Q. In 2001 I had a very strong urge to chew on ice. After reading in your column that this could be a sign of anemia, I told my doctor about it. The blood work showed anemia and I was advised to get a colonoscopy. This test showed cancer in the colon.

I had surgery and received six months of chemo. The operation removed 10 inches of my colon. Testing the lymph nodes showed the cancer had spread to three out of 15 tested.

I wouldn’t have mentioned the craving for ice cubes had I not read about it in your column. I thank you for that timely article. I have been cancer free for these past seven years.

A. Unexplained cravings for ice, laundry starch, cornstarch or other peculiar substances often signal a deficiency of iron or zinc and should be investigated. We are pleased your doctor took your anemia seriously and looked for the cause. The colonoscopy and subsequent treatment of the cancer may have saved your life.

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  1. jeanette

    Help I eat ice all day. I have 7 ice trays I eat all the ice if it don’t freeze fast enough I go buy ice. I have a history of lupus and starting to wonder could that be it? any suggestions please

  2. LaDonna

    My craving for ice started about 8 years ago. I would go through a ten pound bag in a day easily. At the time I was also so fatigued that it was hard for me to make it from the bed to the bathroom without stopping 2/3 times. My husband had to actually bath me in the shower because I was too tired to raise my arms!
    My doctor tested me and I was low, very low in iron. I tried taking iron tablets, iron liquid, and injections. Of course, they made me so sick, which in turn made me more tired. My iron got so low one time that while I was at my MD he told me to go straight to the ER. What he did’nt tell me though was that my blood count was so low that it was affecting my heart.
    I received a blood transfusion and was put on a heart monitor. After a couple of months I felt better and the cravings subsided. Three weeks ago, they returned. Here we go again.

  3. sally

    For about a year I have craved ice. Had blood test done because I was so weak that I had to place chairs all over my house so that I could sit once I reached my destination. I had to wash my dishes sitting on a stool! Found out I was extremely anemic, my hemoglobin was at 6.5.
    The doctor put me on 3 iron pills a day, and finally got it up to 11. Doctor said that this was not bad and to continue taking 2 iron pills a day, which I did, but I still felt week, and my hair started falling out! I had more blood tests and they found that I have a thyroid condition–I am waiting to see if it is hyper- or hypothyroidism, so they will know how to treat it. When my hmg got better, I did not have as much of a craving for ice, but still liked to do it.
    Make sure that if you are anemic that they do the blood test for your thyroid. An over-active or under-active thyroid can cause anemia.

  4. Angelia

    I crave ice so bad! I buy it daily at Sonics drive in. I will buy 3-4 bags every other day! I always have a cup in my hand. And if I’m traveling, I will bring a big thermos full. Or find out where there will be a sonics. I beat the bags to soften it up. It makes it very powdery. Like snow cones. My dr said I wasn’t anemic. But my vitamin D levels were very low. I took it for a while, but still had the ice craving! Any suggestions?

  5. Stacey

    I crave cold drinks ALL the time. It can be freezing outside or I feel cold… and I NEED a cold drink. I HATE warm/hot drinks… HATE coffee (even the smell) with a passion, don’t like tea and VERY rarely will I drink hot chocolate (last time was almost 2 yrs ago). Sometimes I even crave frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries or bananas). I LOVE Slurpees, Slush Puppies and (non-dairy) smoothies… fine ice drinks.
    The finer the ice is chopped the better. I even freeze some of my drinks just to have them frozen. I am almost constantly thirsty, but don’t seem to have to pee a lot.
    I have put on a lot of weight which makes me feel so horrible about myself. No matter what I do, I can’t lose weight and keep putting it on. I am in pain 90% of the time, and HORRIBLY fatigued 99% of the time. I do have mixed sleep apnea (in which treatment does NOT help), Kleine-Levin Syndrome (AKA sleeping beauty syndrome), Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome… I am convinced there is something else going on and docs not taking me seriously.
    I have gone from someone very active (volleyball, dance-tap, jazz, ballet, etc, gymnastics, and even a pageant queen) to someone barely able to get out of bed and sleeping my life away. I have gone to using my (asthma) inhalers 1-2 times every few months at most to almost every other day. I can go on forever on how bad I feel and other symptoms/complaints… but why bother…

  6. Priya

    Hi, I have habit of eating ice especially scraping ice from freezer… I am worried whether this will lead to serious health issues… plz help me…

  7. JP

    My husband is an alcoholic and drinks off and on..more on lately. His diet is very heavy…he eats lots of sweets and will eat popsicles every night before bed…he eats the 6-7 of the giant size. He ..of course hides his drinking but he drinks usually straight vodka. He is tired a lot and at night he will flop around like a ‘fish out of water.’
    He also has horrible coughing fits at night. He also has a lump on his tongue that doesn’t hurt but he said is just annoying him and won’t go away. He does not have any insurance ..he does go to a community Health center for his medication…anxiety /depression medication and cholesterol medication and lipitor.
    I am concerned about his liver and that something could be wrong. His stomach looks like he is 10 months prego but the rest of his body is very thin. I would love to hear any thoughts ..maybe I talk him into checking in to this. Thanks for any replies.

  8. Rose

    I used to crave ice just like a drug addict. The first thing in the morning I had to have it. I would get a large soft drink and ask for extra extra ice. I didn’t care about the pop it was the ice I wanted. I went to my Doc for a check up because I felt tired and would get out of breath easily.
    My test showed that I was severely anemic. My blood count was six. My Doc. was so concerned he called me at home the next evening and told me not to exert myself in any way until they did further testing, I was having extremely heavy periods.
    This happened gradually so I didn’t realize I was slowly bleeding to death. Further tests showed that it was an iron deficiency caused from my periods. Iron supplements quickly brought my count up to normal ranges. My Doc had me take iron a few days before my period and a few days after. My cravings for ice went away immediately and never returned. That was about twenty yrs ago.

  9. Michelle

    I am 33 years old. I have been eating ice for several years now. This is the most annoying habit for me and my family and friends. I don’t know how my husband puts up with me. He said he just blocks it out. I have the most amazing husband. I can’t even eat ice around my nieces. They will jump on me if I do. lol…. Anyway, my throat constantly feels dry and I feel OCD about eating ice. I obsess with it and have to have it. I usually buy two bags of ice a week from the grocery store. My freezer makes these big pieces of ice that I don’t like. I am getting a new refrigerator that makes crushed ice which will hopefully save money in the long run.
    I have been diagnosed with Anemia before in the past. I am thinking about just taking some ferrous sulfate once a day to see if that helps. I don’t have health insurance so I can’t really get further testing right now. It is nice to see others go through this same thing. It is not nice to see you suffer with this but it is nice to see I am not crazy. Thanks for listening.

  10. sherry

    I crave ice after I eat…I can eat ice for a meal..I am very addicted to eating ice..

  11. Pat H.

    Some of these people need to get tested for celic especially Lori L.

  12. Anonymous

    I’ve been craving ice for about 6 mths. When I told my Nurse about it she told me it is a sign of anemia which I’ve never had. I had to go in for lab work and sure enough I had anemia. They put me on iron pills for 30 days twice a day and it only helped a little. I’m on another month of iron pills. The Nurse told me if my iron is still low I will have to start getting infusions of red cells. I am hoping my iron level has gone up.

  13. Anonymous

    hi ive been eating ice over 6 months now could it be colon cancer because am loosing a whole lot of weight.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: It could certainly be a serious problem. Lowing weight unintentionally is always worth checking, and we urge you to see your doctor promptly. Don’t jump to the conclusion that it is cancer, but do find out what is going on!

  14. Tammy

    Hi my sister has been sick for 16 months and has lost 50 lbs first was diagnosed with diabetes then was treated for depression she went to the Dr every month I told her Dr about her ice cravings he just snared at me like it was nothing to be worried about I wanted him to do blood testing to see if her iron was low he informed me that the last blood test was normal, finally she went for a colonoscopy and guess what? Colon cancer. Please if you are reading this don’t take craving ice lightly get your colon checked it could save your life.

  15. Kate

    I had a very similar experience. I was diagnosed with iron deficient anemia and had two iron infusions. My ferritin was at 2 and went up into the 200’s. I had craved the ice for about a year before my diagnosis and after the infusions, it stopped. The only issue is that I am still constantly tired. The whole reason for the infusions was to stop the constant fatigue. I had the colonoscopy/endoscopy and was negative. I have digestive issues and have had stomach issues since I was 4 or 5 years old. I also get “roadmap” or “geographic” tongue.
    I have recently started a gluten-free diet, thinking that might be the issue. It has been a month and no real changes. I do feel my stomach/digestive issues are a bit better, but nothing else. I stopped going to my doctor after the iron infusions didn’t help. I have recently started craving ice again. I just wish the doctor’s could have figured out what the real problem is.

  16. tsitsi

    It’s so surprising so many people are in this same boat. I started craving for ice cream, then at a point when it was a bit luxurious here (in Africa in my country) I resorted to trying ice and it quenched the huge abnormal thirst I often experienced. I drink 4 litres of cold water on average a day plus plenty ice as long as I’m near the fridge. I don’t forget to put the ice trays all thru in the freezer. I am quite informed that it could be a serious medical condition, will try to see a doctor and pray about it.

  17. CMR

    I have been craving ice for the last six months. I used to drink a lot of water but instead of only water, I now chew ice as well. Is there any harm in eating ice? What is the difference between snow and ice?

  18. BGH

    I am a 60 year old female who had a hysterectomy 30 years ago. My Father died at 68 years of age; he had leukemia.
    I crave anything cold to eat or drink. I want cold, cold fruit, ice cold water, and popsicles!!! For breakfast this morning I had 6 whole popsicles. I have Lupus and have been diagnosed with chronic iron anemia; I also have IBS.
    I never really thought too much about my eating/drinking behavior until my friend said to me, “What’s up with the cold stuff.”
    My doctor discussed iron infusions with me and referred me to a hematologist; however, the hematologist did not feel I needed the infusions yet, but need the iron supplements, which I take, but it me to have causes severe cramps and worse constipation than normal.
    My hemoglobin is 11.4.
    I do not have energy but am trying to exercise; but if I exercise too much or get overtired become physically ill.

  19. CB

    I w/like to share my experience. I had a terrible craving for ice. I wanted crushed ice in ice tea every waking moment! My family sometimes would glare at me for making so much noise crunching my ice, especially while watching TV! I would feel bad for wanting ice all the time, especially when my family complained about it. I went to my doctor for my annual exam and had blood test, that is when I found out my hemoglobin was at 9.
    My Dr told me I have chronic iron def. anemia, that a Colonoscopy and Endoscopy were necessary (I already had a total hysterectomy yrs. ago), that we needed to find the place of bleeding. After 1 Colonoscopy and 2 Endoscopies, no abnormalities were found.
    I have been living with IBS since 1988 and have various digestive problems. My Dr wanted me to go to San Francisco for further testing, however, I declined, I just really am not up to being a guinea pig! I was referred to a hematologist for treatment. I tried taking oral iron, but found due to my IBS I could not tolerate that, so I have now completed 9 full iron infusions, my Ferritin started at 2 and I am now at 175 & hemoglobin is 12.4.
    To my dismay I still have no energy, the ice habit has totally gone away tho! I have no desire for ice now. Maybe I should have gone for further testing, I do not feel better and now I will probably have a longer road to find out the real root of my health problem.

  20. LS

    I am a 48 year old female. For over 10 years I not only crave ice cold drinks but everything I drink has to be put into the freezer and frozen to a freezy, slushy consistency. Also, I make my cold cereal and freeze it in the same way. It has gotten so bad that I no longer want to eat regular food.
    My daily diet consists of 8-10 frozen bottles of water or Gatorade, frozen Popsicles, ice cream, cereal and anything I can get to try to quench this never ending craving. Tonight I ate a whole box of Popsicles because I could not stop. The colder the better. I have had several blood tests done but none resulted in anemia. Also, I have an extreme case of restless leg syndrome for which I take Quinine and Xanax. I feel like the more I give into my craving, the worse it gets. I was having some tests done but before I could complete the testing I lost my job and my insurance. Now I can no longer complete my testing and I can’t afford my meds. Thanks for listening.

  21. MR

    I am a 39 year old female, and crave ice with soda, I have to have the ice a certain shape and size, I crave it daily, but, it has to be with the carbonation of the soda. I drink it and chew the ice morning, till night. I actually know what stores have what kind of ice, my kids and husband think I’m crazy, but, I have to have it!
    I have always been anemic, but, I haven’t had health Insurance for a few years, therefore, I haven’t had my blood tested, I am now in the process of getting a new Insurance policy, so I plan on seeing a new doctor to have this checked out. I have also had teeth problems, and never thought this could be why! I also have been having abdominal problems lately, so it’s probably all linked. I was shocked to see how many other people have the same disorder, I thought I was the only one.

  22. RIT

    I have hemachromatosis and had therapeutic phlebotomy for 10 months. My ferritin was 75 ( my goal). In the past year ferritin has continued to drop and now is 8. I have intense ice cravings for crushed ice. I cannot go a day without 3 or 4 large cups of ice to munch on.
    I have not had any transfusions as the stored iron I had prior has caused cirrhosis . and I need a liver transplant. I was also diagnosed with breast cancer last year. I am glad to know I am not alone. I also have restless leg syndrome. Any suggestions regarding a transfusion? Platelets are 47 and white cells 1.4

  23. Grace

    20+ years ago I craved ice, even took ice cube trays in car. After a hysterectomy it stopped as fast as it came. A month or so ago, ice cravings started again. I started with a new PCP and yesterday received lab results of Anemia. I recently had a colonoscopy which was suspect but polops were removed and I return in 3 years so hopefully that’s not an issue. I take multiple vitamin supplements every day and most of what I eat has Iron or B vitamins so that concerns me.
    Until yesterday, I wasn’t sure what the cravings meant but feel better now that I know there are answers, I will discuss it with my new PCP and I’m glad I found this site.

  24. Lorri L.

    I started drinking ice water then I started crunching peppermint candy. I always hated peppermint candy. I’m 44 now. I had my colon removed in 2008 and now I am anemic but they can’t find were the blood is going to. I crave ice and crunch it on the side that had the root canals and I pray they hold up. I am in and out of the hospital because I get dehydrated easily because of the diarrhea, a common thing for some who have there colon out, and I have had roommates who have actually asked to be moved to another room because of all of the ice chomping I did. In the hospital I can’t sleep and I love the soft ice they have and I can eat it by the bucket fulls.
    I just got out this May 2010 and while in there my blood Hmg kept jumping from 9.5 to 8.4 etc. They said the would transfuse in it got down to 8.0. I take Iron pill 2 x daily and I am so tired of this. I get restless leg syndrome also and wondered if iron played a part in that also some nights I cry my self to sleep with a mouth full of ice. And I’m on Requip. Help.

  25. Pam M.

    I also crave ice on a daily basis. This bad habit as I call it started three years ago when I noticed my sister scraping ice out of the freezer. It was okay at the time because the weather was hot and it made me cool off.
    I have noticed that hot and spicy products burn my tongue because my tongue is bruised. I, also, noticed that my lower part of my back hurts when I go on a ice eating binge. My back stiffens which causes me not to get an intense workout like I am accustomed to at the local gym. I am now waiting for the results from my blood work to see if I have low iron.

  26. JVP

    I too consume unbelievable amounts of ice everyday. I used to blame it on type 2 diabetes, then I lost over 100 lbs, and stopped the craving for a short period of time. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Four broken teeth thus resulting in root canals. Now I am craving it again, even worse. This time I am blaming it on low iron. I almost died with septicemia several months ago which causes your iron to drop severely, but that’s been almost a year ago. What the heck…. I guess I am going to the doctor now. Let me know if anyone has any answers.

  27. kskipper

    I love ice, I also have a major craving for Freezer Ice, yes the white snowy ice that forms when the air hits the inside of freezer and it makes that snowy white ice… My mouth is watering just writing about it, I love it so much. I have a freezer that I use to make the ice for me to eat only, I put no food in the freezer, since I unplugged it, I now crave ice more and more every day. Someone please tell me why. I’m only a little anemic according to my test, so they don’t think that is why I crave ice so much.

  28. LAT

    I’ve been craving for ice for more than 1 year already. It started with ice cold water but after few months I’m no longer satisfied with ice cold water and I started eating/chewing ice. I can’t stop it and I don’t know why. When I discussed it with my doctor, she said that it is not bad because it is water. However, she said that is is a sign of anemia.
    I had CBC and result stated that I have anemia and my hemoglobin is only 9, which my doctor said if it goes down to 8, I need blood transfusion. I also had Colonoscopy and luckily the result is negative. My doctor recommended Endoscopy because she want to know what causes my anemia, but I refused any further test because I’m scared. I want to stop eating ice because I noticed it’s getting worse, (I can eat 5 lbs of ice a day) but I can’t do it.
    I feel that my mouth and throat are very dry. I eat ice from the moment I woke up till the moment I sleep. The whole day I’m eating ice, even at work. I don’t know what to do to stop it. If anyone out there can give me any suggestion,I would greatly appreciate your help.

  29. BC

    I too crunch Ice everyday at work. I was diagnosed with Anemia. I have had and endoscopy and a Colonoscopy and neither revealed and bleeding. I have not been tasked to try Iron pills for 60 days straight and see if my energy is raised and my Iron levels.

  30. Sheila H.

    RE: cravings for ice and anemia. Iron supplements help.
    I tried a small amount of iron supplementation for another problem: songs that play over and over in a person’s mind.
    After reading about ice chewing (I did that all my teen years;WISH I had know this back then; would have saved my teeth from hairline fractures;) I thought maybe there was a connection between anemia and songs or “hook lines” that won’t go away and play over and over in my mind.
    I purchased a bottle of Iron at a drug store and took one per day for three days. (To make sure it was not psychological, I just took them and forgot about it.)
    After three days the songs went away. I have had to do this three separate times over the past 3 years. IT WORKS.

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