Can low iron cause headaches? About a year ago, I had a 16-year-old female patient who came to me with intense frontal headaches. She had been experiencing them almost daily for a couple of years. She had been seeing different doctors and looking everywhere for answers. And she had gotten nowhere. She took ibuprofen and Tylenol almost daily if not a couple of times per day depending on what she had to do that day. During all of these visits, nobody had actually drawn her blood and looked at her labs.

The first thing that comes to mind when a patient complains of a chronic frontal headache, the type right above or between the eyes is iron or b12 deficiency.  So of course I was shocked when in over 3 years after seeing different doctors for these headaches and even after a brain MRI, nobody had actually checked her B12 or Ferritin levels.

I checked her levels.  And sure enough, her Ferritin was 4. We like to see ferritin at least around 50 and in some cases, 75-120 can be necessary for symptom relief.  Everything else in her blood looked great.  We immediately started her on two Blood Vitality daily and in a matter of about 2 weeks, her headaches were completely gone. Three years of suffering, being told it was her hormones and that she should be on birth control, all of which didn’t help.

Within two weeks of starting on Blood Vitality, her headaches were gone and they have not returned. A simple solution for a simple deficiency.

So, yes low iron can definitely cause headaches and even migraines. This is because iron affects oxygen transmission, electron storage and transport, neurotransmitter metabolism (like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine), DNA synthesis, and a host of other energy-related processes. There are many theories as to exactly why an iron deficiency can cause headaches.

One is that given the role of iron in carrying oxygen on red blood cells, the lack of available oxygen leads to swelling of blood vessels in the brain causing brain pressure changes and headaches.

Another theory has to do with irons’ role in either up or down-regulating serotonin metabolism depending on one’s genetics.  Fluctuations in serotonin are associated with headaches. This can also be why many people who are iron deficient also struggle with motivation, anxiety, and depression even beyond the fatigue created by low iron levels.  On top of that, brain glutamate levels are elevated in a state of iron deficiency which can create a hyper excitatory state in the brain, possibly manifesting as anxiety and headaches or migraines.

You may have experienced or heard of low iron friends or family complaining about brain fog. This is very common.  The elevated GABA levels that occur in specific areas of the brain when the iron is deficient, essentially tells the brain we don’t have enough energy to process right so we need to turn down the rate of neurotransmission.  So it is not just a feeling of brain sluggishness when iron deficient, your brain literally is responding more slowly to life.

I hope this helps.  Please be sure to get your iron and ferritin levels checked.  Keep them optimized and enjoy the benefits of an iron optimized brain.

Check out this post to find why the right iron matters for digestion.