Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pica; a condition that leads to craving of non-nutritious substances

As if pre menstrual syndrome, menopause and labor pains were not enough, some women are saddled with an annoying, disgusting and potentially lethal habit that is a result of the various changes that occur in their bodies.

Imagine looking at an anthill and experiencing insane cravings about sinking your teeth on that anthill. This crave is so strong to the extent that you end up venturing into the outskirts in pursuit of dirt free sand or rocks, because the available ones are often used as public urinals.

“The worst is when it’s been raining,” said *Pinkie, a 30 year old marketing executive who has been suffering from this condition since she was 15 years old right through her two pregnancies.
“It started when I was in high school and I was ordered to clean the chalk board. The task left me craving for chalk dust,” she said.

Secretly, she started licking the chalk off her fingers, but the craving simply increased. So she turned to stealing chalk sticks and eating them secretly. When she finished high school she had no access to chalk, that’s when she started eating sand. Over the years the situation has gotten worse, and she now crunches on rocks. In Botswana, women go out of their way to find sand good enough to eat.

In countries like South Africa and Kenya there are various types of sand and edible rocks available for sale at the market alongside fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce.

This condition is known as Pica, a Latin word which literally translates to magpie, a bird which eats absolutely everything. It is a condition where a person develops an appetite for non-nutritive substances like glass and even feces. Medical experts from various medical journals suggest that should this condition persist for more than one month the person should seek medical attention.

The condition is common in pregnant women who crave clay, chalk, dirt and ice. Dirt and ice however also have dental implications which lead to cracking of teeth and deterioration of enamel. This condition is common in most women due to a neurological negative feedback, where the body responds to iron deficiency or anemia due to chemical and hormonal imbalance. People who eat these non nutritive substances also run the risk of suffering from gastro intestinal obstruction, where the stomach lining gets torn by these foreign substances. They can also ingest animal feces and small organisms not visible to the naked eye. Treatment lies in finding the root cause and making sure the patient takes all the necessary supplements to ensure that the cravings disappear.


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