Why Some People Are Addicted to Eating Ice
It might sound strange, but many people are actually addicted to eating ice cubes. They chew and eat ice cubes all day long because of this addiction. And there are valid medical reasons for being addicted to eating ice.
I first heard of this on the news. They were showing people crunching and eating ice cubes as if it was Captain Crunch cereal. My teeth hurt just watching them. During interviews, these people who are addicted to eating ice cubes admitted to eating as much as 2 gallons and more ice per day. And they cannot stop this addiction to eating ice.
Constantly chewing and eating ice causes damage to your teeth, tongue, throat and stomach. The damage to teeth can be chipping of teeth or developing cracks in the teeth that might not be detected for years. Some people report that their voice has changed because of all the ice eating. With some people, this can also include the compulsion to constantly drink ice cold drinks. Many reported having extreme gas, stomach bloating and stomach pain because of their being addicted to eating ice.
Those who are addicted to eating ice even prefer certain types of ice and places that sell just the right ice. Many prefer the ice that the Sonic drive-ins sell or a certain grocery store gourmet soft ice. They have cravings for it all day long and will get into bad moods if they don’t have it. Those addicted to eating ice will warn others to stay away from their ice trays and going as far as having a bucket of ice even with every meal.
It is reported in women far more than men, but men are also addicted to eating ice. Many women say that their first craving for eating ice was when they were pregnant and that sometimes it went away until they became pregnant again. The more I read, the more children in their early teens I saw posting about their ice-eating addiction.
Pica is the medical term for being addicted to non-nutritive substances. This could be dirt, clay, coal, chalk, paint chips, erasers and even more dangerous items like string, needles and glass. Pagophagia is the actual term for being addicted to eating ice cubes.
There is an old saying, that if you crave a certain food, you are low in those nutrients. Some doctors are now theorizing this could be the case with Pica and Pagophagia. At least in the cases of some of the items like ice and dirt, since dirt does contain nutrients of some kind.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
The majority of the people having the addiction to eating ice, also say that their mouths and tongue burned and that eating ice made that feel better. Other symptoms of burning mouth syndrome might also include:
· Your mouth is dry most of the time.
· Normal things taste differently some of the time.
· You have a tingling in your mouth and on your tongue.
These symptoms are usually absent during the night and upon waking. The symptoms of burning mouth syndrome will increase as the day goes on, being worst in the evening before bed, causing some to have a hard time falling asleep.
Medical Reasons For Ice-Eating Addiction
The web sites where people discuss being addicted to eating ice reported going to a doctor and finding out they weren’t only anemic, but severely anemic. Studies have shown that people with iron deficiency anemia, 88% of them had an addiction to eating ice cubes . Anemia is a medical condition in which the hemoglobin or red blood cell count is lower than normal. For men, anemia is usually defined as a hemoglobin count lower than 13.5 grams/100 ml (milliliters). For women, anemia is typically defined as a hemoglobin count lower than 12 grams/100 ml. After reading the Internet posts from others who have an ice-eating addiction, many went to their doctors to have their hemoglobin checked for anemia. They wrote that their blood tests came back with extreme anemia to the point where some even had to have a blood transfusion. Most of the people with an ice- eating addiction had hemoglobin numbers as low as 5 or 6, which is dangerously low. After being put on multi-vitamins and iron pills, many reported that the craving for eating ice went away, though the habit remained for some time, like many addictions.
Another theory is people who are addicted to eating ice are also low in minerals that are found in hard water. If the ice they are eating is made from hard water, they could be low in those minerals. The most common minerals in hard water are calcium and magnesium. Other nutrient deficiencies that can cause burning mouth syndrome are zinc, folate (B9), thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and Cobalamin (vitamin B-12). If you don’t already take a multivitamin, you should consider taking one or also taking a B complex supplement. If you don't know if you need a multivitamin, here is a list of the daily nutrient values you should be taking.
Symptoms of Anemia
There is a reason why so many people with anemia are addicted to eating ice cubes. Some of the symptoms of anemia include a burning mouth, burning tongue, sore tongue, swollen tongue and an overly dry mouth. Other symptoms are fatigue or easily fatigued, brittle nails and restless leg syndrome.
If you are addicted to eating ice, you should have your blood and hemoglobin tested immediately. There is always the chance you are just addicted to eating ice out of an addictive habit and there are no underlying medical reasons. If you do eat ice because of the burning mouth syndrome and you do not have anemia, you should work with your doctor and or dentist to find the cause of this. Doctors report numerous reasons for burning mouth syndrome including prescription medicine, dental work, vitamin deficiency and cranial nerve damage.
© 2009 Sam Montana
Consumer Reports Health