During a hot day in the summer, or whenever I was craving something but had nothing to eat, I always grabbed an ice cube or two and put it in my mouth. When I was younger, my craving for them would be so bad that I would be crunching on ice cubes all day long, and I literally went crazy if I couldn’t. But recently I found out that ice craving could be a health warning your body is sending to you.

What is Pagophagia?

coffee, beer, tea, beans, pizza
Lexi Nickens

Pagophagia is a medical term to describe someone who has cravings for things that don’t have nutritional value. In our case, an ice cube. It could simply be caused by having stress, OCD, or another mental health issue.

What’s more interesting, however, is that this craving may be a warning your body is sending out. According to a study, pagophagia may give a "metal-boost" to someone who is lacking in iron. It is also said that if a person has low blood-iron levels, the body can't produce enough oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, known as anemia which results in fatigue.

But is that bad?

beer, water, masonjar, girl, Drinking, Health, hydration, smile, Healthy
Julia Gilman

Besides fatigue and lack of iron in your blood, pagophagia can lead to a rather obvious heath risk. First of all, eating an ice cube frequently and in large quantities may harm your teeth by breaking the enamel, and cracking or chipping a tooth. When this happens, your teeth may become more sensitive or prone to cavities. 

But damaging your teeth isn't the end of the world, all you have to do is face the dentist, and in most cases, it won't cause you serious harm. But if you ignore anemia, and not get sufficient treatment, it may lead to some severe consequences. Heart failure is commonly referred to as one of the side effects of anemia. Other issues, including premature birth during pregnancy or growth issues in children is also reported as symptoms of anemia.

What needs to be done?

lemon, water, lemonade
Caroline Liu

If ice eating is coming from habit, simply seeking help from a doctor who is familiar with this and undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help in cases where pagophagia is caused by stress, OCD, or another mental health issue. 

However, if it's caused by iron deficiency anemia, simply eating supplements may relieve symptoms. However, before taking measures into your own hands, always consult a doctor first because if you take in too much iron, it may lead to other problems, such as cancer.