Relaxing in front of the TV when you have this overwhelming urge to eat ice? Yes. Suddenly, nothing else will do except for the crunchiness of something freezing cold and tasteless. Must. Eat. Ice.
Well, you’re not alone in this seemingly unusual craving. There can be a bunch of explanations for why you’re craving ice. And, it may or may not be a problem that your go-to snack is a cup of ice cubes.
There are a few reasons you might be craving ice rather than just fancying something extremely cold. Here are the most common causes of an ice craving.
Iron deficiency anemia
One of the top reasons for ice eating is low iron levels that lead to iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is a medical condition when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. This happens when you don’t get enough of the mineral iron.
In one study, 81 people with iron deficiency anemia were asked about their eating habits. Of those patients, 16 percent of them had an insatiable craving for ice.
Another study suggested that people with anemia eat ice because it gives them a mental boost.
Other symptoms of anemia include:
- feeling tired, weak, and/or dizzy
- shortness of breath
- brittle nails
- pale skin
- a swollen tongue
- a tingling feeling in your legs
- cold hands and feet
- a fast or irregular heartbeat
Pregnancy can cause all sorts of cravings. Chocolate bar dipped in ketchup? Sure. Ice cream with mustard? Why not? So, ice doesn’t seem that out there.
But one research review showed that pregnancy can cause anemia due to the demands on your blood supply and circulation in your body. It can also be caused by poor diet and abnormal bleeding. Sometimes it happens for absolutely no reason at all.
But if you’re pregnant and currently eating ice as you read this, don’t panic. Anemia can be treated.
Other reasons pregnancy might make you crave ice:
- Dehydration from nausea and vomiting. Ice keeps you hydrated without making you feel any more nauseous.
- Morning sickness. Ice doesn’t have an odor or taste, so you might crave it because it’s a safe food for nausea.
- Being too hot.🔥 Pregnancy increases your metabolic rate and causes your blood vessels to swell, making you too hot. Your body will crave items such as ice to cool it down.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an intense craving to eat ice might mean that you have a condition called pica, which is a type of disordered eating when you want to eat substances that lack any nutritional value.
People with pica crave things like ice, chalk, clay, dirt, paint chips, hair, and paper (really anything you’ve seen eaten on ‘‘My Strange Addiction’’). Craving ice can mean you have a type of pica called pagophagia, when you specifically crave and eat ice.
Pica is often seen in children, and is associated with obsessive compulsive disorder or a pediatric developmental disorder. It can also be related to a nutrient deficiency like iron, which results in anemia (seeing a pattern, here?).
Signs you might have pica include:
- Regularly eating things that aren’t food and have zero nutritional value for at least 1 month.
- Eating substances such as paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, soil, chalk, paint, charcoal, clay, or ice.
- Eating these substances at a developmentally inappropriate age (as in you’re not a baby putting everything in your mouth).
If you find yourself craving and eating an increasingly high amount of ice per day, you should probably see your doctor about it. You may need treatment for the underlying issue causing your craving.
But isn’t it ridiculous to see a doc about eating ice? Nope, not at all!
Don’t be embarrassed about seeing your doctor about your constant ice crunching. Doctors are trained to see it all, including associations with anemia and mental health like craving ice.
Before you go, it might be helpful to keep a diary to write down the timings of each craving, how much ice you’re eating, and how you feel before and after eating it, to give your doctor a bigger picture as to what you’re currently dealing with.
Even if you’re not sure how much ice you’re eating, it’s a good idea not to delay seeing your doctor.
If you think it’s iron deficiency anemia…
You may be given treatment such as iron supplements. You may also be advised to up your iron intake with iron-rich foods, such as leafy greens like spinach and red meat. If your anemia is severe, you may be offered iron infusions, which can help increase your body’s iron levels quickly.
In pregnancy, a doctor may increase your folic acid intake (with folic acid already being a recommendation for a healthy pregnancy), or offer you an iron infusion at the hospital to help you feel better.
The quicker your iron levels increase, the quicker your need for ice should disappear. But you may need to consider long-term treatment.
If you think it’s pica…
Diagnosing pica isn’t as easy as getting a lab test that says you have it or not. Instead, your doctor will consider your medical history and your symptoms for a diagnosis. But that often includes testing for anemia.
If your doctor believes that your craving is psychological and related to disordered eating or another mental health condition, the next step might be therapy.
It may even be helpful to seek counseling to help you understand why this behavior is happening, and how to deal with it. Cognitive behavioral therapy specifically can help you learn positive or negative reinforcement to control your cravings for ice.
Not only could this help with the cravings, but you may also get a deep look into past trauma and a chance to work through that trauma.
Munching on cups of ice isn’t horrible for your health. But the fact that it could be caused by an underlying health condition isn’t good if that goes unchecked.
Chewing ice can also lead to dental problems like damaging your teeth’s enamel. Eroded enamel can cause pain, sensitivities to hot and cold, and leave you more prone to cavities. That means more trips to the dentist may be in order.
The short answer is, yes, you can absolutely stop craving ice. But it will often require the right treatment, which can only happen if you and your doctor get to the bottom of your ice craving.
Eating ice isn’t necessarily bad, but the reasons for doing so might be. The craving can be caused by a number of conditions that can all be treated to help get you ice-free or decrease your intake.