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Cool Crunchy But No Value: Why Am I Craving Ice?

Last updated on October 10, 2020

Do you find yourself thinking about craving ice? But you also realize ice has no nutritional value and most people don’t chew on ice regularly!

Turns out there are actually two medical terms for ice cravings. The first term is ‘pica’ and generally describes craving things that have no nutritional value like dirt, plastic, or ice. 

The second medical term ‘pagophagia’ specifically means craving ice chewing. 

Doctors and scientists have studied ‘pagophagia’ or ice cravings in various studies. It turns out that the majority of ice cravings are related to iron deficiency.

But here’s the question – what leads to iron deficiency in the first place? 

In other words, if ice cravings can be traced back to iron, then why do we need iron in the first place? Why are we short on iron?

Here are 6 reasons why you are iron deficient and crave ice:

1 – Gender Plays a Role

Scientists have noted that up to 50% of pregnant women can be iron deficient, and 20% of women generally speaking are iron deficient. This is an incredibly high number!

Women tend to become more iron deficient than men, although it’s estimated that around 3% of men are iron deficient too. The discrepancy is largely in part because of the iron loss related to menstruation.

While gender does play a role, there are other factors as well.

2 – You Are Vegetarian Or Vegan

The technical name for an iron deficiency is anemia, and I remember back in college I was diagnosed with this type of anemia.

My type of iron deficiency anemia was caused because I was a vegetarian and wasn’t eating meat. Meat is one of the main sources of iron for many people so it’s not uncommon for non-meat eaters to become iron deficient.

Of course, while you can be a vegetarian without developing an iron deficiency anemia, you have to be careful. I was not careful enough and soon I was exhausted everyday. 

My symptom of being exhausted – being tired and fatigued — is actually really common for people with iron deficiency anemia. 

When you are in the midst of an iron deficiency anemia condition oftentimes there aren’t any other visible symptoms. You just feel tired. However, you may also have the symptoms of ice chewing and having compulsive ice cravings.

Being fatigued is perhaps related to chewing ice. It’s like if you’re exhausted then you just need something to crunch down upon that will wake you up! And boy oh boy, ice cubes can be cool and crunchy!

Now admittedly, cool crunchy ice cubes to cure fatigue isn’t the best idea. Perhaps get some more sleep, or try some of the suggestions below!

Unfortunately, scientists aren’t quite sure why anemia and compulsive ice craving are tied together, but there is definitely a trend. 

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

3 – Poor Diet Overall

food cravings for random foods

You could also become iron deficient even if you eat meat. Just because you eat meat doesn’t guarantee you are getting enough iron.

For example, many types of processed meats contain lower levels of iron. If you primarily processed meats – like fast food – you could lack iron even though you eat meat.

Dark green leafy vegetables are known to have iron as well. So if you aren’t eating your vegetables and primarily eat processed meats, then you could easily become iron deficient and crave ice.

Sadly, financial constraints and lack of access to resources greatly impact dietary choices. Not having access to fresh foods could also cause an iron shortage. 

It’s sad to think that eating ice could be in part because of financial restrictions, but that may be the hard truth.

4 – Too Much Exercise

If you work out regularly then you’ll need extra iron. Your body produces more red blood cells during and after exercise and red blood cells require more iron. Additionally, some small amounts of iron are sweated out during exercise. 

Of course, too much exercise also could cause dehydration. Obviously eating ice would help with getting more water in your body!

5 – Coffee, Tea, Aspirin and Giving Blood

I’m grouping these four reasons together because creating separate bullet points for each one seems a bit much 🙂

Basically coffee, tea and aspirin may decrease the percentage of iron that gets absorbed in your blood. 

Giving blood on the other hand, well, that’s pretty obvious! The more blood you give away the more iron you need to replace because iron is in your blood! That’s why before you give blood they will prick your finger to test your blood’s iron levels.

Because it’s just plain bad medical advice to take blood out when you already  have low iron! That’ll just cause anemia!!

6 – Ice Helps You Calm Down

ice cubes

The 6th and final reason why you crave ice is because ice helps reduce anxiety. 

For example, ‘pica’ – the medical condition where you eat things with no nutritional value, like paper – is known to be related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). 

For some people who have a lot of anxiety and experience pica cravings, chewing ice may bring a sense of relief. 

Of course, the underlying emotions that manifest in pica cravings need to be addressed as well.

It’s likely that pica cravings for ice or other non-nutritional substances have roots in trauma and childhood. It’s also likely that pica and emotional eating are related as well. With therapy, a person can look at the underlying causes behind both pica and emotional eating.

However, while chewing ice may give you some emotional release and help you ‘cool’ down so to speak, it still is more likely your ice cravings are caused by iron deficiencies. 

Overall, Why Am I Craving Ice So Much?

To summarize real quickly, the primary cause of ice cravings is lacking iron. 

While scientists aren’t quite sure why iron shortages are correlated with ice cravings, it’s the best explanation we have right now. 

Iron shortages are in turn primarily caused by not getting enough iron in your diet. 

It’s possible you may be drinking too much tea, exercising too hard or have some other reason for lacking iron.  Regardless,  the primary cause of iron deficiency is not getting proper amounts of iron through your diet.

Try some of these pieces of advice down below, and if they still don’t work to reduce your ice cravings, then you may need to talk with a therapist about reducing emotional eating.

How Do You Stop Craving Ice?

Fortunately, getting more iron into your diet and reducing your ice cravings is pretty straight forward.

If you are a meat eater then for starters, eat more lean meats like beef or chicken. 

Fruits and veggies are also high in iron. Fruits like oranges which are high in Vitamin C are also known to have lots of iron.  Veggies such as kale and spinach also are high in iron.  If you eat more spinach and oranges on a regular basis you will definitely be getting plenty of iron!

Meat, oranges, and spinach – eat more of these for a few weeks and you should be good to go!

Of course, you may also need to drink less coffee and tea. You could also try adding in fish or different types of meat. 

Back off the intense exercise for a week and see if that impacts your ice cravings. 

And lastly, feel free to try an iron supplement. I remember back in college after being diagnosed with iron, I started taking supplements and eating more meat. 

That did the trick for me!

Please try this short 8 question quiz to see if you have Binge Eating Disorder.

You’ll be asked about the 8 main clinical criteria used to medically diagnose. 


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