Thanks to blood loss during the menstrual cycle, women are more likely to be low in iron, a condition known as iron-deficiency anemia. Since iron is vital to keeping oxygen in your blood and in growing new cells, it isn’t exactly a mineral you want to be deficient in. But before you pop that iron supplement, you should check the time and what’s in your stomach. Taking your iron supplement at the right time helps promote absorption.
On an Empty Stomach
Just because you take a certain amount of iron each day doesn’t mean it will all be absorbed. That’s why your best bet is to take iron on an empty stomach. You’ll get the most iron from your supplement when you haven’t had anything to eat in some time, which means taking iron first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed when your stomach is empty, according to MedlinePlus.
In Case of Stomach Pains
An exception exists to almost everything, and taking an iron supplement is no different. If you take your iron supplement and you experience adverse stomach effects, such as stomach cramping, nausea or diarrhea, you may need to take your iron supplement with at least a small amount of food, recommends MedlinePlus.
With Vitamin C
Foods and drinks with vitamin C may help to promote iron absorption, according to MedlinePlus. That means if you have a regular time of day when you drink orange juice -- breakfast comes to mind -- taking your iron supplement then may be a good idea. If you aren’t an orange juice fan, fruit juices such as grape or apple will also work. Take it with at least 8 ounces of juice, recommends MayoClinic.com. If you take a vitamin C supplement, taking it with your iron pill may be a good idea as well.
When Not to Take Iron Supplements
Just as there are good times to take iron supplements, there are some times you should avoid. One such as example is when you are consuming calcium-containing foods or medicines, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream or calcium-containing antacids. Calcium interferes with calcium absorption. If you have consumed a calcium-containing food, wait for at least two hours before taking your iron supplement. The same goes for consuming high-fiber foods such as whole grains, raw vegetables and bran. Caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee and sodas also may affect absorption.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.