A pregnant woman takes a supplement with one hand on her glowing belly

My Experience With Iron Supplements And IBS-D

Can iron tablets help with IBS-D symptoms, or do they just make them worse?

When being prescribed iron supplements, doctors usually point out that they can upset the stomach. Whenever my bloodwork revealed anemia in the past, before I had IBS, I was always advised to take my iron tablets in the middle of the day and always with a meal. Knowing all this, I would have thought that iron supplements would have a bad effect on my IBS now. But that's not what happened in my personal experience.

My experience with iron supplements

I’ve had iron deficiency anemia on and off for most of my adult life. However, since being diagnosed with IBS, I started eating quite a lot of meat to replace the veggies I can’t have. Thus, I’ve been able to maintain my iron levels at the very minimum and haven’t taken iron tablets in a couple of years. My only experience with iron supplements and IBS was during my first pregnancy, in the form of prenatal vitamins. During that time, I was pretty much IBS-free.

After deciding to have another baby, I started taking the same prenatal vitamins again. Lo and behold, I could suddenly eat without getting as many symptoms! Until my doctor prescribed me another brand of prenatal supplements which did not contain iron. And my IBS began again.

Iron supplements are constipating

From what I've heard, iron supplements can cause constipation. But as someone who suffers from IBS-D, constipation is not really an issue for me. In my case, it usually just means that I’ll get less diarrhea, which is a good thing.

At the moment, my IBS is often worse in the evening. Not that I have a flare every day – but I do usually have to use the bathroom a couple of times. Unless I take my iron tablets which allow me to feel like a normal person at least once in a while. It's so, so nice.

Side-effect: bloating

Unfortunately, everything comes with a price. Iron supplements reduce my episodes of diarrhea; however, they can leave me significantly bloated. And that’s not so fun either.

At first, exchanging diarrhea for bloating may seem like a great idea. But that’s not always the case. Even without my prenatal vitamins, I don't get full-blown flares all that often unless I'm stressed or accidentally ate a trigger food. My evening episodes aren’t usually that bad, just annoying. The rest of the day, I often feel quite fine with a slight fear of eating.

With the iron supplements, I don’t get that fear of eating and feel great during the day. However, at night, when my body has failed to eliminate the day’s food like it usually does, I can get all bloated and uncomfortable. This unfortunately impacts my sleep and makes me even more tired than I already am.

Iron or no iron?

Of course, not taking iron supplements isn't really an option when you have anemia. But in my case, they’re simply prenatal vitamins, so I decided to alternate. Whenever I start feeling too bloated, I take a break from the vitamins containing iron. Once I’m better, I start taking them again. This has helped me alleviate some of the bloating and I've been feeling a lot less uncomfortable. As of now, I'm just wondering if it's okay to take prenatal vitamins forever... But who knows if they'll still work once I give birth.

What is your experience with iron supplements? Do they cure your flares as well, or do they rather upset your stomach?

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