Can Iron Supplements Benefit IBS-D?
Last updated: July 2021
When I first developed IBS mid-way through college, I was so sick so often that I wound up losing well over 20 pounds in a single semester. I was weak and nutrient-deficient because almost everything I ate went through me.
At the time, the gastroenterologist I saw was convinced I had IBD rather than IBS because weight loss is supposedly very rare for the latter (though as a recent blog post of mine on here explored, still possible, as it ultimately proved to be in my case). He was wrong and I had IBS, not IBD. However, it didn't take away from the fact that it was difficult for me to put and keep on weight due to my intestinal issues. Additionally, I was prone to anemia and other vitamin deficiencies.
On top of all of that, I also have endometriosis and adenomyosis, which contributes to me bleeding very heavily every month during my period. This also compounds deficiencies and makes me more prone to anemia--both due to the bleeding itself and that I can barely tolerate food during my menses. Most of what I eat causes an IBS flare during my periods.
Iron supplements for IBS
I have found that taking iron supplements is actually very helpful both for treating the anemia that is a result of heavy bleeding and frequent IBS-D flares, but also for taming the IBS-D flares on their own.
As many who may have had to take iron supplements may be aware, iron tends to be binding or constipating. So for those who are much more prone to diarrhea over constipation, taking iron can actually help reduce the frequency in bouts of diarrhea and help firm up stool.
I find that when I am in the middle or just finishing my period, it is beneficial to take some iron for a few days to compensate for the blood loss, but also to keep my GI tract from spiraling into an IBS-D flare. Likewise, recently when I was having some stress and anxiety, leading to more IBS-D bouts, taking iron a few days in a row, helped me enormously get back on track.
Too much iron can cause constipation
Of course, for those of us who alternate between IBS-D and IBS-C, taking too much iron can make the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, causing constipation. This is why I tend to only take iron a couple of consecutive days and then take a couple of days off from it. I do not take it if I am already feeling bloated and like I might be or become constipated.
How about you? Are you prone to anemia? Does taking iron help or hurt your IBS? Answer in the comments below!
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?