Why Not Take Iron With Milk


This article will present the fact why not take iron with milk. Before you grab any bottle of milk, you should know that drinking milk would be counterproductive to your iron medicine. This is because iron drugs (antacids) and vitamin C are meant to neutralizethe stomach acids that are present in the body. If an individual takes these two together with milk, these two would neutralize each other. Iron, one of the essential elements in human’s body, is necessary to create red blood cells. Without iron, production of red blood cells will stop which results in an anemic disease. To prevent such disease, taking iron supplement becomes necessary and taking it along with a glass of milk may not be a bad idea.

Why Not Take Iron With Milk

Iron is a mineral present in hemoglobin, a component of your blood, that plays a role in the movement of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Meat, beans and fortified foods are among the top food sources of iron, but poor diet or an underlying health condition can lead to anemia, which is an iron deficiency that can cause weakness and fatigue. If you have an iron deficiency and your doctor has recommended a supplement, you shouldn’t take it with dairy foods.

Combining Dairy And Iron

The calcium in dairy foods inhibits iron absorption explains research published in a 2014 issue of Nutrients. Milk, yogurt and other dairy go along with soy, phytic acid and polyphenols when it comes to derailing your iron status. This doesn’t mean you should avoid dairy altogether as it is an important source of calcium for strong bones and protein for lean tissue development. Simply avoid consuming dairy around the time you take your supplement and with your most iron-containing meal of the day.

What To Do Instead

You’ll absorb the most amount of iron if you take your supplement on an empty stomach; however, this can cause stomach upset. Taking your iron supplement with a small amount of food can reduce the nausea that often occurs when it’s taken without food.

If you do take your supplement with food, choose nondairy foods. Examples of good snack choices to take with your pill include toast with an egg, a banana, a bowl of strawberries and cantaloupe, a glass of orange juice or a salad of romaine with orange slices — vitamin C enhances iron absorption. If you’ve had dairy foods, wait at least two hours before taking your iron supplement.

A Few Final Thoughts

Taking an iron supplement with any type of food, including dairy foods, can reduce iron absorption by 40 to 50 percent, according to MedlinePlus. If you’ve been diagnosed with an iron deficiency, talk to your doctor about the most appropriate way to take a supplement, especially if you experience nausea or vomiting if you take it on an empty stomach.

Avoid taking your supplement with coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks, which contain high amounts of polyphenols, and whole grains, which contain phytic acid. Soy-based foods should also be avoided when you take your supplement — so no edamame, tofu or soy milk as a snack with your supplement either.

Taking Iron supplements

Eating iron-rich foods is a key part of treating anemia caused by low iron levels. You may also need to take iron supplements as well to rebuild iron stores in your body.



Iron supplements may be taken as capsules, tablets, chewable tablets, and liquids. The most common tablet size is 325 mg (ferrous sulfate). Other common chemical forms are ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate.

Ask your health care provider how many pills you should take each day and when you should take them. Taking more iron than your body needs can cause serious medical problems.

Blood counts return to normal after 2 months of iron therapy for most people. You may need to continue taking supplements for another 6 to 12 months to build up the body’s iron stores in the bone marrow.


Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Yet, iron supplements can cause stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea in some people. You may need to take iron with a small amount of food to avoid this problem.

Milk, calcium and antacids should NOT be taken at the same time as iron supplements. You should wait at least 2 hours after having these foods before taking your iron supplements.

Foods that you should NOT eat at the same time as you take your iron include:

  • High fiber foods, such as whole grains, raw vegetables, and bran
  • Foods or drinks with caffeine

Some doctors suggest taking a vitamin C supplement or drinking orange juice with your iron pill. This can help the iron absorb into your body. Drinking 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of fluid with an iron pill is also OK.

Tell your provider about all the medicines you are taking.

  • Iron tablets may cause other drugs you are taking to not work as well. Some of these include tetracycline, penicillin, and ciprofloxacin and drugs used for hypothyroidism, Parkinson disease, and seizures.
  • Medicines that reduce stomach acid will impair iron absorption. Your provider may suggest changing these.
  • Wait at least 2 hours between doses of these drugs and iron supplements.


Constipation due to iron pills is common. If constipation becomes a problem, take a stool softener such as docusate sodium (Colace).

Nausea and vomiting may occur with higher doses, but they can be controlled by taking the iron in smaller amounts. Ask your provider about switching to another form of iron rather than just stopping.

Black stools are normal when taking iron tablets. Talk to your provider right away if:

  • The stools are tarry-looking as well as black
  • If the stools have red streaks
  • Cramps, sharp pains, or soreness in the stomach occur

Liquid forms of iron may stain your teeth.

  • Try mixing the iron with water or other liquids (such as fruit juice or tomato juice) and drinking the medicine with a straw.
  • Iron stains can be removed by brushing your teeth with baking soda or peroxide.

Keep tablets in a cool place. (Bathroom medicine cabinets may be too warm and humid, which may cause the pills to fall apart.)

Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children. If your child swallows an iron pill, contact a poison control center right away.

Just one glass of 2-percent milk provides you with more than 20 percent of your daily needs for calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B-12, along with more than 8 grams of protein. However, while milk may be a nutritious beverage, it isn’t a good idea to drink it when you take your iron supplements.

Milk And Iron Absorption

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that you not consume milk or dairy products when you take iron supplements, as substances in milk, including calcium, can decrease the amount of nonheme iron your body absorbs from plant-based iron sources and supplements. To limit this effect, wait to take your iron supplements until two hours after consuming milk or dairy products.

Potential Decrease In Absorption

Each cup of 2-percent milk has about 293 milligrams of calcium. Consuming 300 to 600 milligrams of calcium can reduce iron absorption by up to 60 percent, according to a study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 1991. The authors also noticed that with this dose of calcium, there’s a decrease in the absorption of heme iron, which is the type of iron in animal products.

People Most Affected

Healthy people who eat a varied diet usually don’t need to worry about the effect of dairy products on iron absorption, according to the CDC. However, if you are vegetarian, your iron stores are low, you are pregnant or you have heavy periods, you may need to be more careful about consuming foods, like milk, that can limit iron absorption. This is also the case if you don’t get the recommended amount of iron every day, which is 18 milligrams for women and 8 milligrams for men.

Alternatives To Milk

You can always take your iron supplement with water, but if you want a tastier beverage, try orange juice. The vitamin C in orange juice and other citrus juices will help you better absorb the iron from your supplement. However, stay away from coffee, tea and beverages containing caffeine, as all of these contain substances that can interfere with iron absorption.

What Supplements Can Interfere With Iron Absorption?

Iron plays an important role in health and disease. Getting enough iron can help prevent ailments like anemia and relieve common problems like fatigue. Despite these known benefits, iron deficiency remains a problem around the world. This pervasive medical condition affects more than 2 billion people, according to a 2018 report in the International Journal of Hematology. In many cases, a daily vitamin can bring your circulating iron to a normal level. Some supplements, however, limit how much iron your body can absorb. Such drug interactions can place you at risk for serious medical problems. Speak with your physician before self-diagnosing a deficiency or taking a supplement.

Calcium From Supplements And Water

More than half of all U.S. women take a calcium supplement. Given this high use, doctors often ask patients about their calcium intake because it can cause drug interactions. In fact, calcium supplements reduce iron absorption by about 50 percent. You also need to worry about getting too much calcium from other sources. A 2018 experiment published in the journal Transfusion showed how the quality of drinking water affects circulating iron levels. Less refined water has more calcium, so people drinking it have lower levels of circulating iron. Interestingly, the authors of the 2018 study showed that iron supplements reversed the negative effects of hard water.

Polyphenols From Plants And Teas

Plants contain polyphenols like flavonoids and lignans. These interesting chemicals give vegetables their flavor and color. They also scavenge free radicals and prevent disease. Supplement makers have begun including polyphenols in many health products. Unfortunately, polyphenols have a negative effect on iron absorption, according to a 2014 experiment described in the journal PLoS One. The authors of this study tested the impact of quercetin. You likely get 25 percent of your daily polyphenols from this chemical commonly found in tea. The researchers noted that quercetin probably had enough power to lower the excess iron levels found in hereditary hemochromatosis.

Phosphorus In Plants

Scientists refer to the stored phosphorus in plants as “phytate.” This chemical decreases mineral absorption. That fact limits the many health benefits gained from eating foods containing phytate. Such foods include grains, seeds and nuts. Chemists have tried to limit the phytate content of foods while keeping their positive nutritional profile. A 2016 paper in Frontiers in Plant Science reported on testing the potential of using low-phytate beans to improve the nutritional profile of supplemental biscuits. Results indicated that participants enjoyed the biscuits made from a special flour known to decrease phytate content 90 percent and thereby increase iron absorption 50 percent. The authors of the paper speculated that the biscuits could help patients with low-iron disorders like celiac disease.

The Curcumin In Turmeric

Ayurvedic healers have used turmeric as an herbal medicine for hundreds of years. It has potential for treating a diverse set of medical conditions ranging from kidney stones to dementia. Yet, long-term use may cause side effects. A 2014 article in Redox Biology looked at the effects of the active chemical in turmeric. Scientists believe that this substance – curcumin – mediates the health benefits of turmeric. The 2014 report showed that oral doses of curcumin decreased iron absorption in laboratory animals. Curcumin intake also caused a 40 percent increase in spleen mass. The authors speculated that these effects would have occurred even if the animals had eaten plenty of iron-rich foods. The latter result shows the danger of having drug interactions in your diet.

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