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. Briana milito

    I was craving ice, and I could eat ten large glasses a day. It had to be crushed, and I thought maybe my iron was low but, no, instead I found out I had breast cancer. Crazy, right ??? I had cancer surgery, and then I stopped craving ice. I still like it but I was like a drug addict about the ice. No matter where I was or even out of town I had to find my crushed ice supplier.

  2. Andrea

    I have a problem with this as well and my doctor said it is because I’m anemic and he prescribed prescription iron, Ferrex 150 Forte. Insurance does not cover it but it’s pretty inexpensive. Hoping this goes away soon…I’m wasting time at work getting up going to get ice so many times a day.

    • bunny

      There are a bunch of over the counter iron supplements that are pretty cheap. Maybe talk to your doctor about switching and trying a non-prescription one? Google “Gentle Iron”, it is the supplement I use. My whole life I always tested slightly anemic and I always craved/chewed ice my whole life. Now I take 1 pill of the Gentle Iron each day after I eat in the morning and it gives me energy & I definitely don’t eat ice anymore. Nor do I want to sleep all day long, which has resulted in about a 20 lb weight loss compared to before when I was too tired to exercise ever and I am in a much better mood also bc I am not tired all the time.

  3. Aisha
    Islamabad , pakistan

    Hi I’m 16 years old and I have a severe addiction with ice too. I cannot stop myself from eating / chewing ice cubes. Without thinking most of the time I go to the freezer and start eating ice-cubes. I’ve tried to stop many times. My family thinks I’m just pretending that I cannot stop. I got my blood tested and I’m anemic. I started eating ice when I was 11 and now I just cannot stop it.

  4. Michelle

    Hi My name is Michelle. I started craving ice about two months ago and now I can’t stop. I tell myself that it’s because of the heat but I go crazy over it even when it’s not hot. I stop eating normal food and I feel sick sometimes after I eat a tray of ice. I get really gases and the lower part of my belly tend to hurt. I also tend to have diarrhea at least once or twice a day. Can someone please tell me why all of this is happen. Also am 18 years old.

    • The People's Pharmacy

      Have your doctor test for an iron or zinc deficiency. One of these is often the source of an unusual craving like yours, and correcting the deficiency makes the craving go away.

  5. DJmore
    King of Prussia

    When I was a teenager, my mom for months, was telling us that she felt she was getting weaker, and weaker.

    One day she asked us to take her to the hospital, that her condition was getting worse.

    In the hospital she began a number of tests. They found that her blood count, either white or red cells (I do not remember) was extremely low. Looking for the reason was their agenda. Test continued, with numerous doctors coming in, and out trying to locate a cause of her weakness.

    One day when I was sitting there visiting her, another doctor came in, with his chart. My mom was chewing from a large container of ice… As he was examining her, she chewed away. He started asking questions, and then the conversation turned to her chewing on the ice. Non medical questions, just small talk type of questions. She told the doctor she was an ice eater. He asks her for how long. For about 5 years or so, she told him.

    It looked like a light bulb went off in his head.

    Mrs. Moore, I want you to stop right now eating ice, and pulled the cup outa her hand.

    Later that evening, signs went up saying NO ICE, for this patient.

    As days past, she began getting her strength back, and within 2 weeks she was out of the hospital, and had fully recovered.

    Many years of ice eating was slowly but surely killing her.

  6. Unknown

    I also have a problem with excessive ice-chewing. I buy from 2-3 10 lb bags a week I find it frustrating that I keep spending my money on things that I know are ruining my teeth. I’ve tried going a day without any ice and I usually give up after a couple of hours. Even on road trips (or even just on an outing,) I will go to McDonald’s for a Sweet Tea with EXTRA ice.
    #IceChewer #Thisisaproblem #Icedeficiency?

    • Izzy

      I too had an addiction to ice a couple years back. I consumed so much that I had to take and iron deficiency supplement. After I finished my whole bottle, I didn’t eat ice for a while. Possibly for 3 years. Then I started eating it again after I moved. I haven’t been to my doctor yet, but I know I have low iron again. I can probably eat up to 3Ibs a day or higher. I can’t go more than a couple of hours without having ice. I try to stop but I always go to the freezer, without thinking about what I’m doing, and overflow my large cup full of ice. I look pale from a distance, I randomly get cold chills, and I have dark bags under my eyes. My mom knows that I need to stop but I don’t know when. I came up with an idea, that on my birthday, (approximately 23 days away) I will stop eating ice. Hopefully the bags under my eyes, idea of eating it will go away for a long time. If the addiction comes back, I will go to my doctor and get my iron deficiency supplement again. I’m glad I can relate to others about this problem/situation.

  7. amber
    houston tx

    I also have a ice addiction that started a month ago , I was told I crave ice because of my anemia. But after reading all the comments I will definitely be consulting my physician again.

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