an ice cube on a tongue

Q. I read in your column about a person who craved ice. A couple of years ago I had the same habit, and had to have ice cubes constantly. Even on trips, my son would have to stop at restaurants, gas stations or anywhere else to get me large containers of ice cubes.
The doctors I consulted could not tell me why I was craving ice. But I got weaker and weaker. I finally went to my doctor who said I looked like a ghost. He ordered blood tests and found I was anemic. I was taken in a wheelchair from the lab to the hospital and given a transfusion. I’ve had no craving for ice since that time. Perhaps your reader should have a blood test.

A. Thanks for sharing your story. When people develop unusual cravings they should always be tested for anemia or zinc deficiency. We have heard of other cases where replenishing iron or zinc vanquishes the compulsion to eat ice.
Sometimes a craving for something that is not food (doctors call this “pica”) can indicate an even more serious medical problem. We received this message four years ago:

“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.”

Another person reported this experience:

“I also used to crave crushed ice,eating it daily, summer and winter, many pounds of it on a weekly basis, I was scheduled for surgery and during the pre testing for the surgery,it was discovered that my blood count was so low that I was going to need a transfusion before I could have the surgery.
“I checked into the hospital and constantly ate crushed ice all during the 1st day, that night I was given a blood transfusion and immediately I stopped craving ice and have not eaten it since,and that was more than 20 years ago.”

Many people also report cornstarch cravings. You will find dozens of amazing stories by going to this link. Here is just one example:

“I never thought that eating cornstarch was a problem until I started eating whole boxes myself within just 2 or 3 days, I originally began eating it at 16 pregnant with my first child, and family members would also eat it often which made it hard for me to stop.
“I’m 23 years old about to be 24 and I feel like this has become an issue and I need help. My weight is up and down and I know my iron is low. My mate doesn’t like it, he thinks I should be able to stop easily, I find myself lying to my family about quitting. I don’t have a favorite brand any will do just to take the craving away.
“Often I will eat ice to take the place of starch, but lately I’ve been eating both together. I dip my fingers pour mounds in my hands and lick it, and even eating it through a straw. I’ve tried chalk as a replacement but it’s not as good at the starch. Help me please and thank you.”

If you know anyone (or you yourself) who has cravings for ice, or cornstarch or even foods like carrots, please encourage that person to visit our website, read these stories and then be checked for an iron or zinc deficiency.

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  1. Renee

    I’ve been eating ice since I was 14 which was also when my eating disorders started. I always knew I was anemic but as time went by it got worse. I am now 31 and last time I checked my iron was the lowest it had ever been but the dr didn’t bother with anything just told me to take vit d and my iron tablets. The only time I’ve not eaten ice was when I was pregnant and a few months after having my son I was back on it. I chew any ice I don’t care how hard or white it is but I do prefer the cloudy ones coz they seem to be softer lol I drive my parents and my son crazy I even buy bags of it like the many others I’ve read on here do and in winter I melt it infront of the heater and crunch it before it melts away. Haven’t ever stopped doing this don’t think I will since the dr doesn’t see a problem with it n my weight is pretty normal I’m no longer anorexic but according to my bmi I need to loose a few kgs

  2. hafsa k.
    pakistan faisalabad

    I’m afraid I’m only of 18 years and I am addicted of ice eating. I have blood deficiency and my weight is lost and gained in short interval of time. I have stomach problems as well my family think that ice eating is only a habit but truly I cannot skip eating ice. Some times I eat 1 to 2 liter of ice on daily basis. I am tired of it and want to skip but I simply can’t I felt depressed.

  3. mechelle
    tupelo ms

    very interesting and informative topic

  4. mechelle
    tupelo ms

    wow… as I was reading the beginning of article, I was rolling in laughter when I read the part on “even on trips,she had her son stop at any available place that had ice to fill large container” because that is exactly me. I have been this way for the last 5 years now. Not sure when I started it. My addiction to ice is worse than anything else I’ve ever came close to being addicted to, even narcotics. I panic and become filled with anxiety if my ice level is low, and have to replace it. I have to buy bags of ice and it can get expensive… I have autoimmune disorders and I’m almost positive IBS, however, due to going to autoimmune specialists for the last couple years, I’m tapped out and can’t afford to go to doctor to have ibs diagnosed. I do have a lot of stomach issues, rapid weight loss, and symptoms of colon cancer so this scared me into getting into action instead of waiting after my disability hearing as planned. I’m going to research and see if any financial assistance is available for those who are uninsured and indigent at the moment. I welcome any feedback or suggestions.This article is awesome, funny, yet informative as well. Awesome job!!

  5. Lauren

    I should probably consult a doctor about my ice cube craves. I constantly feel the need to be chewing ice..

    • douglas
      apple valley ca

      I have some red flags

      • douglas

        I am a ice eater I am anemic and have ulcerative colitis I just started doing something about it. I am going to be taking iron pills, folic acid and zinc to replace blood loss and to help with anemia.

  6. Chikere S.
    columbus georgia

    Well, I am 14 years old and I stayyy having cravings for ice but, nothing is wrong with me even though I had a MASSIVE head ache yesterday but I do not know if it had anything to do with ice. Know that I think about it I am starting to crave some now. My teeth are perfectly fine, right now though. But I run some water on my ice so it wont break my teeth off.

  7. L.M.H.

    I am also addicted to ice and eat it daily in big cups at work and home. Filling ice trays up when they seem a little low. Going to Sonic and the nearby convenient stores for ice is awesome.
    Well, I am currently being hospitalized for low iron. Just received blood transfusion, my count was 6.0 scared to death when females should be at a12.9. Receiving iron intravenously, blood thinner in my stomach as well as Lupron so that I can prepare for a hysterectomy in January.
    I am trying to stop, but find myself chewing on ice and texting this important message. The nurses keep bringing it to me and hopefully I stop. Lol. My husband is really concerned. Pray for me and a speedy recovery. And I have no idea how this craving started.

  8. ash

    I crave and eat ice all the time. I love ice, I just have to have it. I really just can’t enjoy the juice or soda, I’m literally waiting for the ice. More ice!!! I love Chic Fil La’s ice because it’s crushed and Zaxby’s. I know it’s an issue with me being anemic. I don’t chew the ice, I’ll let it melt. If i do chew, I’ll chew it a little bit and just swallow the crushed parts. I used to crave dirt too.
    Please see a health professional and have your blood checked for mineral deficiencies such as iron or zinc. Correcting the imbalance, if it exists, could eliminate the cravings.

    • shadow
      manistee, MI 49660

      I chew ice as soon as I have my 2 cups of coffee in the morning. I crave it and make sure the ice sit a while to melt awhile so to not hurt my teeth. If I really crave it I will fill another glass with more ice so to melt just right until I need it. Now to talk to you about dirt I use to eat dirt when I was a child but don’t now. Don’t know why I stopped eating dirt but I did. I sure wish I could stop craving the ice?

  9. Opal

    My craving for ice have gotten wayyyy out of control. I smell it, I love it when it’s white and I love small ones.
    I eat dozens of ice cube a day. I need help!!! I’m also half blind, not sure if this have anything to do with it. I can’t help it, I just need ice all the time, anywhere and anytime

  10. eb

    I just started my ice craving. I mostly prefer small pieces to suck on not chew. It gets so bad I crush ice cubes into slush and eat it like a bowl of cereal. Lol yes subway’s crush ice machine is awesome!!!
    I definitely need to go to the doctor to find out what is wrong

    • Chikere S.

      I know how you feel.

  11. BRWDWT

    I have been addicted to ice on and off now for years. It has gotten so bad that I want to be alone when I eat it so I don’t bother other people. It is bad that my son and husband can’t handle it anymore. I am really concerned because it is such a strong craving.

  12. Rachel

    I just wanted to note that a couple more signs of anemia are your hands and feet always being cold and being cold in general. Also, being so cold that you shake and / or your teeth chattering.

  13. Tina M.

    I’m a 16 years old gal I’m eating ice block they are like a drug to me now. What can I do 2 stop eating them? plz help me.

  14. shun

    I been craving ice for a month, I eat ice for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snack, I constantly chew ice all day everyday at work, my back constantly itches I don’t know if the ice have anything to do with it, but I tried stopping and its hard when that’s all I like to eat, it gotten so bad where I wake up out my sleep to fill my bowl up with ice, I need help and this cravings just started.

  15. LizM

    I have been eating ice for a few years now, I have ‘preferred’ manufacturers, and have great pleasure chopping on an ice cube that is white in colour. I will buy 2kg of ice, happily eating it watching tv, having a bath, driving in the car. Look forward to my weekly trip to Subway as their ice is bite size and normally white. I have not attended doctor for several years, I know that during both my pregnancies I required iron injections to boost my levels. Think it is about time I made a trip to the doctor again having read article and comments above.

    • mechelle
      tupelo ms

      Too funny! Such a cute way of writing… I can relate.. I seem to receive some type of extra pleasure and happiness when I am chomping on ice and have my preferred mugs as well…. I like the redyice that is kind of oval with the little hole through it. I chomp and chomp and chomp. I will not go to sleep even until the last piece of ice in my cup is ate.(I have a preferred cup as well. One of the “no sweat” kind) it’s very comforting to know I’m just as crazy as some may think.. I cant even go on a date without telling them “hey , if you hearing someone chomping on ice sound bothers you, then we may as well not waste our time.” I take it in everywhere I go… the front desk clerks at my pelvic pain specialist office started calling me “sy” from duck dynasty because they said I am like him, always have my cup… funny how all of us “ice addicts” have the same routine with the addiction itself… Great story and well told!

  16. cpmt

    You probably are anemic or iron deficient or another mineral … Yes you should tell your doctor and take a copy of this info and comments.

  17. Sv

    So if I’m addicted to ice, do I tell my doctor I am because I have a feeling he won’t take me serious as I’m only 16 and after I went for having spots he just joked it off saying it’s hormonal but he did provide me with duac gel

  18. Chelsey S.

    I am only 16 and I have been addicted to ice for a year and a half.. I have to be eating ice all the time. From the time I get up to the time I go to bed, I have to have a glass of ice. I did have a blood test done and nothing came up? What’s wrong with me??? Help?

  19. Ashley L.

    I crave ice and have for many years. I can go through a 10lb bag in a week not including the 2 -3 44oz cups I grab at Sonic every day. The car hops know me by name. I recently had blood work for a physical at work. I was diagnosed with anemia and told to take a few flinstone vitamins and everything would be ok.
    Scheduled follow up blood work for 2 months out. I think this is more serious, what should I do? I’m also craving limes, salted lemon wedges and pickles which I actually dislike. I cant get enough sleep and I’m always tired. I feel that they are overlooking something??

  20. Ice

    After brushing my teeth, I would finish up by dipping the toothbrush in baking soda and brush one more time as a whitener. I eventually found liking the taste of baking soda and began to carry it around in ziplock bags. I keep a box in the console of my car. A co worker told me it was bad for my health and I stopped immediately.
    I later found myself chewing on ice until my dentist told me to stop. I stopped immediately. I still had the ice addiction, but no longer chewed it, let it melt in my mouth. I am overly fatigued, light headeded. I noticed my chest itched for no reason, and I now have chest pains and sleep all the time. I feel depressed.
    I have an appt to see my doctor in a few days. After reading these posts, I stopped eating the ice for 2 days but then. I ate a few cubes today and I felt dizzy immediately.

  21. cpmt

    You should check -blood test- your vitamins and mineral deficiencies – Probably some minerals. I knew someone who was deficiency in iron, and he had the same cravings or addition. I also had a friend who was always had craving for garlic, I think she was low in zinc or other mineral (I can’t remember now)

  22. JVL.Vries

    Hi I read your article just now and finally understand where my bad habit is coming from, I used to eat ice like 2l’s a day. I though it was just a weird habit. I stopped 4 months and the cravings for ice disappeared. Suddenly today the cravings are back, but I’m worried bout my health so I’m trying to resist buying cubes the cravings just seem to increase. What should I do??
    Peoples Pharmacy response: See your doctor and ask to be tested for iron or zinc deficiency. Correcting the deficiency should eliminate the cravings.

  23. shelly

    I too have an ice cube addiction. I have 5 ice cube trays in my freezer. I just can’t stop
    I never really thought it was an animeic issue. I’ve been eating ice for years. If one of my ice cube trays are empty I panic. I guess I’m going to have to talk with my doctor and see what I can do to stop the habit. It is hard on my teeth. I have broken several teeth.

  24. Tracey

    I believe my pica is so bad to the point that I drive my family & co workers CRAZY. I will sit & eat ice at my desk all day run back & forth to the restroom they have made several comments bout the crunching but I don’t care, its like a drug I have to have it, if I’m at home & I run out that will be the one thing that will make me get up in the middle of the night & go & get get it, I cant even count how many cups I have in a days time & sometimes I prefer it over food.

  25. katrina

    I have had a ice cube craving for 7 months now it gets to the stage if there is no ice cubes in freezer then I chip ice from the freezer itself. When I go to my parents I fill the ice cube tray up when it starts getting low there is 2 trays in my parents freezer. 1,s a backup while the 2nd ones freezing. I don’t know whats caused it to all of a sudden be a craving of mine. I’ve read some of the other peoples stories on here.

  26. cpmt

    yes, other cravings may be related to other mineral or vitamin deficiencies. I had a friend that constantly eat pickles and another garlic. Both were having problems with low minerals and / or vitamins… and other related illnesses.

  27. MAOM7

    I had PICA from about age 17 on, and with varying degrees it came and went for 30 years. I was diagnosed anemic, a rare form that was difficult to treat, and I had bleeding problems (fibroids and etc.). My addiction was ice. I ate a LOT of it. Ground down a couple of teeth eating it too. Then I had a hysterectomy. No more pica, no more anemia.
    I was never told it was serious, even though my doctors knew about my ice issue. Five years of no ice-crunching has been awesome. :)

  28. Bea

    I had the ice craving and also restless leg, both went away after I found out I was anemic.
    DWD, not every one is wired the same. A lot of people I know don’t think about that they can find out a lot of info. on the internet. Good questions about why that was not the first thing the Dr’s checked out.

  29. DWD

    I am a bit confused about the order she went to doctors. Why did she not go to her own physician initially? Why didn’t the first doctors order a simple blood screening, even if they thought it might be a mental addiction? Why didn’t she search online for her symptoms, as the first hit I got mentioned anemia? She was right to continue pursuing a proper diagnosis.

  30. mmu

    I went through a stage where I craved cold iceberg lettuce and would eat it almost a head at a time, not realizing anything was wrong. After an unrelated check-up some time later, I was diagnosed with severe anemia (Hgb 6.3). I was prescribed iron elixir for a very short period and have had no problems since then. Amazing difference in quality of life!

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