an ice cube on a tongue

When readers report that they are addicted to ice, it sends off alarm signals for us. Craving ice like this (quite different from preferring a little ice in your drinking water) is often linked to mineral deficiencies, especially iron or zinc. It is important to get to the root of the problem and correct it. The deficiency can cause serious health concerns; cracking ice with the teeth can damage them; and the cause of the deficiency may also be dangerous and needs to be uncovered.

What Does Craving Ice Mean?

Q. 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 ice. I didn’t care about the pop-it was the ice I wanted.

I went to my doctor for a check up because I felt tired and would get out of breath easily. My test showed that I was severely anemic, with a blood count of six. My physician was so concerned that he called me at home the next evening and told me not to exert myself in any way until they did further testing.

This had happened so gradually that I didn’t realize I was slowly bleeding to death. Further tests showed I had an iron deficiency caused by extremely heavy periods. Iron supplements quickly brought my count up to normal ranges, and my cravings for ice went away immediately. They never returned, though it has been many years.

Correcting the Deficiencies That Lead to Cravings:

A. It is worth remembering that unusual cravings, whether for ice, cornstarch, clay or even popcorn, can be the result of a mineral deficiency. In addition to the heavy menstrual bleeding our reader had experienced, people who donate blood frequently sometimes develop cravings for ice or other substances (Chansky et al, Transfusion, April 2017). Other causes may include pregnancy or unsuspected intestinal bleeding.

Anyone who discovers such a craving should ask to have iron or zinc levels tested (Rabel, Leitman & Miller, Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Feb. 2016). Usually, as in your case, correcting the deficiency banishes the craving. This is especially important for children who may be eating paint chips, since their craving could lead to lead poisoning (Australian Family Physician, 2017).

Bea remarked:

“I was addicted to chewing ice. I also had terrible restless legs. About 25 years ago I tried to donate blood and my iron was extremely low. They told me to go to the doctor. Once my iron was back up where it belonged, both problems went away. I occasionally still get restless legs, but that only happens when I am very tired or lacking sleep. A good night’s sleep takes care of it.”

Craving ice in this way is classified as “pica” by doctors. In some regions of the country, people don’t find it unusual to crave clay or cornstarch.

TA’s description of her habit sounds a lot like addiction:

“I am 26 years old as of today. I started to eat cornstarch when I was 16. At first I ate a box every three weeks, but now I’m eating it through a straw and I’m up to a box a day. I know that this is abnormal and hurting me because I do not use the restroom as often as I should.

“I eat it even when I don’t want it, yet I can’t stop. My mom eats it as well. Can you please help me and tell me what it is that I can do in order to stop because it’s messing up my teeth and I’m gaining weight?”

We strongly recommend to TA and others struggling with this problem that they be checked for iron or zinc deficiency and take any supplements that are prescribed or recommended.

Do you have a problem with craving ice to excess? Please share your story in the comment section below.

Revised 8/28/17

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  1. Edith
    SOUTH CAROLINA
    Reply

    I am 67 and in the past months eat ice like candy… find myself going tot the freezer and getting the smallest Ice cubes. I do this most often during the day but find myself eatting at night if i should awake. I take B-12 shots once a month. I find myself tired and not wanting to go anywhere and don’t only when i have to. It is becoming a bigger issue of my eating…. what could be my problem?

  2. Cassandra S.
    AZ
    Reply

    Im 33 and used to eat ice at pregnancies. The shavings built up in the freezer. It just recently started up again about 7months ago now. I find myself weak with no appetite. I’m 33 and weigh 90 pounds. I was also born with a rare genetic disorder that causes me to be so little. I didn’t get the right treatment throughout my life, and it prevented me from fully developing..

  3. Wendy
    Eastern cape
    Reply

    I’m a ice addict since 2011 when I was pregnant with my daughter, I even wake up at night and chew ice.I now have cold urticaria, meaning cold hives, I’m now allergic to cold, when it’s windy, rainy on I touch a cold object my body becomes itchy and swollen, I don’t know what to do I want to stop but it’s hard.

  4. Lauren
    Gilbert, Arizona
    Reply

    So, I know I’m severely anemic. Not only is my blood count low but so is my iron. Iron supplements (for some reason) will not absorb into my blood stream. Because of that I used to have to go to the cancer center near my house to receive iron infusions.

    But even that has its bad side effects. I used to do that 2 times a week. I am vegetarian but we have ruled my diet out of the equation because I have only been vegetarian for 2 years yet I have been this way almost all my life. I eat ice 24/7. But it has to be “cloudy crushed iced” bc it’s easier to chew. I don’t like “clear ice “.

    I know it sounds odd. I’ve eaten ice for like 10 years. I don’t mind it bc it isn’t harming me but I’m concerned with why I crave it soooo much. No doctor can explain it to me… what do I do?

    • Chris
      Reply

      Do you take birth control?

  5. Erica
    Duluth GA
    Reply

    I am a 27 year old female and I have been anemia my whole life. But it only got worse after I had my first child in 2009. I have to have ice 24/7. I have went days with just eating ice. Yes I know that isn’t good but I just couldn’t stomach anything else.

  6. Tameca B
    Michigan
    Reply

    I am 35 yr old and i have been eating ice since I was 14 yrs old… I know my blood count has been low all my adult life but what is the most crazy is it not just any ice… my craving switch up for a while I’ll only eat freezer frozen ice then it will be only the ice from the store or shaved ice… I want to stop it has taken a really bad toll on my teeth… but I seem to not be able to give it up… Help me and taking iron pills havent helped in the pass

    • Sandra
      Trenton tenn 38382
      Reply

      I eat ice all the time.what should I do about this?

  7. Anita G
    North Carolina
    Reply

    My ice craving is so bad that my teeth couldn’t take it so I put it in my Ninja and make it snow consistency. I buy 20 pound bags at least 3 a week not counting what I get from my own freezer. I’d rather have ice than food. I stay cold even in 90% weather, I know it isn’t normal at all I am anemic but the iron supplement is not helping. Any suggestions would be a blessing.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      Has your doctor told you why you are anemic? If the underlying problem could be corrected, the iron supplement might help. Also, try taking the iron with vitamin C to improve absorption.

  8. Daisy
    Ohio
    Reply

    I eat Altoids… like a 2-3 pack a day habit…. no less than 10 at a time…

  9. Tina
    Miam fl
    Reply

    I’ve been eating ice for over a year-and-a-half I just got braces I have fibroids and also 49 years old I crave ice like a crackhead grave crack I even tried taking iron pills but the craving wouldn’t let me I need help I don’t have no medical insurance but I do want to stop I have braces and I pay a lot of money for them out of pocket need help I eat it in the morning I even it in the evening and at night I even eat it at my job is infecting my world but not for the good

  10. Dlkeledi
    Pretoria
    Reply

    I have been craving ice since 2007. The worst now is I started scrubbing the ice inside my freezer.
    Help! I can’t go on like this!

  11. Rob
    VA
    Reply

    My wife’s long running anemia was ineffectivemy treated with iron supplements and infusion. A biopsy revealed celiac disease. Diet change cured her problem.

  12. T. morrison
    lafayette, la
    Reply

    I have fibroid and been craving bacon bits all the time. I have been eating the McCormick bacon chips a bottle a day. I love the salty and crunchy. Because I eat so much I have bad smelling gas. I’m tired of eating it but I can’t stop. I don’t crave nothing else but this. I need help.

  13. Riley
    Florida
    Reply

    I’m 33 YO, I recently had a baby boy (my second child) and I am an “Ice Addict”. During both pregnancies I craved ice, but my most recent one took it to a whole new level. I even bought a shaved ice machine and was having to buy 5lb bags of ice because the ice bin in my freezer wasn’t able to keep up with the amount I was eating. My son is now 4 months old, and I’m going through a 5lb bag about every 2 days. I can remember eating ice all the way back to 2nd grade and always having problems with my anemia, and my drinks were always filled to the top with ice with a little beverage in my cup. I even prefer ice from Sonic or the soft ice you can buy by the bag.

    My stomach is always bloated. I have issues with heartburn and digestion, as well as bathroom infrequency. I have begun to go a little more often, as I have begun to eat frozen fruit as well. My sleeping habits are horrible. I’m lethargic and drowsy during the day, but when it becomes night times I can’t fall asleep until around 1:00am. With an infant and a toddler I wake up throughout the night and get up super early. I’ve continued to take my prenatal vitamins and my B12 with still no increase in energy levels. Any help would be appreciated!!!

    • Courtney
      WA
      Reply

      Wow, it’s like reading about my own life! I wish I knew what was wrong with us! I had my daughter almost 4 years ago now and started craving ice when I was pregnant with her. During labor they determined I was anemic so started me on iron supplements. The craving went away. I did really good until recently and I have to have it all the time!

      My dentist is not thrilled about it. I talked to my doctor and she tested my iron but it came back normal. I still crave ice though, I don’t know what’s wrong! I don’t think this is normal! Also am tired frequently and am not a morning person. I stay up too late and could take several naps during the day if my schedule allows it. This much of it has been going on for several years though. I do have hypothyroidism that I take medication for, the lowest dosage I believe.

      That started when I was pregnant with her as well. I am on antidepressants as well as Adderall in the AM. I am still tired. I get restless leg syndrome in the late afternoons into the evenings, not everyday but several days a week. I no longer have periods because I had a hysterectomy in June. Haven’t bled since. I think the cravings started after my surgery. Recently started cymbalta with my Adderall in the mornings and clonodine at night.

      Also have to take Ibuprofin several times a day for chronic generalized pain. Mostly hips and low back. Feels like my joints are aching like when your body hurts when you get the flu a little. Ibuprofin keeps it at bay. Also have to take acid reducers several times a week. Pretty sure I have PCOS. Have had acne since the 3rd grade and am 33 now. Also dark hairs randomly popping out on my chin and neck area. They took everything but my ovaries. I had Essure for 3 years. Only way to remove it properly.

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