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  • Pica

    Pica is an eating disorder in which you eat things that aren’t commonly considered food and have no nutritional value. Pica can affect children, adolescents, and adults of any race, ethnicity, and sex.

    If you feel that you may be experiencing this mental health condition, it may help to learn more about pica symptoms, causes, and risk factors. It doesn’t always require treatment and can go away by itself, but a doctor might recommend treatment if eating nonfood items leads to complications over time.

    With the appropriate treatment and approach, it’s possible to manage pica and develop healthful eating habits. The first step is to get educated. Let’s take a closer look.

    Pica is an eating disorder in which you eat items of no nutritional value that are not typically viewed as food. This might happen as a result of a nutrient deficiency — your body’s way of telling you that it needs more of a certain nutrient. Anyone can experience pica, but it’s more common during pregnancy and childhood.

    The cultural perception of the items you eat matters. For example, eating clay is a cultural practice for some groups of people in the world. For people in these groups, the consumption of clay would not be seen as evidence of pica because it makes sense given certain customs and traditions.

    However, if the consumption of “inedible” substances persists for over a month, and there’s no cultural reason behind these eating habits, then it’s likely you are experiencing pica.

    Like other eating disorders, pica isn’t a choice, and help is available.

    Healthcare professionals most commonly diagnose pica during pregnancy or childhood, according to researchTrusted Source. Pica often occurs with certain mental health conditions that affect a person’s thinking and behaviors. These include:

    Others who may have a higher chance of pica include those who:

    • have an iron deficiency
    • are malnourished

    To determine whether you or a loved one is experiencing pica, it’s important to evaluate the symptoms. Typically, pica refers to eating nonfood items for at least 1 month.

    Eating nonfood items as a result of pica can lead to various digestive symptoms, such as:

    • stomach pain
    • constipation or diarrhea
    • deficiencies, such as anemia
    • intestinal blockages
    • side effects from eating toxic substances, such as the lead in paint
    • infections from eating something that contains bacteria or parasites, such as dirt

    If you’re experiencing the health consequences of pica, talking with a doctor can help. They can advise you on the best treatment.

    You might show symptoms of pica if you’re regularly consuming any of the following items:

    • chalk
    • dirt
    • paint
    • soap
    • cloth
    • hair
    • string
    • wool
    • soil
    • talcum powder
    • chewing gum

    There’re no lab tests to help determine a pica diagnosis. Your doctor’s diagnosis will rely mostly on your symptoms and medical history. To make a diagnosis, a medical professional should evaluate your eating habits.

    In some cases, you can address pica and its associated cravings by simply taking vitamins that address underlying nutritional deficiencies or other concerns. In other cases, pica-associated eating habits may need medical treatment.

    Doctors may diagnose pica in pregnant people if their ingestion of nonfood items poses a serious medical risk, either due to the amount or type of item they’re eating. If they ingest toxic substances, this can harm the fetus, according to researchTrusted Source.

    Every person is different. Usually, the severity of the eating habits combined with your potential medical risk will inform the doctor’s decision.

    If you think you may have Pica, please reach out to us today for a free 30-minute consultation so that we can begin your healing journey together!