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Ice Addiction Leads to Hospitalization

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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 immediatley 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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20 Comments

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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!

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.

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.

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. :)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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??

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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