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!
Are you wondering why you’re craving ice? Keep reading to find out!
What does it mean when your craving ice?
There are two main reasons behind cravings, each with their own unique medical term.
- 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.
We’ll talk about ‘pagophagia’ or ‘craving ice chewing’ first because 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 what causes iron deficiency and the majority of ice cravings?
Let’s learn more about iron deficiency first which is the #1 cause of pagophagia (aka, craving ice chewing).
Why are you iron deficient in the first place? Here are the top reasons / meanings for ice cravings related to iron deficiency!
1 – Menstruation
Scientists have noted that up to 50% of pregnant women can have Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), 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, or the developing babies iron needs’ are drawing from the mother’s iron supplies, leaving her short.
If you lose iron during your period, and then your iron levels are low, or if you are pregnant – this could help explain why you’re getting ice cravings.
But while gender does play a role, there are other factors as well.
2 – You Are Vegetarian Or Vegan
There are a few reasons why vegans and vegetarians might be at risk of iron deficiency. Firstly, vegan and vegetarian diets tend to be lower in overall iron content than diets that include meat.
This is because iron is found in animal products, especially red meat, which is a major source of dietary iron. Secondly, vegan and vegetarian diets may also contain less absorbable forms of iron than diets that include meat. Don’t believe the vegan myths that say you can go without iron!
This is because the body needs to convert non-heme iron (the type of iron found in plants) into heme iron (the type of iron found in animals) in order to absorb it properly.
The conversion process is not always efficient, which means that some vegans and vegetarians may not be getting enough absorbable iron from their diets.
All of these factors combine to put vegans and vegetarians at a higher risk for iron deficiency than the general population.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian and you’re concerned about your iron intake, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure you’re getting enough. Iron deficiency is also the top vitamin deficiency causing you to feel cold.
They may recommend that you take an iron supplement or consume foods that are rich in absorbable forms of iron, such as cooked soybeans, lentils, dark leafy greens, dried fruit, and fortified cereals.
3 – Poor Diet Overall
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
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.
But why do I crave ice all the time?
If your cravings for ice are severe it most likely means several of the above factors are impacting you simultaneously.
For example, if you are highly stressed on a poor or restrictive diet, plus you’re overexercising while on your period then your odds of getting craving ice more frequently will increase dramatically!
What if I am craving ice but not anemic?
Now we finally get back to the other main reason people crave ice.
As we’ve covered above, the most likely reason you crave ice is because of an iron deficiency problem which can be caused by any of the above factors – diet, menstruation, etc.
But what if you are not iron deficient?
Let’s say you get your blood tested and the results come back with normal iron levels. What then?
Let’s explore the other main cause behind ice cravings.
The last but not as a common reason people crave ice is because of an eating disorder called Pica Syndrome.
Pica Syndrome is where you compulsively eat nonfood items like ice. But not just ice, also things like paper or dirt.
There’s even a reported form of Pica Syndrome called Pagophagia. This is sometimes also called ‘Ice Pica’.
Pagophagia, or Ice Pica, is where somebody craves water-based nonfood items such as snow, ice cubes, or iced water.
The important thing is realizing that all forms of Pica, including Pagophagia and Ice Pica, are not caused by a physical deficiency like low iron.
Instead, all forms of Pica Syndrome are mental disorders.
Most people who develop these conditions usually start in childhood. Both of these disorders also can develop during pregnancy. Also these conditions often happen with other conditions like autism or ADHD.
Again, remember that the primary cause of ice cravings is lack of iron in your red blood cells. That’s the main emphasis of this article!
I wouldn’t worry too much about Pica or Pagophagia if I were you. Yet if you find yourself compulsively eating all forms of ice or craving nonfood items like dirt, then do talk with your doctor 🙂
Overall, what makes you crave ice?
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.
However it’s also possible – but less likely – that you have pica syndrome.
How Do You Stop Craving Ice?
Fortunately, getting more iron into your diet and reducing your ice cravings is pretty straight forward.
Do you have meat cravings? 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!
Read here for more info about eating normally and intuitive eating.