I wanted to expand my knowledge on the various eating disorders of this world, and I happened to find one that I really never knew existed, called pica. Pica is primarily an eating disorder found in children, specifically those diagnosed with autism or mental retardation. Those with pica have cravings for nonfood objects, such as chalk, pebbles, toothpaste, baking soda, needles, soap, paint chips, feces, paper, buttons, fingernails, glue, burnt match heads, wood, hair, and dirt. Could you possibly even imagine eating any of these objects?
This disorder can be very dangerous since eating certain items could promote many health risks, like intestinal obstruction or lead poisoning. To take pica to another extreme, it can come in another form called geophagia. Geophagy is the deliberate consumption of natural Earth materials, particularly soil and clay. This abnormal food ingestion is most prominent in poor countries.
I would really like to know what the driving force is behind eating anything that is nonfood related. I believe the answer to this varies immensely. It could be due to genetics, mental illness, culture, or perhaps religion. No one really knows for sure. In many cases, pica is not actually a disorder if it is practiced in cultural or religious activities. With geophagia, several Earth materials contain valuable minerals, such as those found in clay that yield high health benefits for those in poor counties. Imagine you are living in a tribe in Africa with nutrition deficiency, would you eat some dirt to get more nutrients?