Check Up : She's always eating ice

April 04, 2017

Jean is a 24-year-old ice eater. She says she just eats ice all the time and doesn't see why she should stop, although neither her sister nor her boyfriend like it.

When she gets a glass with drink, she doesn't let the glass go until she has also eaten off all the ice cubes. This is just natural for her and she's been doing this for years.

Friends say she lacks iron and minerals. Jean asks Check Up if this could be true.

There are actually people who are addicted to eating ice, which has exactly no nutritional value. Other people also eat clay, soil and paper. There are several explanations given for this habit.

Chewing ice has been associated with iron deficiency anaemia, although the reason for this is unclear. One study found that chewing ice kept the iron-deficient person more alert!

The craving for and eating of non-nutritional substances is called pica and it is thought that in some people, it may be a sign of an emotional disorder such as stress or obsessive-compulsive behaviour, in which case behavioural therapy would be useful.

Constantly eating ice cubes can cause damage to the teeth, tongue, throat and stomach. Teeth get chipped, cracked and even broken.

Some people experience 'gas' and stomach bloating as a result of eating ice constantly. This problem affects women much more often than men.

Studies also show that in many instances, these women are deficient in iron or calcium and magnesium, both of which are found in water.

Jean should visit her doctor and have her blood checked to see if she has any iron or mineral deficiency which can account for her intense interest in eating ice!

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