Love for pastries, chocolates or burgers is understandable but what about wanting to eat dirt, clay or paint? Small children love free play and they utilize this time to play role play, imagine and play something with their toys, have fun in the playground building sandcastles or likewise. The story of Lord Krishna swallowing a handful of dirt is famous far and wide. When his mother scolds him to open his mouth and spit out the dirt she was shocked to see the planets and the universe inside. When the Lord himself was attracted to eating mud, we are all no exception to it. I guess most of you reading this would have had your very own personal experiences with eating sand from the ground. But when this continues persistently for over a month isn’t it of concern?
Pica is an eating disorder that involves persistent consumption of substances such as dirt and paint that have zero nutritive value for at least a month at an age for which this kind of a behavior is termed to be inappropriate. Such a behavior is more common in children aged between 1 and 6 comparatively though we are still unclear on statistical data regarding how many children consume dirt intentionally. The common cravings that strike people with pica include dirt, clay, paint, sand, ice, animal feces and hair. Symptoms of pica sometimes occur in pregnant women too due to lack of certain nutrients such as iron and zinc. These women have abnormal cravings and pica might also be present in some other people who feel a certain texture in the mouth.
Signs & Symptoms
Isn’t it obvious that something is drastically wrong when someone (especially adults) eats clay or lead? Still we have a few striking symptoms that can confirm the presence of the disease:
Eating such non-nutritive items can affect quality of life seriously and lead to nutritional deficiencies as well. In fact, it obstructs the consumption of healthy food items. The dirt that some people eat might be infected with bacteria and parasites causing damage to the liver or kidney even sometimes. Eating paint too can land someone with lead poisoning and this has the power to impair learning abilities and cause brain damage too. Lead poisoning can bring grave side effects unto a person and for details about this disease and treatment ways please visit the website www.firsteatright.com. When someone pops in something that is solid and non-digestible (such as a stone or gem clip) this can obstruct the digestive tract, cause constipation or even lead to tears in the intestine lining due to the sharp nature of the object consumed. Pica is also associated with intellectual inability, hair pulling disorder and skin picking disorder.
We don’t have a specific test that can confirm pica. As it is known that nutritional deficiency is a side effect of the disorder the physician can request for blood tests to check iron and zinc levels. Tests for infections that could prove whether the patient had consumed soil or animal waste must also be done. So, when test results yield any nutritional deficiencies those should be corrected as the first step.
Treatment includes different things such as behavior, environmental and family education. Rarely, treatment is also given in the form of mild punishments given to such eating behavior and once the person starts eating normal food, he/she is also rewarded for the same. The success ratio of any treatment procedure varies depending on various factors. For some, it might be resolved in a few months and for some others, it might continue into teenage or even adulthood.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.