You’ve probably heard the old wives’ tale that craving ice (and chewing on it) means you’re sexually frustrated. Not true, experts say.
In fact, according to a bunch of recent studies, craving a glass of ice cubes signifies underlying health issues. And it has nothing to do with your sexual health. Well, unless it’s one of your pregnancy cravings.
Below, we discuss all the medical reasons why you constantly find yourself crunching on the ice cubes in your Long Island cocktail or snacking on a heap of ice chips (instead of potato chips).
5 Science-Backed Reasons Why You’ve Been Craving Ice
There are numerous reasons why you might be craving ice rather than just an impulse to crunch on something icy. Here are expert-backed reasons for craving ice cubes or freezer frosts:
You Have Dry Mouth/Or Are Dehydrated
The most common reason why people crave ice is dry mouth. Crunching ice can help moisten a dry mouth and hydrate a thirsty system.
Still, experts warn not to write off craving ice as a dry mouth symptom. Sometimes, especially when the cravings are persistent and intense, they can be a symptom of underlying health problems and shouldn’t be shrugged off.
You Have An Iron Deficiency
If your craving ice is more than just a need to chew on the cubes at the bottom of your Long Island tea, iron deficiency anemia might be the guilty party.
Anemia is a medical condition that occurs when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to your body.
Red blood cells play a crucial role in transporting oxygen to body tissues. Iron is essential for forming hemoglobin, a key component within red blood cells responsible for oxygen transportation and removing carbon dioxide from your body.
In a recent study, 81 individuals with anemia were asked about their eating habits, and 16 revealed an insatiable ice craving.
Another study showed that people with iron deficiency anemia chew on ice because it gives them a mental and mood boost.
Other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Brittle nails
- Cold hands and feet
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen tongue
- Tingling feeling in your legs
You Are Pregnant
Pregnancy is the one “condition” where cravings aren’t a big deal. And it causes all sorts of cravings. Termite-infested dirt, chocolate bar dipped in avocado sauce, cigarette ash, and sand straight from the beach. So, ice doesn’t really seem too out there.
However, according to one study, pregnancy ice cravings can result from hormonal changes or a sign of low iron levels (iron deficiency anemia), which is common during pregnancy. It can be caused by abnormal bleeding and poor diet. Sometimes, it’s just one of those world wonders.
However, if you’re craving ice when pregnant, it’s best to seek professional advice to rule out any underlying nutritional deficiencies.
Other factors at play include dehydration from nausea and morning sickness and being too hot?. Pregnant women have increased metabolic rates and broader blood vessels, making them feel excessively hot and triggering significant ice cravings.
You Might Have Diabetes
Studies have found that if you feel thirsty and dehydrated all the time, you might be pre-diabetic. And that goes for craving ice, too.
It is typically your body’s way of signaling that it needs to expel the excess sugar through urination and needs more fluids and ice.
People with poorly controlled diabetes might also have poor absorption of micronutrients such as iron, which can trigger iron deficiency anemia and lead to craving ice.
Nonetheless, experts suggest that diabetes patients are often just thirsty, unlike ice cravings linked to anemia or pica. There isn’t enough evidence to show a connection between diabetes and craving ice.
You Could Be Struggling With Pica Or Pagophagia
The National Eating Disorders Association describes pica as a mental health condition (eating disorder, really) that involves craving nonnutritive foods such as chalk, clay, dirt, ice, hair, paint chips, pencil shavings, and paper.
When the craving is for ice, it’s known as pagophagia, which might include craving ice chips, ice cubes, or from your freezer.
Pica is common in children (up to 2 years) and is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a pediatric developmental disorder, or nutritional deficiencies such as iron deficiency anemia (seeing a pattern here?).
Yeah, according to a review published in 2023, over ¼ of patients with iron-efficiency anemia also have an ice craving that qualifies as pica. But for you to be diagnosed with pica, the behavior has to be consistent for at least a month.
How To Manage Your Ice Cravings
If you’re up to here craving ice, the first thing you need to do is figure out the underlying issue – that means checking in with your doctor to see if you’re anemic or have pica.
1. If an iron deficiency is the cause, you should consider incorporating more iron-rich foods into your diet. Liver has been said to be the best iron-based food. Others include spinach, quinoa, lentils, eggs, dried fruit, and dark chocolate (this might be your best excuse to stock up on some). Iron supplements will also come in handy.
2. If your craving for ice is associated with pica or pagophagia, your physician might recommend implementing intervention strategies like therapy or medication to help manage the obsessive-compulsive behavior.
3. With pregnancy, it might be a little tricky, but you could always let the ice melt first because chewing ice can damage your teeth. Plus, you’ll enjoy the same satisfying refreshment from the ice for longer.
4. That goes for babes with dry mouth. Let the ice melt first. If taking plain water is the problem, try adding six spoons of your favorite juice to give it a little taste. It’s a surprisingly successful hack (take it from someone who hates taking plain water).
5. Stress management techniques like listening and dancing to your favorite jams, meditation, taking evening walks, and talking to your best friend can help you stop craving ice.
If all else fails, be sure to consult your physician. They’ll be best positioned to help you deal with the cravings and recommend a more semi-permanent solution.