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The Relationship Between an Iron Deficiency and Anxiety

The Relationship Between an Iron Deficiency and Anxiety

Iron deficiency and anxiety

Iron deficiency is among the common nutritional concerns globally. A considerable number of people suffering from iron deficiency are children and pregnant women. Iron is an essential mineral that plays an integral role in body cells. People suffer iron deficiency when the body lacks enough iron mineral that causes unusually low red blood cells. It’s an essential component of hemoglobin in red blood cells that transport oxygen in the body. Therefore, when your body lacks enough hemoglobin, muscles and tissues lack enough oxygen and cannot function effectively.

Lack of enough iron in your body can be due to excessive blood loss or reduced red blood cell production. The other cause of the body's inability to carry oxygen is an upsurge in the breakdown in the number of red blood cells. Notably, you may suffer iron deficiency without having anemia.

Understanding Iron Deficiency and Anxiety

While iron is necessary for maintaining the required levels of red blood cells, it is also vital for the brain and nerves' functioning. Severe lack of iron deficiency in young children may damages cognition and results in delays in development and lowers IQ.

Iron deficiency may cause anxiety because of its relationship with dopamine, which is among the brain neurotransmitters that keep people happy. Iron is necessary for the production of dopamine in your brain. Iron deficiency can also present as poor concentration and irritability. Generally, people with low iron levels in their bodies have higher rates of psychiatric disorders than those with sufficient iron levels.

Anxiety and panic disorders are some of the reactions that your body produces against stress. When you are under pressure, your body goes through some chemical changes that can cause anemia. When under stress, your body uses more magnesium than before, causing its depletion, which causes mild anemia. Also, anxiety significantly affects your eating habits. Consequently, it affects protein and vitamin intake, causing a deficiency.

Your body requires tyrosine from foods rich in protein to manufacture dopamine, which can only happen when the iron is sufficient. Lack of dopamine causes depression and anxiety, and other severe disorders such as restless leg syndrome. The brain gets iron supply through transferrin receptors. While iron uptake into the brain is controlled, it varies with iron in the body. Therefore, people with low iron levels in the body have less iron getting into the brain.

Signs of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency and anxiety

Some iron deficiency causes include increased iron requirements during pregnancy, blood loss, and inflammatory bowel disease. Iron deficiency symptoms vary based on your age, how quickly it develops, and health status. Here are some of the signs to know.

  • Unexplained Tiredness

Feeling extremely tired is a telltale sign of iron deficiency. You often feel tired because your body requires iron to manufacture hemoglobin, and iron deficiency causes insufficient hemoglobin. Consequently, less oxygen reaches your muscles and tissues when hemoglobin is low, depriving your energy. Also, your heart has to work harder than usual for blood circulation, which makes you tired.

  • Headaches and Dizziness

Iron deficiency and low hemoglobin levels in red blood cells imply that your brain lacks enough oxygen. Consequently, blood vessels in your brain swell resulting in headaches and pressure. While there are many causes of headaches, frequent dizziness and headaches could be a symptom of iron deficiency.

  • Strange Cravings

You could be suffering iron deficiency if you frequently get cravings to eat ice, paper, clay, chalk, or dirt. However, such strange cravings can occur during pregnancy. That’s why you should visit a doctor for tests. Feeling anxious is also a telltale sign of iron deficiency.

Signs of Anxiety

People experience anxiety as a normal response to stressful events, such as illness or financial troubles. However, you need to consult with a doctor when the anxiety symptoms become more extensive and start inferring with your life. Fortunately, you can manage these signs by consulting a medical professional.

  • Feeling Agitated

When you experience anxiety, part of your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. Consequently, you experience dry mouth, sweaty palms, shaky hands, and a racing pulse. You experience these signs because your brain believes that you are in danger and prepares the body to react.

  • Difficulty Concentrating

A significant number of anxious people find it challenging to concentrate. Anxiety may interrupt working memory, which is vital in holding short-term information. That explains the considerable decrease in performance for individuals going through high levels of stress.

Natural Ways to Reduce Anxiety

Reducing anxiety

You can recover from anxiety and feel better about yourself by eating a healthy diet. You can lower the risks of developing anxiety by consuming diets rich in whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and fruits. The other natural way to reduce stress is by eating fermented foods and probiotics because they enhance mental health. You can also reduce anxiety by limiting caffeine, quitting smoking, regular exercise, and abstaining from alcohol.

Testing for Iron Deficiency

Your doctor will run several tests to diagnose iron deficiency. They are based on the age, physical health, and medical history of a patient. The tests analyze the hemoglobin level because a lower than the usual levels is an iron deficiency symptom. The tests also check the red blood cell color and size.

With insufficient iron levels, red blood cells are paler and smaller than expected. Your doctor will also check for ferritin, which is the protein that aids in iron storage in your body. Low ferritin levels indicate low levels of stored iron. Doctors also ask for more tests when the bloodwork shows an iron deficiency, such as endoscopy, ultrasound, and colonoscopy.

How to Get Care

Anxiety can lead to depression, and depression leads to suicide attempts and affects performance and relationships. The solution for anxiety could be as simple as treating your iron deficiency. You may also need to control your anxious reactions so that you can stop anxiety.

If the anxiety results from insufficient iron in your body, you can try taking supplements as advised by a medical professional. You need to boost iron absorption in your body by eating foods rich in vitamin C and avoiding foods that inhibit iron absorption like dairy products. Additionally, treating underlying causes of insufficient iron is an effective way of treating anxiety resulting from iron deficiency.


Iron deficiency can cause anxiety. Some people experience evident signs, while others don’t, depending on the severity of the deficit. Be certain to visit a medical professional if you experience symptoms like anxiety, shortness of breath, and restless legs rather than self-diagnosis. Fortunately, iron deficiency and anxiety are easily treatable.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iron-deficiency-signs-symptoms#TOC_TITLE_HDR_13
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355040
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201511/heavy-metal-iron-and-the-brain
  4. https://www.thecaregrouppc.com/low-iron-depression-and-anxiety/


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