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Carrot Craving Signaled Anemia

Posting Date: 05/08/2000

Pickles and ice cream seem like an odd combination, unless you are pregnant. Then, people are more understanding of peculiar cravings.

Have you ever desired a cracker, a handful of salted nuts or a chocolate candy bar? Most of us have had such urges from time to time. But what about more unusual and more persistent longings? Perhaps your body is sending you a message.

Physicians have documented that "pica," a compulsion to eat a substance that isn't food, may be linked to anemia or zinc deficiency.

Usually pica refers to ice, clay, dirt or laundry starch. We heard recently from a reader who ate ice:

"Several years ago I developed a strong craving to crunch on ice. I would always have a cup of crushed ice to eat though it drives my husband crazy. I read that craving ice could be a sign of iron deficiency. My doctor suggested iron pills, and in two months my craving for ice disappeared."

Another reader's experience now makes us wonder if unusual food addictions could also signal anemia:

"About four years ago when I was 46 I developed a craving for raw carrots. I would get up in the morning and the first thing on my mind was a raw carrot. I ate them all day long and drove my family nuts with the crunching.

"I developed orange skin. My dentist was concerned because the inside of my mouth was also orange.

"Looking back, I should have suspected there was a reason for the craving. Instead I just assumed that I suddenly loved carrots out of the blue.

"If there were no carrots in the house I would drive to the nearest store, no matter what time of day or night, to get my 'fix.' I do remember thinking this was crazy, but I couldn't help myself, much like an addict. If we went on a trip I'd make sure to pack carrots or know that I could get them.

"This went on for quite awhile, until my annual physical. I was very anemic. Then it dawned on me that I had also been very tired all this time, sometimes taking two naps a day. I'd had extremely heavy periods for over a year. My doctor put me on birth control pills with iron and told me to eat iron-rich foods (meat, broccoli, beans, prunes, spinach, etc.).