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Craving ice? You could have an iron deficiency.

Do you or someone you know have a craving to chew ice? Someone you know probably has

Ice Craving Pica. Pica is a craving to eat something which is non-nutritional (such as earth,

clay, plaster or ashes).  Pica is seen more frequently in children, but ice chewing is an addiction

that bursts all age boundaries.  Craving non-nutritional substance is often associated to a

nutrition deficiency.

If you recognise this condition, the solution is near the bottom, scroll down if you want to

skip the basics.

Pagophagia is the medical name for compulsive eating of ice or iced drinks.

There are several theories as to why you may crave chewing ice when you have an iron deficiency. Some of the gastrointestinal symptoms of an iron deficiency are a sore tongue, dry mouth, altered sense of taste, difficulty swallowing and mouth sores.

Each of these symptoms may be alleviated by chewing or sucking on cold ice that may help reduce swelling and reduce discomfort.

However, further research has also found that chewing on ice when you are iron deficient changes neurological processing that improves cognitive functioning.

Because it has been shown to be linked to iron deficiency anaemia and it responds to iron supplementation, some think it may be a symptom of nutritional deficiency.

Chewing ice may relieve any tongue pain caused by iron deficiency. Chewing ice could cause cracked teeth and if you do chew ice, consider letting the ice melt in your mouth.

Early thinking was that Ice Craving pica was the result of nutritional deficiencies (such as iron or zinc). Additional research found that the substances ingested do not provide the necessary minerals or nutrients for those who have a tendency toward pica.

One interesting by-the-by issue is that ice made from hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. Drinking water or the ice alone will not provide the necessary minerals. So you will often need to find another source that provides many of the necessary micro nutrients needed for your health.

Few people would think of saying to their doctors that they are craving ice or ice drinks.  Somehow this subject doesn’t come up because patients rarely connect it with a medical problem.

Even if you do, your doctor may not know about Pica. While it was something studied in medical school sometime in the long forgotten past, it may not be something the doctor is aware of according to the research below. Additionally, if we take into account the way most doctors consider anaemia, they may not see the underlying cause.

Doctors normally look at iron levels in the blood and yet, despite the fact that the more accurate way to discern the need for iron is the TIBC or Total Iron Binding Capacity test.

No doubt you have run across several people who simply love to eat ice. At times, they even craved it.  Following recent research doctors now believe that one of the possible causes is an iron deficiency.

In the literature, there are numerous complications of the disorder that could be identified as the cause. These include iron-deficiency anaemia, lead poisoning, and helminthic (worms) infestations.

There is a simple easy solution, and like almost everything else, it has to do with what you eat.

  • Hydrate and get the right electrolytes.  Blood is made on the release of hormones such as erythropoietin. Hormone creation is dependent on our fluid and electrolyte balance. If you are dehydrated, you hormones are not as easily produced. Consume unprocessed salt for best results.

  • Eat foods that are rich in iron. Such as:

o   Black Strap Molasses: A teaspoon three times a day for 3 days then none for 4 days. Repeat as needed.

o   Red Beets: one raw beet (about 5cm in diameter) provides over 3 times the amount you need daily.

o   Spirulina: A small 15 gram portion of spirulina has about 4.3 mg of iron, or 24% of your daily recommended intake.

o   Lentil Soup: has about 7 mg of iron in 250 ml (about a 300cc bowl of soup), which is almost 49% of how much you need daily.

o   Liver: has a lot of iron in it. However, many people do not like the taste or the texture. Soybeans are also listed as high in iron.       Word of warning: unless they are non-GMO, you could be exposing yourself to chemical pesticides that have been found to         cause serious health problems.

o   Spinach: while it made Popeye strong, is not one of the best sources of iron. Do not depend on it for iron, although it has              many additional health benefits when eaten raw.

o   Clams, Oysters and Mussels: all have a lot of iron. If you can afford them, the only risk is their exposure to chemical toxins in            polluted ocean water and mercury. Also avoid if you keep Kashrut.

However, boosting your iron is not enough. You also need some additional nutrients to help your body make more blood.  These include vitamin C, vitamin B6, B9 and B12. Also a protein is important. I have already mentioned beans and meat, where protein is readily available. In relation to beets and black strap molasses, a spoon of almond butter (for protein) will do the trick.

Vitamin B9 Folate Food sources: fruits and veg, whole grains, beans, breakfast cereals, and grain products. Avoid foods that are heavily fortified with folic acid.

Vitamin B6 Food sources: poultry, fish, and some vegetables and fruits, especially dark leafy greens, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin B12 Food sources: fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy. The majority of people have plenty of vitamin B12 in their diets.

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