Many readers are interested in the following topic: Is Eating Ice Bad for You? Pagophagia Symptoms & Causes. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.
Since chewing ice is the biggest problem when it comes to your dental health, try sucking on something cold instead, such as homemade ice pops made from 100% juice.
What is Pagophagia?
If you have an intense craving to chew on ice, you might have a condition called pagophagia. This is often caused by a nutrition deficiency. Regularly chewing on ice is damaging to your teeth, and it might signal an underlying health condition.
Read on to find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pagophagia today.
Pagophagia is an intense craving to chew on ice. You have pagophagia if you find yourself frequently driven to chew on ice cubes, ice chips, or even frost from your freezer.
Pagophagia is a type of pica. Pica is the desire to eat non-nutritional items such as dirt or paper. If your craving is for ice, then you have a specific type of pica called pagophagia.
If you occasionally enjoy crunching on leftover ice cubes, such as when you finish a fountain drink, that isn’t pagophagia. Chewing on ice only becomes pagophagia when the drive to chew ice is intense and persistent.
Symptoms of Pagophagia
The main symptom of pagophagia is chewing ice. People with pagophagia chew ice cubes, shaved ice, crushed ice, or frost regularly.
If you have pagophagia you might also have some of the following symptoms:
The above symptoms aren’t caused by chewing ice, however. These symptoms are tied to anemia, a common underlying cause of pagophagia.
Causes of Pagophagia
Iron deficiency.Iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia is the most common cause of pagophagia. In one study, 16% of people with iron deficiency anemia reported a strong craving to chew on ice.
There are good reasons people with iron deficiency anemia want to chew on ice. Chewing on ice helps people with iron deficiency feel more alert and mentally sharp.
Calcium deficiency. Having low levels of iron is the most common nutritional deficiency associated with pagophagia, but low calcium can also trigger the condition.
Eating disorders. A drive to chew on ice might be due to an eating disorder. This can be because your body wants nutrients that it is lacking. People with eating disorders other than pica might also frequently chew on ice to feel full without ingesting any calories.
Dry mouth. If you have xerostomia, or dry mouth, you might develop a habit of chewing ice to keep moisture in your mouth.
Developmental and mental health issues. Other causes of pagophagia include stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and developmental disorders.
Complications of Pagophagia
Dental health problems. Pagophagia can have serious consequences for your dental health. The American Dental Association lists ice as one of the top nine foods that damage your teeth.
Chewing ice can:
- Damage tooth your enamel making you more likely to get to cavities
- Damage braces or fillings
- Crack your teeth
- Irritate your gums and cause gum recession
Malnutrition. If your craving for ice has pushed other food off your plate, pagophagia can cause malnutrition. The risk of malnutrition increases if your ice chewing habit is primarily caused by an eating disorder.
Anemia complications. Iron deficiency anemia, the most common cause of pagophagia, can lead to serious complications if not treated.
- Irregular heartbeat
- Enlarged heart
- Pregnancy complications such as premature birth
- Increased infections
- Growth and development delays in children
Treatments for Pagophagia
If you have pagophagia, you need to treat the underlying cause.
If your pagophagia is caused by iron deficiency, treatment will depend on the severity of your anemia.
Treatment options include:
- Increasing the iron in your diet, by eating foods rich in iron like eggs, leafy greens, and enriched breads
- Iron supplements, either over-the-counter or prescribed
- Iron infusions
- Blood transfusions
With proper treatment, you can expect your symptoms to improve quickly. Even before your hemoglobin levels rise, you will find you have less of a craving for ice. Hemoglobin is the measure of red blood cells that carry oxygen in your body. A low level can show you have an iron deficiency.
If your pagophagia is caused by an eating disorder, stress, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, then cognitive behavior therapy can help.
If your pagophagia is caused by dry mouth, try switching from ice to sugar-free chewing gum. This will be safer for your teeth and will encourage saliva production. Depending on the cause, there are a variety of dry mouth treatments available that can increase saliva production.
If you can’t stop yourself from chewing on ice as you work to address the cause of your pagophagia, stick to either shaved ice or small and mostly melted pieces. This will do less damage to your teeth than larger chunks or cubes.
If you find yourself chewing on ice throughout the day, your body might be trying to tell you something. Protect your teeth and your health by addressing the cause of your ice cravings.
American Dental Association: “6 Habits That Harm Your Teeth (And How to Break Them),” “Healthy Mouth: Top 9 Foods that Damage Your Teeth,” “Xerostomia (Dry Mouth).”
Cleveland Clinic: “Anemia.”
Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: “Pagophagia – A Common by Rarely Reported Form of Pica.”
Mayo Clinic: “Craving and chewing ice: A sign of anemia,” “Hemoglobin test,” “Iron deficiency anemia.”
Medical Hypotheses: “Pagophagia improves neuropsychological processing speed in iron-deficiency anemia.”
National Eating Disorders Association: “Pica.”
Rinsho Ketsueki: “Pagophagia in iron deficiency anemia.”
Is Eating Ice Bad for You? Pagophagia Symptoms & Causes
Ice is made up entirely of water. That means that consuming it is hydrating, but is eating ice bad for you when it comes to maintaining dental health or for other reasons?
If you occasionally suck or chew on some ice, such as the cubes left at the bottom of your glass when you finish a drink, it’s probably no big deal. But doing it constantly, especially if it’s due to cravings? This can be a sign of a bigger problem.
Reoccurring cravings to chew on ice cubes (a condition called pagophagia) can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency. Plus, eating ice regularly is capable of damaging your teeth and hurting your gums.
In this article we look at the most common causes of ice cravings, plus better alternatives to eating ice.
Causes of Craving Ice
Compulsive cravings to chew on ice is called pagophagia. “Pica” is the medical term for unusual cravings to chew on things that don’t offer any nutrients, such as ice, dirt, clay, paper, chalk, etc.
Research shows that pagophagia may be an anemia symptom in some people, especially those with iron deficiency anemia. (Anemia can be caused by other factors too, such as those associated with bone marrow or digestive issues.)
Why would anemia cause ice cravings?
It’s still not entirely understood why there’s a link between iron deficiency anemia and eating ice, but it’s speculated that cool ice helps dull pain and inflammation of the mouth and gums that can affect some people with anemia.
Another explanation, which some studies have found evidence for, is that chewing ice can increase alertness and energy among people who feel fatigued due to iron deficiency. One of the most common anemia symptoms is lack of energy, yet the cold sensation in the mouth from ice seems to help “wake” people up.
Researchers believe that ice chewing might increase alertness and energy in fatigued people by causing vascular changes and by bringing more oxygen to the blood reaching the brain. Another explanation is that ice activates the sympathetic nervous system, which also increases blood flow to the brain.
Anemia isn’t the only reason some people like chewing on ice. Other reasons people may be drawn to eating ice include:
- They have dry mouth, such as due to dehydration, diabetes, an infection of the mouth or from smoking
- They recently quit smoking cigarettes and chewing ice gives them something to focus on to reduce cravings
- They feel stressed or bored
- They’re hungry or thirsty but trying to avoid eating
- They have obsessive compulsive disorder
Pagophagia (Ice Cravings) Symptoms
The most obvious sign of pagophagia is compulsive, repetitive cravings for ice. To be diagnosed with this condition, you need to have cravings for last more than one to two months. Otherwise, you may want to eat ice for other emotional or physical reasons.
As mentioned above, you may have pagophagia because you’re anemic or low in iron. Symptoms of pagophagia to look out for include:
- Brain fog and trouble focusing
- Pale and dry skin
- Sore gums and tongue
- Unusual and/or rapid heartbeats
- Low moods and depression
- Weakness and dizziness
If you don’t crave ice very often but do like to eat it now and then, consider whether you may be thirsty, stressed or have dry mouth for some reason.
Is Eating Ice Bad for You?
What does eating ice do to your body? First and foremost, it can help you meet your need for water and keep you hydrated.
This is the biggest benefit of eating ice. If you’re somewhere water is not easily available, let’s say you’re camping in the cold, ice (and snow) is a good backup option as long as it’s clean and uncontaminated.
The problem with eating ice all the time is that it can damage your teeth.
Some ice chewers wind up developing cracked and chipped teeth due to damaging their tooth enamel, which is the tough, outer covering of the teeth that helps protect the inner teeth. This can increase the risk for tooth decay and cavities.
Ice can also be rough on existing fillings and crowns in the mouth, potentially leading to them breaking or chipping. Additionally, it can cause jaw pain in some people, especially those prone to TMJ.
Yet another potential risk is that ice chewing can make your teeth and gums overly sensitive to changes in temperature. When you eat or drink cold or hot foods you might wind up feeling tingling and pain.
How to Treat
1. Get Tested for Anemia
First rule out an underlying health condition, especially iron-deficiency anemia. You can talk to your doctor about being tested for anemia, which is a simple blood test.
If you’re low in iron, you’ll want to increase your intake with help from iron-rich foods (such as meat, leafy greens, organ meats, seafood and beans) and possibly iron supplements.
2. Treat Dry Mouth
Next, consider whether you want to eat ice because of dry mouth. If you have diabetes, make sure you’re managing your condition and avoiding side effects like oral infections that can cause dry mouth.
3. Quit Smoking
If you currently smoke, take steps to quit by enrolling in a supportive program, using a mindfulness app geared toward quitting or using over-the-counter or prescription products that can help.
4. Switch to Popsicles, Cold Drinks and Crunchy Foods Instead
Since chewing ice is the biggest problem when it comes to your dental health, try sucking on something cold instead, such as homemade ice pops made from 100% juice.
Some people report that having juice slushies or partially melted ice also helps. These are softer on the mouth and shouldn’t cause the same issues as ice — just be sure to make semi-frozen drinks yourself so you’re not drinking loads of added sugar.
If you enjoy eating crunchy foods — maybe you find it soothing — have healthy snacks like carrot sticks, apple slices, pistachios, etc., instead.
5. Address Stress and Emotional Issues
If you suspect that you have cravings to chew on ice (or anything else) due to stress, then try stress-relieving activities to help break the habit, such as journaling, deep breathing, meditating and so on. You can also discuss emotional issues you may have with a trained cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in compulsive behaviors and cravings.
- Is it bad to eat ice? Ice is made up of water, so it’s hydrating, which is a plus. However, ice chewing cravings can point to issues such as iron-deficiency anemia or stress.
- Some people with anemia chew ice because it makes them feel more alert. Others like it to relive dry mouth, boredom or compulsions to smoke. It can also be associated with diabetes, dehydration or dieting.
- Doing it now and then isn’t a problem, but if it’s very frequent it can chip and damage your teeth. Try addressing underlying causes first, and then consider switching to cold or slushy drinks or healthy ice pops instead.
Eating Ice: Is It Bad or Good for You?
Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.
On a hot summer day, or when youâre experiencing a sore throat, the soothing sensation of a cool ice cube may be the ideal remedy. It can also be a great way to maintain hydration when an illness or injury is preventing a sufficient intake of fluids. However, ice cubes also carry the risk of choking, and an unusual craving for ice chips can indicate an underlying health condition. So, is eating ice bad or good for you?
Ice is essentially frozen water and holds no added nutritional value. That being said, the body requires at least eight 8-oz. servings of water daily for proper functioning. Ice chips can contribute to your overall fluid intake, although in small amounts.
If you find that youâre relying on ice to quench an insatiable thirst, you may have the medical condition known as pagophagia. This compulsive need to chew and eat ice is seen with eating disorders and nutritional deficiencies. Complications of the disorder also include dental problems.
Are there any proven health benefits of eating ice? Weâll take a closer look at this and the various side effects of eating ice, as well as share some healthy tips for how to stop eating ice.
In This Article:
- Craving Ice: Why Do People Eat It?
- Side Effects of Eating Ice
- Ice Benefits People with Iron Deficiency Anemia, as per Studies
- How to Treat Ice Cravings
Craving Ice: Why Do People Eat It?
People may chew ice for a variety of reasons:
1. Iron deficiency: On average, an adult should consume between eight to 18 mg of iron per day in their diets. Several studies have shown that people who consume the necessary amounts of iron per day are less likely to chew ice. In fact, pagophagia has been linked with iron deficiency.
For example, the texture from ice may reduce tongue inflammation, which is a symptom of low iron. Research shows that when iron supplements are used to treat anemia, pagophagia disappears, with little chance of reoccurrence.
A study on the link between pagophagia and iron deficiency anemia focused on a group of 81 patients with the iron-based anemia condition. In the 13 participants with pagophagia symptoms, oral iron was found to successfully curb the ice craving.
Further research into the development of pagophagia is required; however, this study suggests that iron deficiency has a role in the condition.
2. Weight loss: In an effort to lose weight quickly, some people eat ice to prevent themselves from eating other foods. Some people also eat ice in between meals as an appetite suppressantâalthough there is no evidence that shows this will help with weight loss.
Experts believe the body burns a very small amount of calories upon consuming ice or ice-cold beverages to bring them up to a comfortable temperature. However, the effects on weight loss are negligible.
3. Habits/obsession:People who are bored, or constantly crave something to chew on, may chomp on ice cubes. This can eventually turn into an obsession.
4. Nausea: For some people, chewing ice may provide a cooling sensation to relieve nausea. Sucking on ice chips may help to settle an upset stomach while keeping you hydrated. This method is often used to manage nausea from motion sickness, influenza, cancer, and basic food poisoning, and might also alleviate headaches accompanying nausea.
5. Eating ice while pregnant: Is eating ice bad for you while pregnant? Chewing or sucking on ice chips may also be a favorable choice for the estimated 75% of pregnant women with morning sickness who cannot keep down fluids. Heartburn and overheating are additional pregnancy symptoms that may benefit from ice.
Ice was the main choice of participants in a study of pica behavior among Mexican-born pregnant women. While the study focused on low-income women living in both Mexico and southern California, only those living in the States recorded data as Mexican participants did not have access to ready-made ice.
The reasons given for ingesting ice included quenching thirst, cooling internal and external temperatures, medicinal purposes, as well as enjoyment of its texture.
Side Effects of Eating Ice
Can eating too much ice make you sick? Well, there are many reasons why eating ice is bad for you. Regularly chewing on ice can cause harm to your dental health, or lead to more serious issues:
1. Eating ice causes severe damage to teeth and gums: By constantly chewing on ice, youâre putting pressure on your teeth and you risk wearing down the enamel, the thin outer coating that protects the delicate internal tissue. This could lead to your teeth cracking or chipping, and result in cavities. Dental work such as crowns and fillings may also be damaged by crunching on ice.
Your teeth can also become weak and extremely sensitive to cold or hot foods and drinks. Furthermore, if you happen to chomp down on a particularly sharp piece of ice, you will risk puncturing your gums and triggering an infection.
2. Nutritional issues: People who eat ice as a method to lose weight may not be getting their daily nutrients and they can end up sick or malnourished.
3. Socially unacceptable: Constantly chomping down on ice may irritate the people around you. The crunching sound can become increasingly annoying to some, which can eventually affect your social life.
Ice Benefits People with Iron Deficiency Anemia, as per Studies
Several studies have attempted to expand on the association between eating ice and iron deficiency anemia, and some suggest the cold crunchiness of ice may have positive effects on symptoms.
It has been shown that the ice cravings of pagophagia can be relieved by iron supplements in anemic patients. But a 2014 Penn study took these findings to a new level by exploring an explanation oft-given by anemic patientsâthat ice chewing boosts their mental capabilities. An iron deficiency can impair the transport of oxygen to the brain through the bloodstream.
The study, published in the Medical Hypotheses journal, involved two groups of people: healthy individuals and those diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. It tested the participantsâ reaction time, alertness, and vigilance as they watched a series of fast-moving images on a computer screen.
Each image, approximately one per second for 22 minutes, contained one small square and one big square. Researchers instructed volunteers to push a button only if the small square was on top.
All participants were given either ice or tepid water prior to testing to prevent dehydration from playing a role. The iron deficiency anemia patients who took the test without ice had much lower testing scores, which were on par with attention deficit disorder patients. Anemic patients who had consumed ice beforehand, conversely, had virtually the same test scores as the healthy group of participants. The ice and water had no significant effect on performance in the healthy group.
The researchers believe these test results contribute to the theory that chewing on ice stimulates the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
How to Treat Ice Cravings
1. Iron-Rich Foods
Iron-rich foods provide the protein hemoglobin to red blood cells, and itâs essential to supply cell tissues with oxygen. To treat pagophagia, it is recommended to consume spirulina, grass-fed beef, lentils, spinach, sardines, black beans, pistachios, raisins, and even dark chocolate.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
While the exact cause of the pagophagia condition is unknown, stress and oneâs mental health have been attributed to such behavior. Counseling along with positive and negative reinforcement may help to deter the ice craving through cognitive behavioral therapy.
Donât rush to conclusions, but speak to your doctor if you are worried. Finally, if you feel the need to chew on something, carry around a pack of sugar-free gum. Itâs gentler on your teeth and your breath will smell fresh!
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