Pica: Why People Eat Sand, Paper & Soap


eating-soapWomen are known to eat strange things, like ice-cream with pickles, when they are pregnant. The craving are generally considered to be normal during pregnancy and many husbands have stories about making midnight runs to the grocery store to get something for their pregnant wife. Some people have craving that go beyond the temporary pregnancy cravings and will eat items that are not only strange combinations but are generally not even edible and have no known nutritional value.Pica.

If you have ever heard of someone eating sand, paper, or compulsively chewing on ice, they may have a disorder called Pica.

Pica is a type of eating disorder in which people have unusual cravings and ingest non-food items such as paper or soap. This occurs in people with anemia or zinc deficiency, during pregnancy, those with developmental disabilities, as well as people with epilepsy. It is mostly seen in younger children however it is also seen in adults. Pica disorder can vary in severity of items craved, ranging from ice cubes to feces or dirt.

One show, My Strange Addiction, tells the stories of those who have the compulsion of eating household items such as kitchen cleanser, soap, laundry detergent, and toilet paper. Psychologists work with those on the show and offer education on the damages of ingesting these substances, the affect their disorder has on family, and present solutions. The causes of Pica are unknown but factors that increase a person’s likelihood to develop strange eating habits are malnutrition, diets, cultural influences, nutritional deficiencies, and mental health conditions.

Treatment for Pica varies and is not always successful. Certain people have just stopped having cravings after a few months while others struggle with Pica for a longer period of time. If the disorder is related to iron deficiency anemia, iron supplements, as well as other medications, may help curb the cravings. Although there is no specific test for Pica, there are tests that can be done including hemoglobin and lead level testing.

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