Iron Deficiency and Mood Disorders:
Iron deficiency is still one nutrient deficiency prevalent in developed societies, including Australia.
While one of the well-known functions includes carrying oxygen throughout the blood and muscles, iron takes on many other important roles.
Iron’s role in neurotransmitter production (our brain chemicals) makes it a valuable asset in controlling our mood and thoughts. Changes, imbalances or a deficiency affect the level of neurotransmitters in the brain which can alter brain chemistry and functioning of brain nerves influencing mood and behaviour.
One particular neurotransmitter ‘serotonin’, also known as our ‘happy’ chemical, plays a role in mood, migraines, concentration, memory, sleep and appetite. Serotonin is synthesised (made by) the amino acid tryptophan and its supporting nutrients, one of these nutrients being iron.
Think about these supporting nutrients as being the nuts and bolts of a cabinet you are trying to assemble, the cabinet being the serotonin. Without these nuts and bolts (nutrients), your cabinet (serotonin) cannot be assembled (produced) 100%, and problems can arise.
Some common signs/symptoms of low iron:
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Poor concentration
- Sleep disturbances
How can I improve iron status?
There are two types of dietary iron; haem iron (the well-absorbed form) which is found in animal-based sources and non-haem iron (less absorbed form) which is found in plant-based sources:
Haem iron (animal foods) – Turkey, eggs, beef, pork, fish, chicken
Non-haem (plant foods) – nuts, grains, green leafy vegetables, molasses
I eat these foods but still don’t feel 100%?
- Poor absorption – low stomach acid, inflammation, nutrient imbalances, gut flora imbalance
- Other nutrient deficiencies (may not be iron)
- Food intolerance
- Lifestyle – excess alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.
It is important to only go on iron supplements if truly necessary and to know that not all iron supplements are created equal. Some iron supplements are poorly absorbed and can cause gastrointestinal irritation and constipation.