Posted on 27 Comments

Anemia and Eating Ice

person-holding-clear-drinking-glass-with-yellow-liquid-4686941
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Do you have a constant need to chomp on ice chips? Crunching and munching at the detriment of your pearly whites — this behavior is known as pagophagia a form of pica.

Pagophagia — craving and eating ice.

Pica — is the compulsive urge to eat non-nutritive substances. Pica eating is not a recent phenomena, it has been observed for centuries. Pregnant women and preadolescents are a group with the highest risk of pica, though many persons indulge in Pica. Ice, soil, paper, rubber bands are some examples of non-nutritive items eaten in pica. It is also thought that pica has an association in the disorders in mentation.

Woman Eating Dirt
Photo credit–Study.com

This non-nutritive eating is often associated with anemia.

Pagophagia

Pagophagia —  the practice of eating ice is also a type of Pica eating. Pagophagia is a common form of pica associated with iron deficiency. You may aware that the constant chewing on ice will damage your teeth yet you are powerless to cease the destructive behavior. We may view the desire for chewing ice as a pleasurable act, which may be natures way of alerting us of a deficit.

Per the National Library of Medicine approximately one third of the world’s populace suffers with anemia. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency are manifested in adults as; restless legs syndrome and pica eating. In adolescents the symptoms are; decreased learning and behavioral anomalies. In neonates iron deficiency show up as; arrested growth and development.

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Image credit: Pixabay

How is it diagnosed?

Pica eating is usually diagnosed on the admission of patients on consuming non-nutritive items such as paper, soil, paint chips, hair, rubber bands and ice for a period greater than one month.

Diagnosis is also based on tests for anemia, intestinal blockages, parasitic infections and toxic side effects of things ingested, e.g., lead poisoning.

Most persons are not cognizant that consuming a lot of ice everyday is a form of pica. Many patients assume that it’s just a habit and medical care practitioners do not always make a connection between the behaviors and pica or a mental health issue. Practitioners need to be cognizant in investigating the etiology of the blood loss that results in the anemia.

Pica eating is not diagnosed in children under two years of age as this is part of their normal developmental testing and learning their environment.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

How is it treated?

Once diagnosed patients are usually treated for the iron deficiency. Studies have shown a resolution for the pica/pagophagia once the anemia has resolved. Iron supplementation is given intravenously, orally (liquid, pills or capsules) and must be supplemented with vitamin-c to enable absorption by the cells.

Since pica also has its etiology in some psychological disorders, e.g., obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), stress and developmental disorders  —  cognitive therapy may be required to aid the patient in future management of the disorder.

Final Thoughts

Pagophagia/pica has been a part of the human condition for eons, its etiology and pathophysiology remains a mystery (perhaps due to our bodies instinctive need to exist). The powerful urge to chomp on ice and other non-nutritive substances regularly may be our bodies way of screaming for help. I have personally witnessed pica eating, with many other substances.

Should you become aware you or family members possess any unusual cravings for non-food items, inform them/your primary care provider as an investigation and resolution may go a long way to improving your/their life.

References:

  1. https://study.com/
  2. https://www.nlm.nih.gov
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org
  4. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
  5. https://jmedicalcasereports.biomedcentral.com
  6. https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ipho20/current

 

27 thoughts on “Anemia and Eating Ice

  1. Hi Pene, what an interesting post. Growing up in the tropics we chewed ice to keep cool. I never thought of it as symptomatic of a larger issue. Great post. 😊❤

    1. Good morning Ms Suzette. You are so correct, we surely did. Now whenever I see persons chewing ice I instantly think … hmm… anemia.
      Have a blessed day.

  2. I had heard of chewing ice as a symtom of iron deficiency. My iron is normal, but I love chewing ice! Thank you Penne, for an informative and interesting article. I hope you are doing well. All the best! Cheryl

    1. Yes it could be a habit as well…not good for the teeth, lol.
      I am feeling so much better this week than last week, the awful headaches are getting better I think as the cranial nerves recover and the inflammation reduces.
      Thank you so much for your prayers. Have a safe and blessed day!

  3. When I was pregnant all I wanted was shaved ice. Now I’m wondering if maybe I had an iron deficiency. Good information!

    1. I know, same for me I spent my last pregnancy drinking ice water in slushie form. But i was anemic and was on extra iron supplements during.

    2. Same with me. The only time I craved tons of ice was when I was pregnant. I preferred crushed ice over anything else! I went through one large bag of ice every 3 days which was crazy.

  4. Wow, how interesting! Thankyou for sharing x

    1. Thanks for visiting. And you are welcome.

  5. I have heard about this before! I tend to chew on ice but not to the extreme. I think i just like the texture.

    1. I do it as well, the crunch can be addicting.

  6. Interesting post!

  7. I love ice, but my teeth are so sensitive I cannot bite into it; I have to suck on the ice lol.

    1. A blessing in disguise, saves the chompers.

  8. Another interesting information, chewing ice is not for me.

    1. Great that will save your teeth.

  9. This is such a helpful post.

    I went through a stage where I couldn’t stop chewing ice. ALL DAY LONG!

    Not having found someone like you to shed light it took me a long time to figure it out and talk to my doc!

    Anemia has been resolved and have absolutely NO inclination to chew ice, other than in a hot, balmy day😉🤣

    Informative post Pene👍🏻

    1. Good testimony there. Be well.

  10. Very interesting and informative.
    I’ve come across ice chewers but never anyone that chew on other non nutritious things.

    1. I have seen some of those other things and the phenomena is perplexing.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  11. Just keep curious and continue to take in nourishment and you’ll learn something everyday. I’ve seen starch pica. Had no idea of ice pica. Thank you.

    1. You are so welcome.

  12. Thanks for sharing this sis. 🤗
    Very Informative. This is my first time reading about this. 🙂

  13. so relieved I don’t have that … you are doing some interesting research to pass your time!

    1. You are so correct. Without WP and the internet, I would have pulled my hair out. Lol.

      1. so glad you didn’t … 😉

  14. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I ate a lot of ice. I would stop at the variety store and get an empty slushy container, and fill it with ice. It was crushed and that was my preferred type of ice. Turns out I was severely anemic. Strangely, there was no iron in the prenantal vitamins I was taking. Next time I crave ice, I will pay more attention to the warning signs.

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