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. Mia M.

    I am one who suffers with Pica also. I love the ice that’s inside of a deep freezer. But my main craving is eating clay dirt. I love the red, grey, brown and the white kaolin clay dirt they all taste like the smell of rain. I can eat clay dirt all day and if I run out of the clays I’ll eat plant dirt.

  2. Vicki
    Des Moines, IA

    For about 1 1/2 years I’ve had a dry mouth, and I suck on ice cubes constantly. Now my tongue burns, as if I burned my mouth on hot food, food doesn’t taste right, and I have a very bitter taste in my mouth as well as my mouth being so dry it’s horrible! I don’t know if I ruined my tongue, or if it is BMS (Burning Mouth Syndrome), which there is really not a lot of studies or things you can do for it. It might or might not go away in time. In the meantime, it’s horrible symptoms 24/7. Help!!! Any suggestions?

  3. teresa
    weather Texas

    I’ve been eating ice for about 9 months already I crAve it all the time and I do not feel weak at all. I probably chew ice 8 glasses a day but with water in it. I think it’s just a bad habbit.I went to a doctor for months ago and everything came out just fine no anemia..maybe it’s just a craving thing I’m going through..what do u talk think. I love the feeling of chewing crunching ice….can’t stop..

  4. Nicole

    I too am an ice eater and have been for many, many years. I am now 31 years of age and I still have to have my crushed ice. Matter of fact, I am eating crushed ice now while I am commenting on this post.

    When I first began to eat ice I would sneak into the kitchen and wait until the ice trays got really, really cold where it was kinda slushy and I would suck all of the cold water out of it and hurry up and refill it again and put it back in the freezer. I also ate all types of ice but now I prefer to eat crushed/shaved ice and can go through a 10 lb bag of ice in two days.

    I never knew that this was an issue or that it meant an underlying medical condition existed. Not only am I anemic but I’m considered to have iron deficiency anemia. I’ve had irregular cycles since I started my period at the tender age of nine and if I did not have birth control/hormones to regulate my cycle, I would stay on my period for months at a time. I had my first blood transfusion January of 2012 because I could not get my period to stop and was hospitalized because my blood count was very low, I was VERY FATIGUED and weak and I was having difficultly breathing.

    It was so frustrating because people around me just thought I was being lazy but they lacked the understanding that this affected me not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. The doctor’s explained that a normal hemoglobin for a woman as my self suppose to be 12 and mine was right under 7 and the doctor went further to explain after I exposed my ice eating habit and I was told that when their is a deficiency within the body that people may crave things that have no nutritional value such as chalk, clay, dirt, ICE, cornstarch etc. and this is considered Pica.

    After I received the transfusion for 2 units, I felt so alive and energetic and my cravings for ice just disappeared. I know that I need to probably go back to the doctor again and get checked because I have picked up that strong habit of eating ice yet once again and I know that it is an indicator to get checked. It is difficult sometimes for me to even realize that it is not normal to eat ice the way that I do and that it could be an issue because I’ve been doing this for so long now and I am addicted to eating it. It gives me a certain comfort but I’ve eating so much in one sitting before that it would hurt my teeth and gums and make the roof of my mouth feel like it’s freezer burnt (That is the only way I know how to describe the sensation).

    I strongly suggest to anyone who has such strong cravings and is dependent on ice, cornstarch etc. to make an appointment and get your blood checked along with an examination to be sure that there is no underlying medical issues that could be causing your Pica.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    • MaXeen
      Floral Park, NY

      Sept 27th. 2015 3.10 am

      I too have an addiction to eating ice, I’m away from home and it gets worse, I crave like 10- 14 water bottles per day, I eat ice if I’m working, thinking or after dinner, I love the feeling after chewing then swallowing it, I know it’s and addiction but it’s hard to not eat it. As after reading comments I’m feeling kind of strange, as I also know that I’m inemic, I use a Suppliment called “Lydia Pinkham” plus taking iron sometimes, (not on a daily basis) but I also realize the change in my monthly periods, smell and color, the feelings I have in the right side of my jaw, at times feels numbing even after eating it, 2-3 hours. I know I need help, I do not feel lazy, I just hate being in the sun as I get the chill sometimes.
      I will definitely be consulting my physician soon as I get home.this addiction sounds detrimental to my health.

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