Lately you've developed a craving for crunching on some ice. Could this be a sign you need more iron in you diet?
Constantly craving or eating ice has been linked to iron-deficiency anemia. The craving to eat non-food items, such as ice, clay, dirt or paper is referred to as "pica." This condition is one sign of anemia, but let’s take a deeper look at why this happens.
Pica is chewing or craving any substance with no nutritional value. This could be something as benign as ice, which really won’t hurt you, or something more hazardous like dirt, ashes, paint chips or soil.
Ice craving has been connected to iron-deficiency, but the exact relationship is unclear. There is some indication that chewing on ice helps increase alertness, which could be beneficial for those struggling with exhaustion caused by anemia.
If pica is caused by iron deficiency, Prohemia can help boost iron and red blood cells to relieve symptoms.
But pica is not always a sign of anemia. Other nutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, can also cause pica. Sometimes pica can be a symptom of emotional or psychological stressors. Those with obsessive-compulsive or developmental disorders may also have pica.
Malnutrition and extreme dieting can make pica worse. Certain psychological medications can also exacerbate the behaviors. Pica is generally temporary, unless it is caused by a developmental disability.
Pica is most common in pregnant women and children, and is considered normal behavior in children between 18-36 months. But, one study found that 10% of children over 12 engage in pica. It is difficult to know how many adults engage in pica, particularly because people are reluctant to admit their behavior. Also, in some cultures, pica is not considered a problem, which makes the challenge of identifying how many people suffer with the disorder even more difficult.
Pica can be dangerous, depending on what type of non-food item the person is craving. For example, eating paint chips can lead to lead poisoning from paint in older structures. It could also cause choking, stomach upset, tooth injury intestinal blockages or infections.
There is no test for pica. It can be difficult to diagnose because many people don’t want to be honest about what they are eating.
But if you are craving or eating non-food items, you should speak candidly to your doctor to try to get help. Your doctor will generally take a medical history and may order blood tests to check for anemia or other vitamin deficiencies.
The important thing when trying to treat pica is to first address any complications caused by non-food items. This will depend on what type of non-food item you are eating.
If your pica is caused by nutrient deficiencies, you may have to take a supplement to correct these. A multivitamin has been found to be a simple treatment for pica caused by vitamin or mineral deficiencies. If pica is caused by iron deficiency, Prohemia can help boost iron and red blood cells to relieve symptoms.
If there is a psychological cause to pica, your doctor may recommend therapy or behavioral management to help you manage your cravings or triggers.
For pregnant women, pica tends to go away after pregnancy. But, it is important to stay in communication with your doctor if symptoms continue.
The bottom line is that pica, or just a simple craving for ice, can be a sign of a more significant medical problem that requires treatment.