Can Low Iron Cause Headaches – The Real Reason

Written by: Shreya Manerkar – MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : March 05, 2023

“Why do you look so pale, have you been having enough iron?”, your friend asks you as you sit to have dinner. This made you think of all the frequent headaches you have been having. “Can low iron cause headaches?”, you ask your friend. And she responds, “What does an Iron Deficiency headache feel like for you?”

You try to describe the exact feeling in words, but everything seems confusing. All you can say is that you have been feeling weak, tired, and sometimes lightheaded. You start to worry and google information about the causes and reasoning for low iron and headaches.

With the help of this article, you will learn about iron deficiency, its causes, and its symptoms. We will also help you understand if low iron can cause frequent headaches and how they feel. Along with this, we will also explain the link between iron deficiency and our emotions. Finally, you will learn ways to deal with these headaches.

Let’s start by defining some key terms that you will read in this article.

  • Iron – It is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of the body
  • Deficiency– Any substance that is less or reduced
  • Headaches– pain in the head

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Chapter 1:

What Is Iron Deficiency?

As the name suggests, when you do not have enough iron in the body, it is known as Iron Deficiency. Iron is one of the most important components needed by our body. This is because our body needs healthy red blood cells to function well.

You may ask why Iron is so important? Well look at it this way, without red blood cells oxygen from our lungs will not reach our body. Look at iron as the food our blood cells need to do this task. Like you need to eat food to perform day-to-day tasks, you need iron to take oxygen with the help of the red blood cells.

Do you know what happens when we don’t have enough iron in our bodies?

Chapter 2:

What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency?

While you may feel, “Oh it’s just a headache”, or “I am tired because I had a hectic day”, It should never be neglected. Sometimes these headaches and tiredness can be caused due to of low iron. What we need to be aware of is the frequency of our symptoms. But before we go to the symptoms let us understand what causes iron deficiency.
  • Lack of iron in our diet
  • Loss of blood
  • Body’s inability to absorb iron
  • Pregnancy

Now that we have understood the causes, let us understand can happen when we have low iron:

  • Headaches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Chest Pain
  • Pale Skin
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Soreness in tongue
  • Weak nails

Chapter 3:

What Does an Iron Deficiency Headache Feel Like?

While we have given you an overview of what can happen cause of low iron, it is important to focus on the headaches. People often neglect these headaches, which later cause a more serious problem.

If you remember the previous section, we mentioned that our blood cells need to carry oxygen to all our organs. This in turn helps the body to work like a well-oiled machine.

Therefore, when we do not have enough oxygen, the first sign is a headache. Let us take the example of a pressure cooker. When our brain does not get enough oxygen, the blood vessels swell up, much like the pressure in a cooker. And just like the pressure cooker which blows off steam, low iron can cause the brain sets off headaches.

This then leads to the other symptoms we have mentioned in the previous section. It is like a chain reaction. When your head hurts, you can’t focus. You start feeling lightheaded. It feels like you may faint. Everything around you turns cloudy and you start to lose your balance. And therefore, when low iron causes headaches, we should not take it very lightly.

Chapter 4:

Causes of Low Iron Headaches and Emotional Health

While we have explained how low iron can cause terrible headaches, take a minute to note down how you feel. Irritation? Frustration? How about when you need to focus? Maybe you feel distracted or can’t concentrate on what you are doing?

Well, these are only some of the surface-level causes of low iron and frequent headaches. You may feel stressed because you don’t know why you get these frequent headaches. Iron deficiency is also known to be linked to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, suspicion, and disturbed thinking.

Chapter 5:

How to Increase Iron Content in the Body?

From what you have read so far, you can see that iron deficiency headache feel like torture not only to our body but also our mind. Therefore, it is important to make some changes to your diet. Along with this, the timing of your meals will greatly help in iron absorption.

Iron-Rich food:

If you are changing your diet, you need to ensure you eat the following foods. Here we will briefly mention some vegetarian and non-vegetarian food items that are rich in iron.

  • Vegetarian – Spinach, Legumes, Pumpkin seeds, Quinoa, Broccoli, and Tofu.
  • Non- Vegetarian – Shellfish, red meat, and turkey.

Include Vitamin C in Your Diet:

Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron and hence it is an extremely important vitamin to add to your diet. Along with eating more fruits such as oranges, kiwi, and grapefruit, you can get a healthy dose of vitamin C from bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Take Iron Supplements

Only after speaking to your doctor, you can take iron supplements. The reason you may need to take additional iron supplements is that the amount of iron in your food may not help you deal with iron deficiency and the headaches that you feel.

Only changing our diet is not enough to deal with low iron when it causes headaches. We also need to deal with the emotional impact that low iron has on our mental health. Therefore, along with the above-mentioned suggestions, we recommend checking out our self-help course “Chronic Fatigue” which can help you deal with the headaches, weakness, and extreme tiredness that are caused due to low iron in your body.

"Quick online learning, thanks!" Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount