Why do people with anemia crave ice?

What is pagophagia? Causes, Treatment, and More

Overview

Can't you get enough ice cream You may have pagophagia.

You have probably heard the term "pica" used to describe cravings for non-food items such as dirt, chalk, or paper. What these substances have in common is that they have no nutritional value. When you've got the kind of pica called pagophagia, you crave ice and chew it. It is usually not severe, but it can be an indication that you have a medical condition that requires attention.

Craving or chewing ice or drinking ice-cream beverages is the most common symptom of pagophagia. In the short term, wanting to chew or eat lots of ice cream may not mean you have a problem. However, if your cravings last longer than you, pica may be diagnosed.

Pagophagia is related to iron deficiency anemia. As a result, other deficiency symptoms can occur, including:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pallor, ie paler skin than usual
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat, or shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • swollen or sore tongue
  • cold hands or feet
  • Loss of appetite

Cravings for pica mostly occur in children, but adults can also develop pagophagia. For example, pagophagia is sometimes associated with pregnancy due to pregnancy-related anemia.

In researchers asked 81 people with iron deficiency anemia to share their eating habits. Of the participants, 13 showed signs of pagophagia. Some of these people took oral iron supplements, which stopped their ice cravings.

Another study suggests that chewing ice cream can increase alertness in people with iron deficiency. In other words, there is a clear link between anemia and pagophagia.

Chewing ice cream can also be a sign of an emotional problem. Some people may have symptoms of pagophagia when they are under a lot of stress. Others may have symptoms. Obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD or some other developmental disorder. In these cases, chewing ice cream can be comforting in some way.

If you've craved and chewed large amounts of ice for more than a month, you should see your doctor. Before you go to your appointment, try to write down something about your cravings and habits that your doctor may find helpful in diagnosing them, such as:

  • how much ice cream you eat per day
  • how many weeks or months have you chewed ice cream
  • other non-food items that you crave
  • any other symptoms you have experienced

Your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and the medications and supplements you are currently taking. You will also have a physical exam. If your doctor suspects iron deficiency anemia or other deficiency, you may need a blood test or other laboratory work to confirm.

If you have iron deficiency anemia, treating the deficiency can relieve pica symptoms without further intervention. However, you shouldn't just start taking iron supplements without first talking to your doctor; if you don't need them, your body can build up too much iron. The human body cannot get rid of excess iron. Iron build-up can lead to cancer and damage your arteries and heart. Iron supplements can also cause constipation.

Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT can be helpful in cases where pagophagia is caused by stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or some other mental health problem. Therapy can include either positive and negative reinforcements or counseling.

Eating large amounts of ice can damage your teeth by damaging tooth enamel and cracking or chipping a tooth. When your tooth enamel is damaged, your teeth may become more sensitive or prone to tooth decay. Older dental work like fillings can fall out if you grind too much ice.

If your pagophagia is caused by iron deficiency anemia, you may be at risk for various health problems. Mild anemia is usually not severe. However, anemia can get worse without treatment and lead to:

  • Heart problems such as fast or irregular heartbeat. When you have anemia, your heart has to pump more blood to make up for the lack of oxygen in your bloodstream. Your heart may enlarge or even heart failure may occur.
  • Problems during pregnancy, such as premature delivery or low birth weight.
  • Growth problems in children and an increased risk of infection.

Treating the underlying iron deficiency anemia through supplementation and other methods can be hugely helpful. With treatment, symptoms of pagophagia usually resolve without additional medical intervention. Women who experience this type of pica during pregnancy usually find that their cravings after childbirth go away.

More information: 3 Ways To Prevent Anemia During Pregnancy ยป

CBT can help people manage pica. Talk to your doctor about a referral to a specialist who can help you manage stress, emotional problems, or compulsive behaviors.

Eating a balanced diet can help prevent iron deficiency anemia. They should have a good mix of foods rich in iron and others high in vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb vegetable iron.

Foods that contain a good dose of iron include:

  • Red meat
  • Beans and lentils
  • millet
  • dark leaf green
  • molasses
  • dried apricots and peaches
  • pumpkin
  • Sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts and almonds
  • Scallops, clams and oysters
  • Soybeans

Good sources of vitamin C are:

  • broccoli
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Grapefruit, oranges, tangerines and other citrus fruits
  • kiwi
  • Melons
  • paprika
  • tomatoes
  • Strawberries

Talk to your doctor if you are at high risk of anemia due to other factors such as use of certain medications, bowel disorders, blood loss, or pregnancy. You may be able to take additional measures to protect yourself.