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Iron deficiency and anxiety: is there a link?

Anxiety is a feeling of intense fear or discomfort that can be caused by stressful situations or negative thoughts. It is 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 themselves in different forms, such as phobia, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. 

It has been shown that there are links between iron deficiency and anxiety.  

It is well known that iron deficiency can cause many undesirable physical symptoms. What is less well known is that it can also cause psychological symptoms that can affect mental health.  

In this article, we will explore the links between iron deficiency anemia and anxiety, so that iron deficiency can be detected and treated effectively, before it causes anxiety.

iron deficiency and anxiety

What are the causes of iron deficiency?

There are several causes ofiron deficiency anemiabut the main one is iron deficiency in the diet.  

People who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet are particularly 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 think about supplementing to avoid any deficiency. To help them, or if you yourself are following a vegan or vegetarian diet, don't 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 maximized since they need more iron to provide their baby! It is therefore essential to supplement at these times. There are many tips and good foods to ingest to avoid iron deficiency in pregnant or breastfeeding women.  

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

It is also worth noting that some medications can cause iron deficiency by reducing intestinal absorption of iron. Examples of medications that can cause iron deficiency include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat gastric ulcers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat pain and inflammation.

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The symptoms of iron deficiency

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

It is also important to note that some people may have low levels of iron in their blood without any apparent symptoms. This is why it is important to have a check-up with your doctor if you have any doubts, who will probably prescribe a blood test to detect any deficiency

Physical symptoms of iron deficiency

Some commonly reported symptoms include: 

  • 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.

  • Pallor:
    Iron deficiency anemia can cause pallor 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.

  • Heart palpitations:
    Lack of iron can cause heart palpitations because the heart has to pump harder to compensate for the reduced hemoglobin in the blood.

  • Dizziness and dizziness:
    Low iron levels can cause dizziness and lightheadedness because there is less oxygen available to the brain.

  • Rapid breathing:
    Iron deficiency can cause rapid breathing, because the body tries to compensate for the reduced hemoglobin in the blood by increasing breathing to get more oxygen.

  • Chest pain:
    Lack of iron can cause chest pain because the heart has to pump harder to compensate for the reduced hemoglobin in the blood.

  • Decreased physical capacity:
    Lack of iron can lead to a decrease in physical capacity, as there is less oxygen available to the muscles. This can lead to weakness, slowness and fatigue during physical activities. 
iron deficiency and anxiety

Psychological symptoms of iron deficiency

The psychological symptoms of iron deficiency are less well known than the physical symptoms, yet they should be taken into consideration.   

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

It should be noted that these symptoms can be caused by other health problems and are not specific to iron deficiency, so it is important to consult a physician for a proper diagnosis. 

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

Therefore, effective treatment of iron deficiency anemia in people with anxiety disorders is critical to improve symptoms and not allow anxiety or distress to take over.

The consequences of iron deficiency anemia on anxiety

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

Iron deficiency can affect levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which play an important role in regulating mood and anxiety.    

Iron deficiency 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 being linked to anxiety and depression. 

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Treatment and prevention of iron deficiency to avoid anxiety

There are several methods to increase iron levels in the blood.  

Once an iron deficiency anemia has been declared, your doctor may prescribe medication, nutritional supplements and, in extreme cases, an infusion directly from the hospital.  

Some people find it difficult to tolerate iron-based medications because of their side effects such as nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain (leading to transit problems).   

In this case, it is possible to turn to alternatives such as a dietary supplement based on iron bisglycinate, which is a form that is perfectly tolerated by the body. At Novoma, this is why we have chosen this form for our patented Ferrochel Iron Bisglycinate supplement: it is perfectly assimilable and perfectly tolerated by our intestines and our body. It's a great way to quickly get back on track if you have a deficiency! 

It is also possible to turn to a cure of spirulina, especially if you can not tolerate iron. Indeed, spirulina is not called a superfood for nothing! This algae (more exactly, this cyanobacteria) contains, in addition to all these vitamins and proteins, a sufficient dose of iron to fight a deficiency and put you back on track.  

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

On the other hand, remember to maintain a balanced diet, especially towards foods naturally rich in iron, to practice a regular physical activity, and the trick will be done ;)  


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 active ingredients, carefully chosen and 100% clean, to best meet the needs of the body.

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