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Pica~Non-Food Eating Disorder

Updated on January 6, 2012

Pica & Pregnancy

While it’s true that the preponderance of women will experience cravings during pregnancy, most of these cravings are for things like ice cream, pizza and pickles. Pica cravings are largely common in children as much as approximately 25-30% of all children.  Pica is common in pregnancy.

No one knows for sure why some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy.  According to the Journal of American Dietetic Association there may be a correlation to an iron deficiency.  The cause for pica is not known. Medical personnel hypothesize that pica cravings are the body's effort to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food eating. At times pica cravings may be linked to a causal physical or mental illness.


Korean magpie in Daejeon, South Korea near the Daejeon City Museum of Art.(Pica (pica)
Korean magpie in Daejeon, South Korea near the Daejeon City Museum of Art.(Pica (pica)

Pica Magpie Eats Anything

Pica is the practice of yearning substances with small or no nutritional worth. The majority of pica cravings include non-food items such as clay, starch, paint chips or chalk. The pica is Latin for magpie which is a bird infamous for eating more or less anything.


Dry Charcoal
Dry Charcoal

Why Non-Food

The common materials craved during pregnancy are burnt matches, charcoal and cigarette ashes as well as soap that contain wood-ash (lye). Soap contains sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids. Ash is one of the components in the proximate analysis of biological materials, consisting primarily of salty, inorganic components. Silica (silicon dioxide) is a common ingredient in plaster, sand, clay and rock. The need of silica for collagen creation and development is the foundation of many physiological effects. Collagen is the sturdy fibrous matter that holds us together. Other picas are dirt, laundry starch, mothballs, ice, cornstarch, toothpaste, coffee grounds, and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate). Sodium bicarbonate is used in a water solution as an antacid taken by mouth to treat acid indigestion and heartburn.

The Body is Requesting

It could be likely that pica is the body’s way of requesting intake of substances the body needs. Pica may be the body’s natural reaction to a nutritional exhaustion, such as iron deficiency. When the body becomes undersupplied in some vitamins and minerals, it tries to get the minerals by causing you to have bizarre food cravings. Nonetheless, not every individual with pica has a nutritional shortage.

Cultural causes do play a part in a number of cases of pica. Pica is customary in some civilization as a way of increasing spirituality or treating some physical illnesses, like morning sickness.

Mental disease or psychological shock can activate pica in some people. Pica is repeatedly a characteristic of extreme stress, fear, or abuse.

Stages of Pregnancy

Pregnancy comparison-26 weeks and 40 weeks.
Pregnancy comparison-26 weeks and 40 weeks.

Complications of Pica

Pica can result in a number of different health complications that could cause you serious harm. This is why it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible for your pica cravings. Complications include:

Lead Poisoning can occur from eating substances that contain lead, such as soil, clay, or paint. Lead poisoning can seriously damage both you and your baby, and can even result in death.

Eating non-food items, especially rocks, hair, and dirt, can cause Bowel Obstruction. This can lead to severe constipation, bowel inflammation, infection and need for surgery. Severe cases can result in bowel resection and/or colostomy.

Parasite infection occur when organic matter from the earth, including clay, soil, and grass are ingested. Parasites infect the gastrointestinal tract causing pain, weight loss, and other side effects.

Dental Injuries to your teeth occur when eating hard non-food items. Hard items like rocks, clay, and ice can cause broken and fractured teeth.

Eating non-food items can keep the body from absorbing the proper minerals and nutrients. Your baby will not receive the proper nutrition, increasing its risk for a multiplicity of difficulties, including low birth weight, preterm labor, and stillbirth.

If you are afflicted with pica disorder, it is imperative that you visit with your medical doctor for proper pica treatment. Your doctor will check you for physical and nutritional problems. This examination may include blood tests. Further treatment and referrals to other health care team members may be recommended to help you to overcome future pica cravings.


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    • dashingclaire profile image

      dashingclaire 5 years ago from United States

      Anon, Drywall or gypsum board is a panel made of gypsum plaster pressed between two thick sheets of paper. Gypsum plaster, or plaster of Paris, is produced by heating gypsum. Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate. A significant amount of substandard drywall was imported into the United States from China and incorporated into thousands of homes during rebuilding in 2006 and 2007. Complaints included foul odor, health effects, and corrosion of metal within the structure. This is caused by the emission of sulfurous gasses.

      Chalk – Organic Calcite is calcium carbonate is formed under reasonably deep marine conditions also referred to other compounds including magnesium silicate and calcium sulfate.

      Anon I cannot advise you what is best. You need to seek medical advice to review the kind of drywall, and what the drywall has done to your body.

    • profile image

      Anon 5 years ago

      If you have a craving for things such as drywall then what are good alternatives, other than I've b/c I tried and it doesn't do much and also would chalk be better than drywall

    • dashingclaire profile image

      dashingclaire 5 years ago from United States

      Unknown if you have done so already, you should seek medical advice. Thanks for sharing. Good luck!

    • profile image

      unknown 5 years ago

      I'm 26not pregnat and I have pica, I've had it since I was a kid. It started with things like dirt and chalk then to ashes and baby powder. IDK why but it's like you crave it so much. the feeling of crushing the ashed, the texture of it. I've even had a period where I enjoyed eating dry wall.It's an issue I would like to stop. But it's not easy to the point where I could say NO MORE ecause the cravings win every time,what should I do?

    • dashingclaire profile image

      dashingclaire 8 years ago from United States

      "What’s uncommon is men who do it; it’s mostly women, and mostly during pregnancy."

      That doesn't mean that men do not suffer from pica. Male children have pica and could carry it into manhood.

      Thanks for your interest.

    • Waren E profile image

      Waren E 8 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

      Are there any cases of grown men with this pica disorder?