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Anemia Put Ice Addict in the Hospital

Ice cravings were triggered by anemia so severe the patient needed to be hospitalized.

Q. I am addicted to ice and eat big cups of it daily at both work and home. I compulsively fill the ice trays when they seem a little low.

I am currently being hospitalized for low iron. I just received a blood transfusion because my count was 6.0. That scared me to death since females should be at 12 or higher. The doctor wants me receiving iron intravenously so that I can prepare for a hysterectomy in January.

I am trying to stop this terrible habit, but I find myself chewing on ice while I send this important message to The People’s Pharmacy. The nurses keep bringing me ice. My husband is really concerned. I have no idea how this craving started.

A. You have actually given us the prime clue about the source of your ice craving: your iron is much too low. Low levels of iron or zinc are frequently associated with pica (a craving to eat a non-food substance, such as ice, cornstarch or clay).

Usually the craving disappears when the deficiency is corrected. You may find ice much less appealing once the IV iron kicks in.

It is very important that your doctor finds the cause of your anemia so that can be addressed. If the hysterectomy is being done to address excessive blood loss, it may prevent a relapse of your ice craving.

You may also benefit from a blood test for celiac disease, which can also contribute to anemia. You can learn more about celiac disease, its symptoms and management, in our one-hour interview with Dr. Peter H. R. Green, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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