Chronic ice chewing is a problem for some Massachusetts residents. It's a health condition and not just a bad habit.

Why Some Massachusetts Residents Can't Stop Chewing Ice

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Getty Images

Recently I noticed a coworker filling up her water bottle with ice, but adding no water to it. Then I noticed it again and again and again...

So I straight up asked her, "So, what's up with the ice? Are you chewing it?"

She replied, "I'm anemic." Of course, immediately I felt kinda bad...but I never knew that! I mean, not that anemia is always crazy serious, but still.


Anemia is when you lack healthy red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells carry oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia happens when one has really low iron.



A recent blood test showed that she was anemic after about two months of craving and chewing on ice cubes.


So, pica, or the eating of non-food items such as clay, chalk, soil, paint chips, and plaster, is common during pregnancy. My co-worker also explained to me that when she was pregnant, the ice cravings were bad.

Pagophagia (compulsive ice chewing) is a particular form of pica that is characterized by ingestion of ice, freezer frost, or iced drinks. It is usually associated with iron deficiency anemia or mental abnormalities like intellectual disabilities, autism, etc.


Some researchers believe that chewing ice triggers an effect in people with iron deficiency anemia that sends more blood up to the brain. More blood in the brain means more oxygen in the brain. Because the brain is used to being deprived of oxygen, this spike of oxygen may lead to increased alertness and clarity of thinking. 

Since my co-worker's blood test, she has been given iron supplements and chews ice a bit less, but it's still an issue.

Foods high in iron include red meat, shellfish, spinach, legumes, broccoli, and quinoa.


Although ice is just frozen water, pagophagia can cause dental problems, and of course, the underlying cause is more concerning.

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