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Lack of iron and anxiety: is there a link?

Anxiety is a feeling of intense fear or unease that can be caused by stressful situations or negative thoughts. It's normal to feel anxiety from time to time, but when it becomes chronic and interferes with daily activities, it may be an anxiety disorder .

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and can manifest in different forms, such as phobia, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.

Links between iron deficiency and anxiety have been shown.

It is known that iron deficiency can cause many unwanted physical symptoms . What is less known is that it can also cause psychological symptoms that can have consequences on mental health.

In this article, we will explore the links between iron deficiency anemia and anxiety, in order to detect and effectively treat iron deficiency, before it causes anxiety.

lack of iron and anxiety

What are the causes of iron deficiency?

There are several causes of iron deficiency anemia , but the main one is iron deficiency in the diet.

People who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet are particularly said to be “at risk”, because they have less access to animal sources of iron , which are more easily absorbed by the body. It is therefore important for them to consider supplementing in order to avoid any deficiency. To help them, or if you yourself follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, do not hesitate to consult our article on How to avoid deficiencies in a vegan diet .

On the other hand, for pregnant or breastfeeding women, iron reserves must be maximum since they need more iron to provide it to their baby! It is therefore essential to supplement during these periods. There are a lot of tips and good foods to eat to avoid iron deficiency in pregnant or breastfeeding women .

Other factors can cause iron deficiency such as internal bleeding, chronic illness leading to blood loss, or a restrictive diet and absorption disorders.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that certain medications can cause iron deficiency by reducing the intestinal absorption of the latter. Examples of medications that can cause iron deficiency include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat gastric ulcers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat pain and inflammation.

Symptoms of iron deficiency

The symptoms of iron deficiency are numerous, and can vary from one person to another, depending on each person's metabolism.

Note also that sometimes, some people can have low iron levels in the blood, without showing any apparent symptoms. Hence the importance of having a check-up with your doctor if in doubt, who will probably order a blood test to detect any deficiency .

Physical symptoms of iron deficiency

Here are some commonly reported symptoms:

  1. Fatigue :
    Lack of iron can cause fatigue and weakness because iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen in the blood. When iron levels in the blood are low, there is less hemoglobin available to carry oxygen, which can cause fatigue and weakness.
  2. Pallor :
    Iron deficiency anemia can cause paleness of the skin, mucous membranes and nails, because the lack of iron can lead to a reduction in the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.
  3. Heart palpitations :
    Lack of iron can cause heart palpitations because the heart has to pump harder to compensate for the reduction in hemoglobin in the blood.
  4. Dizziness and vertigo :
    Low iron levels can cause dizziness and lightheadedness because there is less oxygen available to the brain.
  5. Rapid breathing :
    Lack of iron can cause rapid breathing, because the body tries to compensate for reduced hemoglobin in the blood by increasing breathing to get more oxygen.
  6. Chest pain :
    Lack of iron can cause chest pain because the heart has to pump harder to compensate for reduced hemoglobin in the blood.
  7. Decrease in physical capacity :
    Lack of iron can lead to a reduction in physical capacity, since there is less oxygen available to the muscles. This can lead to weakness, sluggishness, and fatigue during physical activities.
lack of iron and anxiety

Psychological symptoms of iron deficiency

The psychological symptoms linked to iron deficiency are less known than the physical symptoms, and yet they must be taken into consideration.

They can include irritability, depression, anxiety and mood disorders. These symptoms may be exacerbated by physical symptoms (present or not) due to fatigue and reduced physical capacity.

Let us clarify that these symptoms can be caused by other health problems and are not specific to iron deficiency, so it is important to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

It is also important to note that iron deficiency can aggravate existing anxiety disorders and, therefore, increase anxiety .

It is therefore essential to effectively treat iron deficiency anemia in people suffering from anxiety disorders to improve the symptoms and not let anxiety or anxiety set in and take over.

The consequences of iron deficiency anemia on anxiety

Scientific studies have shown that iron deficiency can increase the risk of anxiety .

This is because iron deficiency can affect the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which play an important role in regulating mood and anxiety.

Lack of iron can also cause severe fatigue, which can worsen anxiety symptoms. Iron deficiency anemia is associated with increased levels of inflammation in the body, with pro-inflammatory cytokines themselves being linked to anxiety and depression.

Treatment and prevention of iron deficiency to avoid anxiety

There are several methods for increasing blood iron levels .

Once iron deficiency anemia is declared, your doctor can prescribe either medication or food supplements, and in the most extreme cases, an infusion carried out directly in the hospital.

Some people have difficulty tolerating iron-based medications due to side effects such as nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain (causing transit problems).

In this case, it is possible to turn to alternatives such as a food supplement based on iron bisglycinate , which is a form perfectly tolerated by the body. Enough to quickly get back on the slope of a deficiency!

It is also possible to turn to a spirulina treatment, especially if you have difficulty with iron. In fact, spirulina is not called a superfood for nothing! This algae (more precisely, this cyanobacteria) contains, in addition to all these vitamins and proteins, a sufficient dose of iron to combat a deficiency and recover from the attack.

In addition, to prevent anxiety , if it is accompanied by severe fatigue and/or the symptoms previously described, we recommend that you check your iron levels with the doctor.

Besides, remember to maintain a balanced diet, particularly focused on foods naturally rich in iron, to practice regular physical activity, and that's it ;)


Co-founder of NOVOMA

Passionate and expert in micro-nutrition, Lucas founded Novoma in 2012. It is with conviction that he develops food supplements with effective, carefully chosen and 100% clean active ingredients, to best meet the body's needs.

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