MindCheck is the Weekly Wednesday Kids Mental Health series with Dr. Ray Pataracchia N.D. MindCheck provides in depth information on the orthomolecular approach to coping with mood and/or behavior disorders. The MindCheck Health Series is endorsed by the Mindful Network - ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.
Iron is involved in several manufacturing processes important to mental health.
Iron Deficiency in Mental Health
Iron is Universal to Mental Health
Iron deficiency is seen in all age groups and is one of the top 15 syndromes associated with mental health. It is not uncommon to see low iron in mood and behavior disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADD and OCD.
If you have iron, you have energy
Iron is needed to form an iron-hemoglobin complex that carries oxygen to cells. When the formation of this complex is compromised we are said to have iron deficient anemia. Oxygen is needed for the production of the body’s energy molecule, ATP. The last thing we want is too little oxygen reaching the brain because brain cells demand huge amounts of energy.
Fatigue is a very common complaint in depression and it’s said ‘if you have energy you can’t be depressed’. Fatigue in mental health conditions may be due to various factors such as in-efficient oxygen carriage to cells, inadequate thyroid hormone, inadequate sugar supply to cells, etcetera.
Despite iron’s all important role in oxygen transport, only 1/3rd of iron deficiency symptoms are related to anemia.
Without iron, you can’t make DNA or thyroid hormone
To manufacture DNA we require iron. DNA holds the code for protein, and in mental health, neurotransmitters are key proteins that allow brain cells to communicate and regulate mood, behavior, thinking, and sensory perception.
Iron is also a component of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone works at the DNA promoter region of cells. Thyroid hormone acts as the green light for the production of whatever type of protein a cell is producing. Thyroid hormone also requires co-factors such as zinc, female hormones, male hormones, and vitamin D.
Without iron we have inadequate DNA and thyroid hormone production which results in diminished neurotransmitter production.
Brain cells that produce neurotransmitters on demand are healthy. If the basic DNA protein making machinery is inefficient, brain signals fail and mental health gets compromised.
Iron deficiency in ADHD
It is presumed that low ferritin (stored iron) is associated with the severity of ADHD symptoms. In the high kinetic energy type of ADD, that is the hyperactive type that we call ADHD, taking supplemental iron can improve symptoms.
ADHD and Restless Legs
There is a crossover of ADHD patients with restless legs and both conditions can be improved with iron supplementation.
Iron deficiency in Females
Menstruating females loose iron on a regular basis and are prone to iron loss and associated symptoms, low energy, etcetera. Iron loss in these cases predisposes females to other iron deficient syndromes which can compromise mental health.
Those that have trouble swallowing pills may be iron deficient. Dysphagia is the medical term used for those that have a compromised ability to swallow or a tightening of the esophagus. The need to clear your throat often, especially when under stress is considered a low iron and low thyroid symptom. Iron loss in people with dysphagia predisposes them other iron deficient syndromes which can compromise mental health.
Common sources of Iron
Vegetables (especially green leafy veges), red meat, legumes, nuts, soy, and fish are good sources of iron.
For a good review on Iron, please read the Iron chapter in my book on Trace Minerals in Health & Disease.