It's 3 am. You’re standing in front of the fridge, looking to satisfy a craving. There’s leftover mashed potatoes, apple pie, a bowl of grapes—they’re all so tempting. They say you shouldn’t gorge in the middle of the night, but sometimes, you just gotta have it. Who hasn’t been there?
Nearly all of us have food cravings. If you enjoy comforting carbs, the thought of warm bread and butter makes your mouth water. If you have a sweet tooth, you probably crave chocolate from time to time. Pregnant women are known to share one particular craving; many expectant moms like to eat plain ice.
Before we explain what these intense cravings mean, please note that while you may enjoy gnawing on 3D ice cubes, your dentist may not. Chewing too much ice can put your teeth in danger. Our teeth are designed to eat softer foods. Crushing ice can grind down the enamel, potentially exposing your teeth to sensitivity or decay. If you’re going to fulfill your ice craving, take it easy on your pearly whites by sucking on ice chips. Or, shave the ice in a blender until it’s the texture of a snow cone.
If you’re mystified by your craving for this cold and crunchy treat, here are 7 reasons that explain why pregnant women crave ice.
4 A Craving for Ice May Indicate a Mineral Deficiency
When you’re pregnant, you need to produce more blood to support the developing fetus. This is why it’s important to eat iron-rich foods or take iron supplements. The recommended daily intake is 27mg per day, twice the amount of iron you need pre-pregnancy.
Since there is a prevalence of processed food in our modern society, your body may be starving for nourishment. The irresistible urge to eat ice can signify a mineral deficiency. There’s a term that describes chewing on items that lack nutrients; it’s called pica. Also known as pagophagia, ice pica is a compulsive urge to eat ice cubes or ice chips.
A few studies have discovered a connection to ice pica and mineral deficiencies. One-fifth of people who experienced pagophagia were pregnant women because their developing babies drew extra iron from their blood. The reason you may be compulsively eating ice is to fulfill mineral deficiencies in your diet. Just as cravings for chocolate may indicate a drop in blood sugar, ice cravings may be a sign of low iron. The problem with eating plenty of ice is that it lacks nutritional value.
Tell your doctor if you feel the constant compulsion to eat ice.
If you are expecting a baby and eating ice like there is no tomorrow, ask your doctor if you are anemic. Your medical practitioner can perform tests to see if you are, in fact, lacking minerals. But before you take any supplements to alleviate this hidden issue, check with a professional. There is such a thing as too much iron. It can build up in your body, and damage your heart and arteries.
Decreasing your need for ice may be as simple as replenishing low iron levels in your blood. If you are diagnosed with pagophagia, treatment should begin immediately. Your doctor can help you control your cravings or manage them safely.
3 Consuming Ice Can Help with Morning Sickness
The sick-to-your-stomach feeling that can accompany pregnancy is a drag. Although not every pregnant woman experiences severe nausea, 80% report moments of queasiness in the first trimester. The term “morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, nausea commonly occurs at the crack of dawn, but it can recur all day long. Some women see relief within the second trimester. Others don’t have it so lucky, feeling ill effects all throughout pregnancy.
Why pregnancy nausea occurs is not certain. There are many variables that can contribute to morning sickness. Raised hormone levels are a probable cause. Plus, pregnant women have sensitive noses. Queasiness can be triggered by unpleasant odors and the smell of certain foods.
When you don’t feel like eating, ice chips can become a safe haven. Room temperature foods can trigger nausea in a way that ice cold items don’t. Some pregnant women swear that drinking water makes them gag, yet sucking on ice chips will settle their stomachs.
Ice can help you feel better if your stomach is feeling queasy
If you need to eat something, ice is stomach-friendly because it’s easily digestible. Also, staying hydrated will ease nausea. Start off with ice, but then add water-rich foods like lettuce, cucumbers, and watermelon. You want to ensure that you’re receiving vitamins and minerals throughout your day.
There is no magic pill that cures morning sickness, but ice chips can offer relief. If your nausea is severe, make sure to consult your doctor for further examination.
2 An Ice Diet Reduces Your Caloric Intake
Yes, the ice diet is real. Some pregnant women have turned to eating ice to watch their weight. Is it only ice, after all, so how harmful could this diet be?
In terms of weight loss, ice has its benefits. First, ice has no calories, no fat, no carbs, and little to no sodium. You can eat as much as you want, and not gain a pound. It’s a guilt-free craving. Second, your body burns calories when it melts ice to raise it to your body’s temperature. Since it uses more calories to eat than it provides, it’s known as a negative calorie food. Third, ice hydrates your body, which increases your metabolic rate.
The theory is, the more ice you eat, the more weight you lose. The plan sounds logical, except there are two major problems with this diet. The first issue is that you have to eat an enormous amount of ice to lose weight. 66 pounds of ice will burn just one pound of fat. Chewing that much ice isn’t exactly an effective diet plan, or safe for your oral health.
You shouldn't worry about your weight during pregnancy
The second concern is the lack of nutrients in ice. Health experts will agree that you should not consume fewer calories when you are pregnant. Pregnant women who limit their calories deny their babies of vital supplements. While ice can offer temporary satisfaction for something to eat, it should never replace food. If you’re looking for a healthy, chilled snack with vitamins, try cucumbers or refrigerated grapes.
Focus on shedding unwanted pounds after delivery. Since nutritionists give the ice diet the cold shoulder, you can probably chill on this strategy to keep the pounds off.
4. Eating Ice Soothes Burning Mouth Syndrome
Studies show that most people eat ice to subdue a tingling in their mouths known as burning mouth syndrome (BMS.) This benign condition can be a pain or numbness in the mouth, tingling on the tongue, discomfort in the cheeks, or even a burning on the lips.
BMS is difficult to analyze because patients usually don’t have symptoms that a specialist can see. Plus, there are no specific tests to diagnose BMS. People who suffer from BMS describe the feeling as the after effect of being burned with hot food. Others report a crawling feeling in their mouths.
No one really knows what causes BMS, but medical experts suspect a variety of reasons, including dry mouth, nutritional deficiencies, and acid reflux. Men and women both experience this condition, although it is more common among women.
Nibbling on ice can temporarily improve the pain of BMS. Depending on the symptoms, some cases require more serious treatment, such as antibiotics. If you are pregnant, and you suspect you have BMS, visit your dentist or an eye, nose, and throat specialist.
5. An Ice Addiction Can Signify an Eating Disorder
Globally, there are many people who have repetitive tendencies. Some people bite their nails while others have a penchant for profanity. They give us temporary satisfaction, so we continue to satisfy these urges. But how do you know when a habit has become an addiction?
With an addiction, you have no willpower. With a habit, a damaging behavior is repeated, but it can be controlled. From overspending to incessant complaining, habits can be provoked by stress or boredom. Other habits, such as eating junk food or smoking, compensate for an emotional, or biological deficiency. In short, some habits are a coping mechanism.
As shocking as it sounds, some people obsessively eat non-food items, such as dirt, chalk, and paper. The repeated ingestion of non-nutritive items is known as pica. This habit is a worldwide phenomenon that can develop during pregnancy, and researchers haven’t determined a solid the reason.
Pregnant women who engage in ice pica put themselves and their babies at risk. By regularly eating non-food substances, the fetus can be denied vital nutrients. This dangerous habit is considered an eating disorder, and can lead to serious consequences.
6. Eating Ice Soothes Heartburn
Many women never experience heartburn until pregnancy. It is a common, yet unpleasant affliction. For the most part, heartburn is not dangerous, but it can be painful.
Also known as acid indigestion, heartburn strikes as the baby gets bigger. Once the abdominal cavity gets crowded, the organs become squished. As a consequence, stomach acids climb the esophagus to the back of the throat. The feeling is like a burning liquid, followed by acid-tasting burps. Heartburn’s scorching sensation and bitter taste can be too uncomfortable to sleep. This is why many pregnant women awake in the middle of the night.
To soothe heartburn’s scorching fire, some expecting mothers turn to ice. Sucking on ice chips will temporarily extinguish the fire, but it’s not going to cure the affliction. Your best bet is to avoid spicy or high-fat foods, dairy, and caffeine. Make sure each meal is small because a full stomach can fan the flames of heartburn. To ensure a good night’s sleep, do not eat within three hours of bedtime.
1 Eating Ice Can Combat Stress
Sometimes, eating satisfies more than just hunger. We can also find emotional comfort in food. If you’re wondering why you yearn for the satisfying crunch of ice, stress could be the culprit. Perhaps the satisfying crunch is likened to squeezing a stress ball; it releases your frustration with force. Stress at work or at home can bring on the habit. Just like nail biting, chewing on ice can have a calming effect. It’s actually your body way of trying to stop recurring anxiety.
If you are a chronic ice cruncher, you are prone to have higher levels of anxiety. Ice pica can be activated by hidden problems. If you depend on ice to get you through stressful situations, you may have underlying emotional issues you need to address. Sucking on ice chips may get you through a stressful moment, but in the long run, this habit may aggravate your stress.
With a baby in your womb, it’s important to take positive steps to keep stress under control. First, try to fix the source of your tension rather than mask your feelings in comfort crunching. Second, try activities that shut down stress, like getting more sleep, taking hot baths, and meditating. And if you continue to chomp on ice to alleviate your stress, try not to irritate everyone around you with your incessant crunching.