Iron is a crucial metal in the human body that maintains proper physical, mental, and bodily functions. Not only does iron assist in the delivery and transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body, but it also enables better cognitive function.
Iron deficiency can affect our mental health by triggering the development of psychological problems. Although each individual is different, a low iron level can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, depression, mental obscurity, and other mental disturbances such as paranoia and delayed mental processing. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include headaches, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, and insomnia.
Severe cases of iron deficiency may lead to iron deficiency anemia. Although anemia cannot cause mental disorders, anemia can affect one’s mental health by increasing one’s risk for psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, and autism spectrum disorder. Thus, it comes as no surprise that some health care providers use iron to aid in the treatment of ADHD and depression.
Although iron can be easily obtained through consumption of iron-rich foods and most people require similar blood iron values, more women suffer from iron deficiency than men. In particular, pregnant women are more susceptible to iron deficiency because their bodies have a higher demand for iron. Approximately 50% of all pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency. Furthermore, because postpartum depression is linked to iron deficiency, women must continue to monitor their iron intake after childbirth to maintain stable levels.
Image Source: Peter Cade
Because there are various mental effects associated with iron deficiency, it is all the more important to make note of one’s iron levels and to ensure enough sources of iron in one’s diet. In particular, because women are at a higher risk for iron deficiency, it is imperative for women to keep tabs on their iron levels to maintain their mental health. So, the next time you decide what to eat for lunch, check to see if you’ll be getting some iron into your diet!