Pica is an eating disorder that involves the consumption of substances that have little or no nutritional value.
Many young kids put nonfood items in their mouths at one time or another. They’re naturally curious about their environment and might, for instance, eat some dirt out of the sandbox.Kids with pica go beyond this innocent exploration of their surroundings. Between 10% and 30% of kids ages of 1 to 6 years have the eating disorder pica, which is characterized by persistent and compulsive cravings to eat nonfood items.
Pica got its name from the Latin word for magpie, a bird that eats just about anything.
People with pica frequently crave and consume nonfood items such as:dirt, clay, paint chips, plaster, chalk, cornstarch, laundry starch, baking soda, coffee grounds, cigarette ashes, burnt match heads, cigarette butts, feces, ice, glue, hair, buttons, paper, sand, toothpaste, soap.
Although consumption of some items may be harmless, pica is considered to be a serious eating disorder that can sometimes result in serious health problems such as lead poisoning and iron-deficiency anemia.
Some people claim to enjoy the taste and texture of dirt or clay, and eat it as part of a daily habit (much like smoking is a daily routine for others). And some psychological theories explain pica as a behavioral response to stress or an indication that the individual has an oral fixation (is comforted by having things in his or her mouth).
Another explanation is that pica is a cultural feature of certain religious rituals, folk medicine, and magical beliefs. For example, some people in various cultures believe that eating dirt will help them incorporate magical spirits into their bodies.
Pica is most common in people with developmental disabilities, including autism and mental retardation. It can also be a problem for some pregnant women, as well as people with epilepsy.There is no specific way to prevent pica.Careful attention to eating habits and close supervision of children known to put things in their mouths may help catch the disorder before complications can occur. A doctor must treat each case individually to try to understand what’s causing the condition.
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