This past spring I was totally nuts for ice. I would eat cup after cup of ice, chewing, crunching and annoying everyone around me. I couldn’t help it. I just craved ice and I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t think this was particularly strange. I just thought that I had developed a habit, a bad habit at that. However, when I went in for my yearly check-up, I was surprised to find that my iron levels were very low and craving ice was a symptom of anemia.

Anemia is the lack of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells bind with oxygen, so if your red blood cells aren’t healthy, then cells in your body don’t get all the oxygen they need. Around 3.5 million Americans are affected by this blood condition, making it the most common. Most of those affected by it are women.

I had most of the symptoms of anemia, but discounted them due to my recent health kick. I had begun a running routine and lost those pesky last 10 pounds that every woman is always trying to lose. However, with this routine also came headaches, fatigue and leg cramps. I had attributed all these uncomforts to exercise, but in reality they were symptoms of my anemia.

There are different types of anemia and the one I had called for iron supplements to help make those weak red blood cells perk up. It seemed to take a few weeks, but I could feel my fatigue lessen, my leg cramps went away and my headaches disappeared too.

Looking back on it now, I can see a few things that would have attributed to my anemia. My youngest child was a few years old and I had stopped taking prenatal vitamins, which contain iron. I had also lost weight and wasn’t eating as many iron rich foods as I had previously.

If you’re feeling a bit run down and you don’t know why, you might want to consider having a simple blood test done. It can tell your doctor if you’re anemic or not. It’s important to note that iron isn’t always the cure for anemia. The treatment for this blood condition depends on the type of anemia you have, so it is important that you consult your doctor, so you can get the proper prescription for your type.

Joy Larson is the mother of four boys, graduate of the University of Montana, animal lover and writer.