It can refresh, relieve dry mouth and for some people it also helps maintain weight and not put unnecessary things into the body – pegopenia, compulsive ice eating describes a constant addiction to chewing ice that can range from consuming individual ice cubes a day to several tens. Perhaps compared to gnawing erasers of pencils or chalks, chewing ice does not look so bad, but it can still be a symptom of a medical problem or cause one.
Along with the physical symptoms some people chew ice to deal with emotional stress. Sometimes the regular use of ice can also result from a desire to maintain weight through avoiding food and ‘rewarding preoccupation’ of the mouth with chewing the cold ice. We all remember Leah Griner in Big Brother chewing ice throughout the season to relax and maintain weight. She claims she also lost weight as a result. To date, no studies have been done that suggest or prove that this technique really helps in weight loss.
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An increased desire to chew ice can indicate a deficiency in iron or calcium. A study that followed ice addicts found that about 4% of participants without iron deficiency anemia experienced compulsive ice chewing, while 56% of people with anemia experienced it. Research Another study of people with iron deficiency anemia found that 13 of the 81 participants had symptoms of phagocytosis. Taking iron supplements eliminated the craving for ice in some of these people.
One theory about the link between anemia and phagocytosis is that chewing ice makes people suffering from iron deficiency anemia feel more alert. There are studies that suggest that ice may help reduce swelling and burning sensation in the tongue, which are often associated with iron deficiency. People suffering from iron deficiency phagocytosis and anemia may find that taking iron supplements alleviates the craving for ice.
Think of yourself as chewing rocks – one of the harms of regularly eating ice, beyond the chilling feeling it can cause to people around you, is oral and dental health. The heavy pressure exerted on the teeth can lead to cracks in the enamel (the coating layer of the tooth) which can lead to increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.
Beyond weakening your teeth, the ice can cause problems with the fillings you may have. The filling of the tooth expands faster when it is exposed to hot and cold temperatures, which can shorten the life of the filling. In addition, toothaches can develop caused by irritation of the soft tissues inside the tooth, inside each tooth there is a soft layer, and chewing ice can cause pain in the same tissue.
How do you get rid of this habit?
Dissolve. Instead of chewing, try holding the ice in your mouth and letting it disappear slowly. The satisfying cool and refreshing feeling will last longer, and also will not damage the teeth or gums.
Another and even healthier alternative, is to try and relax with something healthier like a carrot or an apple. The friction of the fruit in the teeth can provide the familiar feeling while doubling the fibers that keep the teeth clean. At the same time you can always try to chew gum or natural candies.