is poorly absorbed.

  • Spinach is healthy for many other reasons and may give you energy because it is rich in magnesium and other nutrients, but not iron.

  • Red meat, like steak, falls way behind the liver as a rich source of iron.

  • If you are a female of reproductive age, have had children, have a normal to heavy flow for a period, you probably are not getting enough iron in your diet, even if you eat meat.

  • Plant sources of iron, also known as non-heme iron, absorbs at about 11% at most and under ideal conditions.

  • Absorption can be almost zero if it plant iron is present with anti-nutrients or other minerals like calcium

Myth 7: All iron supplements are created equal


  • This is false.

  • Some absorb better than others and some are much easier on your stomach than others.

  • Finding the one that is right for you is going to be dependent on the dose you need and how much stomach upset you are willing to tolerate.

  • A chelated iron called iron bisglycinate is the best because it is pretty easy on the stomach.

  • Clinical studies find it easier on the stomach than ferrous sulfate.

  • That said, if you are pinching pennies, ferrous sulfate is the cheapest and absorbed very well.

  • Chelated irons, in general, are easier on the stomach and comparable for absorption rates to ferrous sulfate.

iron-deficiency anemia facts myths

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