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An iron deficiency could be behind your deteriorating mental health: An expert explains

Published on:14 September 2021, 17:52pm IST
Iron is vital for the upkeep of your mental health. Its deficiency can lead to issues such as stress, anxiety, and impaired cognitive function.
Grace Bains
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iron
Iron is a critical mineral for ensuring mental wellbeing. Image courtesy: Unsplash
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Minerals are extremely important in maintaining our health. They are vital for the health of your bones, muscles, and wellness of your heart and brain. In case of deficiency, the body may become vulnerable to issues such as loss of bone mass, muscle cramps, diminished immunity, fatigue, and ailments of heart, brain, liver, and lungs. In cases like iron deficiency, mental health could also be impacted.

When it comes to minerals, iron plays a critical role in regulating the overall bodily health. Its deficiency can cause reduction in the amount of healthy red blood cells, which are required to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Moreover, besides the physical symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and chest pain, mental distress is also an indicator of iron deficiency.

Mental health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and conditions such as paranoia and diminished cognitive function, are linked with iron deficiency. In fact, as per a research published in ‘Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences’, iron deficiency is associated with higher psychological distress.

mental health
Your mental health may take a hit due to iron deficiency. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Link between iron deficiency and mental health

We spoke to Deepti Khatuja, Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Fortis Memorial Research Institute to understand this link better.

According to Khatuja, “Iron is key when it comes to red blood cell formation. It helps in ensuring that oxygen is reaching all parts of the body. In the long run, being deficient in iron won’t just affect your physical health but also your mind as well.

One of the primary things that happen is a reduction in concentration. When your body isn’t getting enough oxygenation due to a lack of iron, you may find it hard to maintain focus and carry out your daily tasks. In addition, you may experience mood swings and irritability. Over time, in some cases, it may cause anxiety and depression. So, all these problems are interrelated.”

Another key symptom of iron deficiency is fatigue. Over time, feeling physically tired may affect your daily routine and lead to feelings of frustration too. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science observed that those who were deficient in iron were given supplements and reported feeling less fatigued and also showed an improvement in mental health.

mental health
Take active steps to avoid iron deficiency and the mental health harm it can lead to! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Khatuja also suggested some tips to ensure that you reduce your risk of developing an iron deficiency:

1. Consume foods that are rich in iron: Make sure you’re eating green leafy vegetables, kaala chana, chiwda, and jaggery. If possible, try to include non-vegetarian foods in your diet such as chicken and fish.

2. Consume foods that help absorb iron: Khatuja recommends adding vitamin C-rich foods to help your body absorb iron. She said, “It is extremely important to eat foods that can help absorb iron. For this, you must add vitamin C-rich foods to your diet. So, add lemon to your daal or sabzi. Eat amla regularly. In addition, consume seasonal foods such as oranges and sweet lime.

3. Consuming fermented foods: According to Khatuja, “The process of fermentation can help enhance a food’s ability to help absorb nutrients, including iron. So, have foods like sprouts and other fermented foods.”

4. Keeping a one-hour gap between tea/coffee consumption after meals: Khatuja said, “Tea and coffee can reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron. So, avoid consuming such beverages with meals. Moreover, keep an hour long gap between tea/coffee and meals.”

Grace Bains Grace Bains

Grace is someone who likes writing enough to make a living out of it. When she isn’t writing, you will find her having chai and reading a book.