Maintaining a proper iron level in the body is important for your mental and emotional health.
A healthy iron level is essential for cognitive, motor sensor and social-emotional development and functioning, as it helps carry oxygen throughout your bloodstream.
One possible effect of a low iron level is lack of oxygen in the brain, which can lead to the development of psychological problems, including depression.
A 2013 study published in BMC Psychiatry reports that iron-deficiency anemia is associated with increased risks of unipolar depressive disorder as well as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), delayed development and mental retardation among children and adolescents.
However, further research is required to clarify the mechanism in the association between iron-deficiency anemia and psychiatric disorders.
While iron deficiency may not be the sole reason behind depression, it can cause symptoms similar to depression, such as a poor appetite, irritability, fatigue and mood swings. Hence, it is always best to consult a doctor.
10. Restless Legs Syndrome
If you can’t stop fidgeting while trying to sleep and it hampers your sleep quality, then you probably have restless legs syndrome. People who have cellular iron deficiency are more prone to suffer from restless legs syndrome.
A 2003 study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke links restless legs syndrome to inefficient processing of iron in certain brain cells.
The receptors that help cells absorb iron are abnormally regulated in cells that produce the nerve-signaling chemical dopamine. This worsens the symptoms of restless legs syndrome.
People suffering from restless legs syndrome can see improvement in the symptoms following iron supplementation.
Tips to prevent iron deficiency
- Eat foods rich in iron, such as beef, liver, oysters, beans, fortified cereals, pomegranate juice, beetroot and dark leafy greens like spinach.
- Choose iron-fortified breakfast cereals and breads.
- Make sure to eat enough foods rich in vitamin C, such as bell peppers, berries and broccoli, to boost iron absorption.
- Avoid too much tea and coffee, especially around meal times, as the tannins in them interfere with iron absorption.
- You may also need to take iron supplements, but always consult your doctor first. Bear in mind that iron supplements may cause some side effects, such as nausea, digestive discomfort and dark-colored stools.
- Avoid intake of iron in high amounts. It can damage internal organs and may increase the risk of diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias and liver cancer, particularly in older people.