Pica Ice Craving
Q: Lately I've developed this strange craving for ice. I make iced drinks
constantly, not because I'm thirsty but because I want to crunch on the
cubes. I didn't realize just how often I was doing it until my husband
made a comment. Now I feel self-conscious whenever I chew on a few cubes, but
it's almost as if I can't help myself. Why is this happening?
Dr. Donnica: You have a condition called pagophagia, or compulsive eating
of ice. This is a form of pica, a condition in which people crave and eat non-food
substances like ice, chalk, paper, laundry soap, starch, hair, dirt, clay, or
paint. There have been several reports linking the craving of ice to iron-deficiency
anemia (low blood count as a result of an iron-deficiency). In fact, there's
even a website called "All About Chewing
Ice," which also has a support group for people with this condition.
There are many causes of iron deficiency anemia (IDA), but the most common
cause is menstrual blood loss. As a result, IDA is extremely common in women.
You should also check to be sure you aren't pregnant! Many women--whether
or not they have anemia--experience cravings like this during pregnancy. Iron
deficiency is so pervasive in pregnant women that we routinely recommend prenatal
vitamins with iron for most pregnant women. IDA is very easily diagnosed with
a simple blood test and very easily treated with iron supplements. If you need
iron supplements, you may want to also take Vitamin C supplements to increase
absorption of the iron. While there is nothing dangerous about chewing ice other
than the risk of ruining your teeth, this could be a useful clue that something
else is going on.
Created: 6/25/2005  - Donnica Moore, M.D.