Adding of ice to drinks to give it a chill before drinking is normal, however, some people who want to cool down or feel refreshed will eat ice. Sucking on ice cubes can also help people find relief from dry mouth symptoms.
READ ALSO: Foods That Can Fight Sugar Cravings
When constant craving for ice cubes become a habit, it can be bad for a person’s teeth, and may also indicate underlying medical condition.
Some Conditions That Cause Ice Cravings
The following conditions can make people want to eat or chew on ice:
Pagophagia is the term for someone who always love eating ice. The cravings can be persistent and often last for more than a month.
Pagophagia is a rare form of an eating disorder called pica. Pica often accompanies other mental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, and gives people obsessive cravings for foods that lacks nutritional value.
Iron deficiency anemia
Some researchers has established a connection between anemia and ice cravings. The reason for this cravings remains vague.
People with anemia have an deficient number of healthy red blood cells, which are essential for carrying oxygen around the body. In iron deficiency anemia, a lack of iron is the cause.
Typical symptoms of anemia include:
- pale skin (pallor)
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- heart palpitations
- chest pain
- a swollen tongue
- cold hands or feet
A study on people with iron deficiency anemia found that 13 of the 81 participants had symptoms of pagophagia. For some of these individuals, taking iron supplements eliminated their ice cravings.
According to one theory, chewing ice makes people with anemia feel more alert. Researchers believe that it triggers an effect that sends more blood up to the brain, which in turn supplies the brain with more oxygen.
Some emotional issues can also make people want to chew on ice cubes. For example, a person with stress may find chewing on ice comforting.
People who constantly crave ice may have underlying dietary issues that aggravate the cravings. It is common to add flavored syrups to shaved ice, so cravings for this may, in fact, be sugar cravings. People should limit their consumption of this type of ice as the sugar content is high.
Mild dehydration can also make a person crave ice cubes. Ice cubes are cooling and can soothe a dry mouth and lips in addition to quenching thirst. They can also help to lower body temperature on a warm day.
What are the complications?
Eating ice can lead to complications, which include:
Chewing or licking ice in large quantities can damage tooth enamel and cause cracks or chips in the teeth. This can cause pain and higher sensitivity to temperature. People who continuously chew ice may need dental work to repair cavities and interchange lost fillings.
The complications that anemia can cause include:
- heart failure
- pregnancy complications such as premature birth or low birth weight
- an increased risk for infections in children
- stunted growth or development in children
People with ice cravings may be consuming much more ice than they realize. The addition of sugar or flavoring to the ice can cause weight gain and other problems relating to excessive sugar consumption.
Ice is unlikely to cause any internal damage. However, if a person with pica also eats other non-food items, this could lead to severe internal problems, such as:
- bowel issues
- obstructions forming in the intestine
- tears developing in the intestine
The treatment for ice cravings will depend on the cause of the problem.
The treatment for pagophagia can vary since pica is a mental health issue. A doctor may recommend therapy in combination with anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. Those with iron deficiency anemia should find that taking iron supplements eases their symptoms.