Is eating ice cream bad for you?

Occasionally chewing an ice cube from a cold drink is usually not a problem. It can even help with necessary hydration, especially during hot weather.

However, frequent cravings and consumption of ice cream may indicate an underlying health problem and potentially lead to dental, mental health, or nutritional complications.

This article discusses eating ice cubes, the possible causes of ice cream cravings, and the treatment options available.

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Why do I crave ice cream?

There are several reasons why you may feel a craving or urge to eat ice cream.


Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. This can cause you to feel thirsty and crave ice cream, which may be because dehydration can dry out the mouth, tongue and lips.

While it can be helpful to suck on an ice cube every now and then to rehydrate and regulate body temperature, it’s best to make sure you’re staying hydrated in the first place. Other signs of dehydration include headaches, fatigue, and darker colored urine.

Nutritional problems

Some research suggests that ice cream cravings may be the result of nutritional deficiencies. Although there is already evidence of iron deficiency and the urge to chew ice cream, experts are still studying this possible link between the intake of other nutrients and the desire to eat ice cream.

Studies suggest that ice cream cravings may be the body’s attempt to increase nutrients due to a zinc or calcium deficiency. These minerals are essential for overall health, but can interact with iron in nutrient absorption.

Iron deficiency anemia

Iron supports the production of healthy red blood cells in the body. A deficiency of iron causes a decrease in the number of red blood cells, known as iron deficiency anemia.

Some people with an iron deficiency also experience sudden cravings for ice cream, which increase when iron levels decrease. Besides experiencing the urge to eat ice cream, other signs of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Blue tint for the whites of the eyes

Pregnancy, menstruation and breastfeeding

Iron deficiency can also occur due to blood loss. Researchers theorize that this may be why people who are pregnant, have a menstrual cycle, or are breastfeeding crave ice cream.

During pregnancy and postpartum, including the breastfeeding phase, the risk of anemia is greater. Blood loss that occurs during heavy menstrual cycles can also cause anemia.


Pica is a condition that leads to excessive eating of non-food items or non-nutritive substances, including ice cream.

When there is ice, this is called pagophagia. This abnormal eating pattern can cause you to consume at least a container of ice cubes every day, and the ice-eating episodes can worsen when you are stressed.

There is no one specific cause of pagophagia. Research suggests it may be related to iron deficiency anemia or mental health conditions, such as major depressive disorder.

Emotional stress

Research shows that ice cream cravings can become uncontrollable when triggered in response to chronic or extreme stress. This can occur as part of a mental illness, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or it can happen without a personal or family history of mental illness.

Can Eating Ice Cream Cause Complications?

Eating ice cream is not necessarily considered dangerous. However, it can cause complications.

Dietary problems

Other than providing some hydration, ice cream, unlike food, has no nutritional value. This is why eating a lot of ice cream instead of other foods and drinks for a long time can lead to nutritional problems.

When anemia and ice cream cravings coincide, the body may not get enough iron (and possibly other nutrients) to function properly. When eating ice cream is a form of coping with stress or mental health issues, the ice cream can replace nutrient-dense snacks or other foods, impacting diet and overall health.

Dental and oral problems

Even though ice cream is melting, habitually chewing it can still lead to problems such as tooth damage, tooth pain and increased sensitivity to cold.

Over time, small, undetectable cracks can develop in the tooth enamel, which can lead to larger cracks or chips later. Chewing ice can also damage existing dental fillings or crowns by causing cracks in the same way, allowing bacteria to enter and potentially creating a cavity under the restoration.

Complications of anemia

If ice cream cravings are the result of iron deficiency anemia and are left untreated, there are possible complications. In addition to fatigue and headaches, there is also a risk of developing heart problems, pregnancy complications and developmental delays (in children). Iron deficiency anemia can also affect other underlying health conditions, making them worse or interfering with treatment.

Other Pica Complications

Complications of pica can also occur if compulsive ice-eating is not treated. Pica disorders can lead to malnutrition even when nutrient-rich foods are consumed regularly.

Other serious complications may include electrolyte imbalance (due to dehydration), infections caused by germs that enter the body through non-food products, behavioral problems or, rarely, seizures.

How is the cause of ice cream craving diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can help diagnose the underlying condition related to ice cream cravings. Experts recommend a medical appointment if your cravings and consumption of ice cream are significant and have lasted longer than a month.

After reviewing your medical history and symptoms, a physical examination will be performed. If iron deficiency anemia or another deficiency or condition is suspected, blood tests and other laboratory work may be ordered.

Treatment options for eating ice cream

Some mild cases of eating ice cream are temporary and go away on their own. In other cases, treatment plans will depend on the underlying cause of ice cream cravings. Working with a healthcare provider can help prevent unwanted or serious ice-eating behavior.

People diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia may be prescribed iron supplements to help reverse the deficiency. If pica is related to a mental illness, a combination of psychotherapy and prescription medications may be recommended.


The urge to suck on a few pieces of ice every now and then is usually not a cause for concern. But if the urge to chew ice feels compulsive or lasts longer than a month, experts recommend contacting a healthcare provider to determine the cause of the problem.

Possible causes include iron deficiency anemia, nutritional imbalances, mental illness and more. Treatment options such as iron supplements or behavioral therapy may be suggested. A dental care provider may recommend tooth restoration if oral health is affected.

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