Ice cravings could be a sign of celiac disease

Q. My wife developed an intense ice craving. She crunched ice relentlessly at home and even when we ate out.

As it turned out, she was seriously anemic and osteoporotic as well. After almost four years of iron pills and blood infusions, a biopsy of her small intestines revealed celiac disease. This was in the days before diagnostic blood tests and general awareness of gluten intolerance.

Any strong change in food or drink preferences or eating behavior should be carefully checked out. You have written frequently about ice cravings, but why haven’t you mentioned celiac disease as a potential causative factor?

A. Thank you so much for sharing your wife’s story. A craving for nonfood substances such as ice, cornstarch or clay is called “pica.” Anemia brought on by iron deficiency can trigger this condition.

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As you correctly point out, anemia can be caused by celiac disease. This autoimmune disorder can damage the lining of the small intestine when susceptible people consume gluten from wheat, barley or rye. When this happens, it is hard to absorb nutrients like iron. Other minerals that often are affected include calcium, magnesium and zinc.

People with unexplained anemia and ice cravings should be tested for celiac disease. They also should be checked for other nutritional deficiencies.

Q. I am caught in a terrible situation. I have arthritis that affects my fingers, knees, hips and back. I also have a family history of heart attacks and strokes. Five years ago, I got two stents because of blockage.

My doctors told me that I cannot take NSAIDs for inflammation because of my heart condition. My rheumatologist will no longer prescribe hydrocodone for the pain. Without pain meds, my blood pressure goes way up, and I cannot sleep. What can I take to ease this agony without harming my heart?

A. You are caught in a classic double bind. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that NSAIDs like diclofenac, ibuprofen, meloxicam and naproxen have been linked to an increased risk of both heart attacks and strokes (July 9, 2015). If you were put on antiplatelet therapy to prevent a blood clot after the stents were placed, NSAIDs could raise your risk for gastrointestinal bleeding (Medicine, January 2015).

With these constraints, you may want to consider nondrug options such as ashwagandha, boswellia, bromelain and tart cherry juice. Acupuncture or…

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