Health & Family

Constant craving for ice can indicate anemia

Q: I am addicted to ice and eat big cups of it daily at both work and home. I compulsively fill the ice trays when they seem a little low.

I am currently being hospitalized for low iron. I just received a blood transfusion because my count was 6.0. That scared me to death, since females should be at 12 or higher. The doctor wants me receiving iron intravenously so that I can prepare for a hysterectomy in January.

I am trying to stop this terrible habit, but I find myself chewing on ice while I send this important message to The People’s Pharmacy. The nurses keep bringing me ice. My husband is really concerned. I have no idea how this craving started.

A: You have actually given us the prime clue about the source of your ice craving: Your iron is much too low. Low levels of iron or zinc are frequently associated with pica (a craving to eat a nonfood substance, such as ice, cornstarch or clay).

Usually the craving disappears when the deficiency is corrected. You may find ice much less appealing once the IV iron kicks in. Your doctor must find out the cause of your anemia. If the hysterectomy is being done to address excessive blood loss, it may prevent a relapse of your ice craving. You also might benefit from a blood test for celiac disease, which also contributes to anemia.

Pain meds irritate stomach

Q: I began taking meloxicam for inflammation in April. By June, my stomach was so messed up I couldn’t stand it. My pain doctor switched me to diclofenac, but I had the same stomach issues.

My stomach is still torn up after weeks of not taking any NSAIDs. The NSAIDs also raised my blood pressure, and now I have to take blood pressure pills. Can you recommend anything I can do?

A: NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are widely prescribed by physicians and also are available over the counter as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve).

Serious digestive-tract damage and even bleeding ulcers are not uncommon complications of NSAIDs. The latter is a life-threatening side effect.

Increases in blood pressure also are a common problem with NSAIDs. Other adverse reactions include irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation), fluid retention, hearing problems, skin rash, liver or kidney damage and heart attacks.

People often rely on NSAIDs because they don’t know about other options. Nondrug approaches may include spices like turmeric, ginger and boswellia and juice from grapes, pomegranates or cherries.

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at