If you’re female and have an unexplained persistent cough, you may be running short on iron. Researchers from Italy’s University of Turin came up with this finding on the basis of a small study of 16 women with chronic coughs that weren’t due to any identifiable health problems. Tests showed that all the women were iron deficient.
Supplements fixed that and also reduced or eliminated the coughing and related symptoms: swelling in the back of the mouth and red, inflamed mucous membranes. The researchers noted that women are more likely than men to have unexplained chronic coughs and, because of pregnancy and menstruation, are also more likely than men to be iron deficient. Iron helps regulate production of immune system proteins that control inflammation, so a deficiency can lead to inflammation in the upper airway and cause chronic coughing.
The study was presented at the scientific meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in October 2007. Don’t take iron supplements without being tested for a deficiency, particularly if you’re post-menopausal (or male). Iron accumulates in the body and can harm the heart.
Liquid iron supplements tend to be assimilated more readily.