Geophagy: A Special Kind of Pica Eating Disorder

soil in hand

Pica eating disorder is the habit of eating non-food items that usually have no nutritional value. While a lot of children can try non-food items out of curiosity, the condition can have a medical significance.

People who suffer from Pica can eat chalk, coal, paint, soap or even animal feces. But the most widely spread kind of Pica is eating mud, clay or dirt. This subcategory known as Geophagy pica is very common among children and adults. It is even practiced as a ritual in several parts of the world.

Geophagy in History:

A lot of cultures worldwide have practiced Geophagy. Native Americans and the Ancient Greeks ate clay and dirt as a ritual probably to express their connection to the land or to show that they are a part of their homeland.

In Africa, the habit of eating dirt was mostly practiced by pregnant women. It even became an obvious sign of pregnancy. If a woman starts craving or eating dirt, then she is most likely expecting a baby. In regions that lacked proper medical care and assistance, the natives associated this weird craving with having babies. This means that women would eat dirt even if they didn’t want to, just to make sure that they are having a healthy pregnancy.

Immigrants from Africa to the United States have brought these habits with them. This is why eating dirt is more common in black women as a ritual they inherited from their African ancestors.

Is it All Bad?

Although Geophagy is a subcategory of Pica and is considered an eating disorder, some doctors and nutritionists admit that it can actually be good. First of all, the clay or dirt has bonding traits. This means that clay can absorb the toxins that pregnant women might accidentally consume. Clay is usually very good at binding with plant toxins. As a matter of fact, many African tribes used to and still cook certain types of food like potatoes in clay because it is very good at absorbing tannic acids and toxic alkaloids that can affect pregnancy. Toxic alkaloids cause vomiting, diarrhea and even neurological problems. With the lack of essential medical assistance and proper cooking utensils, cooking food in clay can be a practical solution.

Doctors also admit that clay or dirt is rich in certain minerals that are very useful to pregnant women. African women usually suffer from malnutrition and usually have no access to supplements. Women would start consuming dirt the minute they realize that they are pregnant or even before that. They don’t just eat any type of dirt, but they want to make sure that they are picking the right type of earth to eat. It is more of a nutritional need that could actually help them enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

Earth is rich in almost all the minerals that the body needs to function. Ancient women, as well as modern ones, have resorted to eating clay to protect their unborn babies from harmful substances as well provide them with all the needed nutrients that are needed for the development of the fetus.


How to Tell That Your Child Has Pica

kid eating crayons

Kids have a wild imagination. They will use everything and anything and make it a game. A lot of kids will use mud to make mud pies or pieces of chalk to pretend that they are cooking. But what if your kid is not just playing with non-food items and is actually eating them?

Pica eating disorder affects 10 to 30% of kids below 6 years old. Pica eating is craving and eating non-food items that have no nutritional values. Most kids will try something weird out of curiosity which is perfectly normal. But there are some signs that can show you that your kid is having a real problem that might affect their health.

Pica Eating in Children:

Most of the times, kids will eat non-food items that they have easy access to. The most common one is dirt. Eating dirt which is known as geophagy is probably the most widely spread subcategory of Pica eating. But kids might eat other substances including glue, toothpaste, clay, chalk, hair, cigarette ashes, paint and even animal feces.

What Causes Pica in Children?

The real cause of the development of Pica and adults is still unknown. But a lot of doctors believe that this disorder could be directly related to certain nutrient deficiencies. If your kid is currently suffering from iron or zinc deficiency they might start eating non-food items.

A lot of kids who suffer from other problems will also develop a Pica eating disorder. Children who are suffering from a development or intellectual disability are most likely going to suffer from Pica at a point in their lives. Children who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD might also find it really hard to stop consuming non-food items.

How can You Tell that your Child has Pica?

These signs will help you determine if your child has a real problem or is just being curious:

  • He or she would still look for non-food items even when you restrict access to them.
  • This behavior is not appropriate for their developmental stage.
  • They understand that these items are dangerous but would still eat them anyway.
  • This behavior is persistent for more than one month.

What are the Complications of Pica?

Pica’s complications are directly related to the substances and materials that the patients ingest. Most of the time, kids who suffer from Pica will suffer from malnutrition. This is due to the fact they are consuming substances that have no nutritional value, affecting their natural appetite for normal food items.

Some kids might suffer from constipation or internal obstruction because these non-food items can’t be absorbed or processed by the body. If kids consume sharp objects, they might be at risk for internal bleeding or intestinal damage

Kids who eat dirt are at risk for infection from the bacteria, fungi, and parasites that normally live in dirt. These can cause a lot of problems in the digestive system. Other materials like paint or chalk might contain toxic ingredients. These might put your child at risk of poisoning or brain damage. You should consult a doctor as soon as you notice any of the warning signs.

Pica Eating Disorder During Pregnancy

pregnant woman belly

During pregnancy, a lot of women experience severe changes in their hormones that affect their bodies. These hormones will affect their mood and can also affect their food cravings.

Most women will develop weird food cravings that they wouldn’t normally like. Mixing pickles with deserts is a great example. But when pregnant women start to crave non-food items, then it might be a red flag that there is something else going on in their bodies.

What is Pica Eating Disorder?

Pica eating disorder is a condition where patients compulsively eat non-food items that have no nutritional value. The name is derived from the Latin name of a bird that would eat almost anything.

A lot of women experience a significant change in their appetite during pregnancy. They might start to hate certain types of food that they have long liked or they might develop a craving for certain food items that they never liked before. Pica eating happens during pregnancy and might automatically stop after giving birth. When women develop a Pica eating disorder, they start to eat weird non-food items like clay, chalk, dirt, burnt matches, soap, plaster, and charcoal.

What Causes Pica?

There isn’t one single cause for Pica but most doctors believe that it is a combination of several factors. Most doctors believe that it could be attributed to the changes in hormones that are associated with pregnancy. Pica eating can also be associated with vitamins and iron deficiency. This is why your doctor might run several blood tests to make sure that you have normal and healthy levels of iron, zinc and other vitamins or minerals.

Pica eating is not very common in pregnant women. As a matter of fact, it is more common in kids who would try several non-food items out of curiosity.

Is Pica Dangerous?

This depends on what you eat. Some non-food items will contain dangerous and toxic ingredients that might cause a lot of problems. Most people who engage in Pica eating might suffer from constipation or cramping. But some people suffer from intestinal obstruction when they eat things that can’t be absorbed by the body.

Non-food items that contain lead or other harmful materials can lead to a lot of serious health problems and present a real danger that could jeopardize your pregnancy and even your life. Consuming sharp objects can put you at a risk of internal bleeding. In the best scenario, when you are not consuming toxic or dangerous materials, Pica eating will show that you are suffering from a certain vitamin or mineral deficiency. This should be properly treated because it can affect the development of the fetus.

How to Treat Pica during Pregnancy?

Most of the time, your doctor will prescribe you some vitamins and minerals to make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need. Supplements will not help stop your Pica eating disorder but they will ensure that your baby and your body are getting the essential nutrients they need.

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Pica Eating Disorder v. Pica Disease: Steak

Pica eating disorder is observed commonly observed in pregnant women, children, and those people suffering from developmental disabilities. It is an eating disorder that involves ingesting objects that are not food and does not contain a significant nutritional value. The cause of pica eating disorder is not yet clear, although the physiological, cultural and psychosocial, and sensory of the person is assessed. Pica eating disorder is prevalent in underdeveloped countries.

In a further research, causes of pica suggest that the order is a specific appetite caused by mineral deficiency. It is also been associated with a mental disorder, the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and schizophrenia, however, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) has recognized pica eating disorder as a mental disorder.

How bad is pica eating disorder?

The persistence of the person to consume substances that are not food and has no nutritional value lasts at least for a month. Typical substances that are eaten are sharp objects (acuphagia), starch (amylophagia), burnt matches (cautopyreiophagia), dust (coprophagia), stones (lithiophagia), mucus (mucophagia), ice (pagophagia), lead (plumbophagia), hair, wool and other fiber substances (trichophagia), urine (urophagia), feces (coprophagia), vomit (emetophagia), blood (hematophagia), raw potatoes (geomelophagia), glass (hyalophagia), dirt, soil, and clay (geophagia), wood, paper, or any derivatives of wood (xylophagia).

These substances when ingested can cause physical obstruction of the intestine (intestinal obstruction or mechanical obstruction), it prevents food and water from passing through the intestines. Bezoars can also happen, it is a lump of indigestible objects trapped in the gastrointestinal tract. It is not different if the person has a hole in the walls of its stomach or intestines, pica causes intestinal perforations. Moreover, pica eating disorder can also cause infections and poisoning, due to the incidence that the person might ingest an object with feces, dirt or heavy metal poisoning.

Learning from the many articles at the only treatment for pica eating disorder is to correct the mineral or nutritional deficiency of the person and develop an effective behavioral therapy to redirect the attention of the person suffering from pica eating disorder.

Pica Eating Disorder in Steak? No. It’s Pica Disease.

On the other hand, there is a disease found in cattle and livestock, named pica. Pica occurs during a shortage of minerals in the soil, more importantly, if it is the mineral phosphorus or magnesium is lacking in vegetation. Pica can be evident with livestock through persistent licking, chewing or eating wood and soil.

Pica is caused by sporadic events and herd outbreaks. Although the cause is largely unknown, studies suggest that it can be from metabolic disorders, mineral deficiency, and subclinical ketosis, and subclinical acidosis.

Whenever pica disease is manifested by the animal, it must be removed to prevent from spreading to the rest of the group.

Just like with the human pica eating disorder, pica disease in animals can also be prevented by providing extra roughage, supplementing the mineral and nutritional deficiency.

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How to Have a Perfect Steak

Pat the steak until it is dry, before doing anything to the steak.

Season the steak aggressively. Shower the steak with salt high enough above the steak that it disperses evenly over the entire surface.

Perfectly sear the steak by heating the surface. If the steak is thicker than 1.5 inches, have a secondary cooking area. It can be a preheated oven or a grill that has less intense indirect heat.

After the steak is perfectly seared on both sides, transfer the steak to the secondary area and let the steak cook until it is 120 degrees Fahrenheit for a rare steak, 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium steak, or 160 degrees Fahrenheit for well. Although it is not recommended to cook the steak until 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the steak rest, do not immediately cut off the steak. The juices of the steak will leak onto the board.

Slice the steak with a style. For the tenderest slice, slice against the grain; for a chewier steak like flank, tri-tip, and London broil, they are best sliced thinly; stips, rib eyes, and tenderloins are finely sliced thicker.

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Best Ways to Grill a Steak

Cowboy Steak with Coffee and Chili Rub

Coffee and beef may be an unusual pair of food, but to perfectly compliment a robust flavor of a steak, an espresso-chili rub is the best. Give the steak a caramelized crust by adding a smoky and spicy flavor.

Whole Beef Tenderloin with Cherry Tomato Salsa

The garlic, rosemary and balsamic-spiced salsa from the burst cherry tomatoes made it a steakhouse-worthy grilled beef.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Homemade Corn Tortillas

Basically, it is a modified taco recipe. The seasoned skirt steak slices are accompanied with homemade corn tortillas, lime crème Fraiche, and jalapeno-spiked tomatillo to achieve a worthwhile steak that has a mix of sweet, spicy, and zesty flavor.

Grilled Rib Eyes with Sautéed Broccoli and Oysters

This is a grilled rib-eye steak topped with a creamy oyster sauce, the platter is served with ginger-garlic broccoli and oyster at the side.

Tri-tip steak with Tomato Romesco

Bottom sirloin cut is harder, however, the Romesco sauce from Catalonia covers up the stiffness. The tomato, garlic and sherry vinegar condiment possesses unique crunch and flavor.