The Scoop on Poop and Iron Supplementation

Poop! Not the favorite conversation of most people above age 6 but, a topic which is commonly brought up when we are discussing iron supplementation. Iron supplements have a well-deserved history of causing constipation, stomach pain, flatulence, nausea, or black stool. Luckily, there have been great advances in natural iron supplements and Garden of Life’s Organics Plant Iron & Organic Herbs is one of them.

Why do some iron supplements cause gastro-intestinal (GI) side effects?  There are multiple factors that can play a role in whether or not you experience GI side effects from taking oral iron. Some of the most common factors include: the form of iron in your supplement, the dose you take, how and when you take iron and the current state of your microbiota. The simplest answer, however, is unabsorbed iron. Although unabsorbed iron is eliminated in our feces it can wreak havoc before it is out of our system.  

Our Microbiota or Gut Bacteria

It is well accepted that the health of our microbiome can influence our bowel movements, nutrient absorption, mood and immune system. For good health, our aim is more beneficial bacteria then pathogenic or harmful bacteria in our gut. When iron is not absorbed by the body, it can be a food source for pathogenic bacteria. Constipation may result since it is often a sign of having predominantly bad bacteria in the colon.

If you are starting out with an unbalanced system, then the likelihood of side effects may increase. Incorporating a probiotic into your daily regimen can help tip the number of beneficial bacteria in your favour and reduce the possibility of GI upset. There are many probiotic options available and the Garden of Life Dr. Formulated probiotics line provides some wonderful, effective options. 

Form of Iron

Different forms of iron have different absorptions rates and a significant correlation to the likelihood of experiencing GI side effects. The most likely to cause GI upset is ferrous sulfate, an inexpensive form of iron salt. Ferrous sulfate is often not well tolerated and frequently causes gastric upset.[1] Iron directly from food, contained in whole food iron supplements and iron bis-glycinate are generally better absorbed and have a much lower chance of gastric upset. 

Choosing a form of iron which is gentler on your system is a great place to start. The Garden of Life Organics Plant Iron & Organic Herbs is a wonderful whole food, plant-based, gentle on your system option. 


The more iron consumed at one time, the higher the risk of side effects. Cells lining your small intestine can only take in a certain amount of iron at a time and the rest of the iron is backed up waiting. Which, may result in you being backed up as well. 

If you know that you are sensitive to iron (low absorption) or you are worried that you may be, then try starting with a lower dose. If you are not experiencing any GI upset after a couple days, then try increasing your dose to the recommended amount. Keep in mind that any suggestions given here are not meant to take the place of advice from your health care practitioner. 

When and How We Take Our Supplement

The body requires iron to be in the ferrous Fe2+ state for use and any iron in the ferric Fe3+ state requires to be converted before we can utilize it. 

  1. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach helps the conversion and therefore absorption of iron. Try taking your iron supplement between meals to ensure a higher stomach acid.
  2. Vitamin C taken along with iron also helps the conversion and absorption of iron. Look for an iron supplement that contains Vitamin C to help you along. 

In general, the absorption of iron by the body is low and it may take several months to completely replenish the iron concentration in the blood. Each serving of Organics Plant Iron provides 10mg of iron extracted from Organic Curry leaves and pairs it with 15 mg of whole food Vitamin C from Organic Amla berries to increase absorption. This formula has been developed to maximize the benefits to your body and avoid the likelihood of unwanted results. 

We are more likely to take our iron supplements if we can avoid the gastric upset. Care has been given to develop a certified gluten free formula which provides the highest bioavailability possible in a liquid, whole food, plant-based iron. If you require to supplement with iron and have been avoiding it due to concern about constipation, feel assured that the Garden of Life Organics Plant Iron & Organic Herbs is here as an option. No “butts” about it! 



[1]  Ferrous Sulfate Supplementation Causes Significant Gastrointestinal Side-Effects in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis . Tolkien Z, Stecher L, Mander AP, Pereira DIA, Powell JJ (2015) Ferrous Sulfate Supplementation Causes Significant Gastrointestinal Side-Effects in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLOS ONE 10(2): e0117383.