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Pagophagia - My Addiction to Ice

Updated on January 3, 2015
"Ice cube splashing in water"
"Ice cube splashing in water" | Source

Hi I'm Kay and I am a recovered Pagophangiast!

For two years I craved ice. No, that doesn't quite describe it.
I CRAVED ice. I NEEDED ice. I took my ice seriously!
I even purchased a portable ice maker that would run from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. When my ice machine died from serious overuse, I purchased large bags of ice almost daily from our local grocer. Fortunately, I can happily report that I am a recovered ice addict and it happened suddenly!

Okay, so I don't really think Pagophangiast is a real word but pagophagia is a very real disorder and one from which I am no longer struggling!

If you can relate to the CRAVING, this page is for you.

Pagophagia? What is that?

If you crave ice, you have pagophagia. Pagophagia is a form of Pica so let’s begin by discussing Pica.

Pica is when you crave substances with little to no nutritional value. This becomes a disorder when you crave them for more than a month at a time. It is not unusual to hear of women craving things like clay or chalk. In retrospect, ice seems a lot more normal but may well indicate a serious health problem.

People with pagophagia need ice the way an alcoholic craves alcohol or a smoker needs a cigarette. People may think ice chewing isn’t that big a deal but it does indicate health risks and can cause problems.

Do you have pagophagia?

See results

A Serious Health Concern

If you like to snack on ice daily, you need to hightail it in to see your physician. You need to be tested for Iron Deficiency Anemia.

While I had heard from my physician that there was a possible link between ice chewing and anemia. I didn't know how serious my Anemia truly was until I ended up in the Emergency Room with heart problems. Yes, they'd been monitoring my levels and they were often very low but they never checked my ferritin. Turns out, I had no detectable levels of iron in my body when my heart starting acting up. I've probably been this way for the last couple years which coincidentally is when I really started craving ice. I had been anemic at this point for about eight years but the real health problems began in the last couple years. I was even told by two doctors that if we did not get 'fix' my anemia, it was serious enough that I would probably not see my children grow up. Yes, it was that serious.

Yes, other conditions may be the cause of your pagophagia but research indicates that most often iron deficiency anemia may well be the culprit.

Another Serious Concern for those with Pagophagia

Your Teeth

Ice is just tough on your teeth. Any dentist will tell you that you are doing serious damage and often they can tell you are ice chewing without you saying a word. My dentist knew about my habit. I was always up front with him. He also understood that this was a habit I was not easily able to break so he was kind while lecturing me. Yes, I have actually cracked a tooth while chewing ice. I have also worn my molars down quite a bit.

If you crave ice, please get tested for Anemia and ask to have your ferritin levels checked as well!

You Are Not Alone

I had a friend visit and we were comparing ice stories. She told me about her favorite forum for ice chewers. Yes, she has since gone on to find out she is anemic as well.

Want to talk to other ice chewers?

Ice Chewers Bulletin Board

Isn't that like sharing with an alcoholic your favorite forum on the proper way to mix beverages, you ask? Well, no, not really. This forum discusses the medical issues associated with ice chewing as well as ways to make the ice 'softer' so you don't do as much damage to your teeth while you take care of the problem.

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Woman Drinking Water From Tall Glass
Woman Drinking Water From Tall Glass | Source

How I Once and For all Ended my Ice Chewing Habit

look Ma, no ice!

After I ended up in the ER, I began seeing a Hematologist. Side note here, if you have anemia, seek an appointment with a Hematologist. For years, I had dealt with various physicians and never really truly improved. Within weeks of my first Hematology appointment, I was a new woman! If you'd like to read that story:

Intravenous Iron Infusion and Me

Interesting to note that after my very first intravenous iron infusion, I no longer wanted ice in any way! In fact, when we go out, I ask for water WITHOUT ice! This was not even weeks after my first IV. This was immediate. In fact, I had just bought a brand new 10-lbs bag of ice and finally used it in an ice chest a few months later!

Update:

I have been about 15 months ice free! I don't even want it in my cup anymore. It is so strange. While my ferritin (iron) levels have dropped to undetectable levels, my hemoglobin has not dropped much. I really believe now that the ice cravings go hand in hand with low hemoglobin. Fortunately, they check me every so often and we catch the deficiency before we get to that point.

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An Interesting Study

on ice chewing and anemia

While writing this page, I stumbled across this study:

Craving for ice and iron-deficiency anemia: a case series from Oman.

Interestingly enough, once the iron deficiency anemia was treated in these patients, their ice chewing spontaneously resolved within a couple of weeks. The study also cautions physicians to check for iron deficiency anemia if their patient is an ice chewer.

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Some Articles and Pages of Interest

Is constantly craving and chewing ice a sign of anemia? A short article from the Mayo Clinic

Pagophagia and Iron Deficiency Anemia A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. You need to be a member to read the full article but the summary is interesting.

Save Your Teeth

If you also are an ice addict, I recommend these trays. The ice cubes are much smaller and not as likely to hurt your teeth. Notice, I said not as likely! You still should figure out why you are craving ice but in the meantime, do as little damage as you can!

Pagophagia in the News!

I'll add links as I come across them. If any of these links are broken, please, leave a comment and I'll remove the link. Thank you!

Wife stealing, compulsive chewing and artisanal carving - the cool history of ice in America

Pagophagia on CNN!

Need to contact the author? You may e-mail Cari_Kay at carikay11@gmail.com

I was interviewed by Cosmopolitan magazine about my addiction. You can read that interview here: I Was Addicted to Chewing Ice

Are you an ice chewer? Are you a former ice chewer? Did you just stumble across this page? I'd love to hear from you.

If you feel this page could help others, feel free to click on the Google +1 button at the top of the page (for those of you with Google accounts). Thank you!

I'd love to hear from you

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    • profile image

      melbourne Mike 2 years ago

      Yes...TRUE! I've been anemic for nearly 20 years...my ice chewing has bordered on crazy recently and my last blood work showed a NEGIGIBLE reading on Ferritin which should be around 300 mine is less than 15. Word to the wise...if you find yourself chewing ice...your probably are anemic and need to get that checked.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 2 years ago

      You really should go get checked. Treatments immediately took away my cravings. Please, let me know if you see the doctor.

    • profile image

      help me 2 years ago

      Uhm..im a 14 years old girl..i feel like i want to chew ice all the time...i chew ice every day...i just love it so much..at first, i thought that this wont last long and i can handle it..but then..i crave for ice more than usual..my mum keep advising me to stop eating the ice because it will affect my teeth..yeah..you know..i just cant even though i know that it is bad for my health...i don't go for any check up and i know it will cost a lot of money..and the most important thing is im afraid to tell my mum that i may be suffering for anemia..so do you have any other way to cure this habit.. help me...i do really really really want to stop this..

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 3 years ago

      @candy-fletchermoreland: I was the same way! I was buying those giant bags of ice and would go through them in a hurry. It was like smoking! I always had to have a cup of ice with me and had giant cups I could take in the car. Have they done an iron infusion on you because IMMEDIATELY after my iron infusion, I no longer wanted ice at all. It was astounding.

    • profile image

      candy-fletchermoreland 3 years ago

      Your story, is my exact story. I have had anemia for years. approx 7 yrs. I have eaten ice for all that time. It's my most favorite thing to do. I absolutely love it. I am scheduled for a hysterectomy on the 22nd of Jan, to try to resolve the anemia. Due to several conditions that affect my uterus, I lose massive amounts of blood each month, causing the anemia. I have had one blood transfusion and am currently nearing the point of needing another one. My latest lab results showed that my bone marrow is producing too many new red blood cells to try to make up for the anemia. I've known for 7 years that i've been anemic and I've refused to take iron or do anything to reduce my monthly periods because i LOVE eating ice so much that I am willing to be unhealthy in exchange for eating the ice! It wasn't until recently when I ended up in the E.R with what felt like a heart attack that I sought help. After being referred to a cardiologist, who I quickly adored, I realized that I have to quit this. He looked straight at me and said "the ice is going to kill you". I eat a ten pound bag per day or every day and a half. I don't just have PICA, I had some added psychological problems with the ice, because it has to be a specific kind and only that kind (Reddy Ice which is sold in the ice chests outside of most stores). I guess it is a blessing that my uterus has several conditions that require me to have a hysterectomy, because i've fully compromised my health for the love of ice. After I have the hysterectomy and recover, I guess I will see a hematologist and if this can't be fixed that way, my cardiologist said that I may need to see a psychiatrist, for the obsessive compulsive aspect of it. I am sad to think that I will no longer enjoy cups of ice. I know my husband and kids will love it! Because the crunching annoys them so badly. I would love to hear a response from anybody that has a similar story as mine!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @anonymous: It does feel strange to eat all that ice but, I know, it really is a strong craving. I do hope they get your health issues under control.

    • MissRubyStars profile image

      MissRubyStars 4 years ago

      I realize now I used to chew a lot of ice in a day. One day I just stopped out of no where without trying. Thinking back, I don't think I have chewed ice in a few years. Very good to know information! Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi, i'm Gail 51 year old female.Never knew this site existed and i love it! I have been chewing ice and freezing up bottles of water and juice for about 3 months now. I am anemic but i have a unique health issue. Polycythemia Vera. Too many Red&White blood cells and Platelets. Iron supplements are out for they will raise my red blood cells and hematocrit. Before i go to be i crush up some ice and chew it. I feel like a wierdo. My Hematologist knows about this and is keeping an eye on my situation. I guess i'm bound to chew ice since adding iron would be detrimental to my blood disorder.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 4 years ago

      @MissRubyStars: Sounds like you might have been anemic but that it resolved. That is so good to hear!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 4 years ago

      @anonymous: that was like me. Go get yourself checked for anemia.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I eat at least 8-10 20oz cups of ice a day.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @anonymous: My daughter and I were just talking about how odd it was that the very day of my first iron infusion, I no longer craved ice. In fact, quite the opposite, I don't even want it in my drinks now. Bizarre, huh? Believe me, I totally understand!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @RockyMountain: I know! I've heard of that deodorant one...yuck! However if you do crave ice, might be time for a check up :)

    • RockyMountain profile image

      RockyMountain 4 years ago

      Wow, I didn't know there was a name for this craving. I used to chew ice all the time, now I mostly just suck on it at my desk. More a nervous habit than anything i think. Could be worse things though, on that show 'my strange addiction', they've got people eating deodorant, drinking gasoline, etc.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have loved ice as long as I can remember. After my last pregnancy the fourth child, I craved ice more than usual. Now I have to have it every day. I buy a bag of ice every two days. I seems as if it tastes like a good steak and I know its just frozen water. I found out yesterday that I am anemic. I hope getting the treatment for anemia will fix this because as much as I love ice, my teeth are suffering.. Thank you for this page. It really hit home because no one understood why I have to have a cup of ice.

    • profile image

      TheIceKing99 4 years ago

      We know how you feel! Some people really love chewing on ice, especially Sonic ice or hospital ice, but it can be a sign of iron deficiency. You've got to make sure that, if you're chewing on ice, you're doing it for simple enjoyment, not due to health problems. (Check out our article on Hospital Ice here http://icemachinesblog.icemachinesplus.com/get-hos...

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 4 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Wow...it's amazing what you learn on Squidoo! Thanks for sharing. Do you know why there is a link between this addiction and anemia?

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 4 years ago

      @LynetteBell: They haven't figured it out :)

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I used to chew ice but didn't crave it. Not even an ice cub tray in my freezer unless it summer time. Very interesting article, once again I am your student. - Blessed! :)

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Might want to have him checked out with his pediatrician just to rule out anemia.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      my son is 12 and for as long as I can remember he has been craving and chewing on ice we joke about him having a bad ice habbit I didnt realise until just now how bad this could be.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @kathysart: It really is strange how quickly that obsession goes away! It was immediate for me. What is really funny is that my ferritin levels have dropped super low again but no cravings. However, my hemoglobin is staying close to normal with my infusions so maybe it was something to do with the hemoglobin score.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 4 years ago

      @anonymous: YAY! I know. It ends so quickly doesn't it? I don't even keep in in my fridge anymore.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi everyone, I just wanted to share my little story with ice.I have been eating ice for years! I loved eating ice! I was actually thinking about it and craving it. I even had my favorite type of ice. I was eating ice i the bath, before bed, while watching TV even in the car!I went to the doctor 2 months ago and I have been diagnosed with Anemia. My doctor gave me a Iron treatment.Since I have been taking the Iron, I don't eat ice anymore! I don't crave it and don't even enjoy it anymore!If you are craveing for ice and eating ice all the time, I would recommend you to check your Iron levels.Good luck!Claudia

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 4 years ago

      @Cari Kay 11: :)

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @kathysart: You made my day! :)

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 4 years ago

      @Cari Kay 11: I posted this on my FB along with your lens. Most people wrote "huh?" and stuff like that, but one woman wrote that maybe that was the problem with her son so she was going to have him tested. COOL... lol, pardon the pun.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @kathysart: See! You totally understand! It was like smoking. If you're a smoker, you just have to smoke. Same with ice chewers and ice. I would ask for cups of ice too as I left restaurants. Really, the only place that understood was Sonic. They told me they would often have people just want the huge cups of ice. I'm so glad you caught that you were iron deficient. I've mentioned this now to several people snacking on ice that I've seen and they found out that they were indeed anemic. So appreciated your comment!

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 4 years ago

      YES!! OMG.. my sister just emailed me with the name of this disorder last night so I looked it up on google and found your lens. I HAD THIS BIG TIME for about 4 YEARS. My husband and I would have huge fights over it cause he was so sick of hearing me chew on ice. I ate 2 big ice maker boxes a day when I had an ice maker. When I didn't I would put pie pans in the fride with low levels of water so they would freeze up quicker. I would devote whole days to this. Once I went out to dinner with my sister and her friend, that I did not know well even. The ice served was exactly how I liked it so I ordered 10 cup to go!! I am not kidding. My sisters friend must have thought I was nuts.. and I was.. over ice. Ohh my mouth would hurt and I would get headaches from this all the time. I had no insurance so never told a doctor or anything. Four years! Maybe even five when I think of it. Finally one day I was eating ice in front of a friend. I was apologizing and sharing how mad it made my husband, He told me of another friend who he knew who did that and that she was iron deficient. I got some iron and ta dow.. just like that it was over. I don't even keep ice in my house at all now. I believe this is a real problem for women going through the change, for obvious reasons. Boy.. so great to see it was a REAL thing and not just a freak thing with me. Thanks for all this!! Blessed!!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @LouisaDembul: thank you!

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 4 years ago

      I had never heard of pagophagia. But it makes sense that there is some deficiency of some sort when there are cravings. So glad you're better!

    • profile image

      resabi 4 years ago

      Really interesting lens. I've had some experience with ice chewing and I was anemic, related to kidney failure. I still vastly prefer ice in my water and like my beverages very cold, but don't have the constant need to chew it that I had before my transplant. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My Ingrid has been a great lover of ice since her second pregnancy. She didn't get an ice machine, but we've been through many a drive-thru for cups of ice and there are stacks of ice trays in our freezer. I never would have thought of it as a form of PICA. Thank you for the great information.

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      DebMartin 4 years ago

      I always learn something new from you. ;-)

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I wonder if my 10 year old daughter is a Pagophangiast. She takes a cup of crushed ice with her to bed every night.

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      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      It's fascinating what one can learn by browsing about on Squidoo. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • profile image

      Aquablocks 5 years ago

      I used to love ice but the craving somehow just vanished.

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      Interesting. Thank you!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I knew about pica, but not about pagophagia - fascinating condition to read about, but scary in real life, no doubt. So glad to hear you got your health issues sorted before real damage!

    • MariaDSk profile image

      MariaDSk 5 years ago

      Hmmm like the recommendation for smaller ice trays! Interesting idea.

    • amkatee profile image

      amkatee 5 years ago

      I had heard of this while pregnant. I enjoyed chewing on ice when I was pregnant with my first. The little pieces in Sonic's drinks was the best. I was never tested for anemia however. Women should be tested if they are very fatigued. Also, have your thyroid checked if you are fatigued. I have a low thyroid which causes me to feel tired most of the time. I thought it was just from having kids!

    • profile image

      trendydad 5 years ago

      wow i learn something new today--nice lens with great info

    • KReneeC profile image

      KReneeC 5 years ago

      How very interesting. I am familiar with PICA but never thought of chewing ice as a form of it, and also what it may mean deficiency wise. So very interesting and thank you for sharing your story!