It starts raining after a period of dry weather and you notice you start salivating. That sweet sweet smell of wet sand just hits you and the craving to grab a few handfuls and shove it in your mouth is almost irrisitiable. If this is you, know that you're not alone in this desire for something so strange. What about chalk and dust? Why do such weird things have to tempt us to eat?
This is a perfectly normal condition for grownups as well as children. The condition is known as "pica". Pica is defined as a disorder characterized by craving and appetite for non-edible substances, such as ice, clay, chalk, dirt, or sand.( According to the Oxford English dictionary)
You'll be surprised to know just how many people have this condition. It is mostly noticed in children because they're small and they don't know to be embarrassed about eating dirt. (Plus pica is "ok" with children as they grow out of it on their own.) But adults like ourselves have this "secret" cravings as well. Some adults are so addicted to eating sand that they spend money and travel significant distances to find their preferred clay or soil. Not being able to find or afford a specific type of soil or clay can also lead to distress.
Other common pica cravings include: pebbles, clay, ash, cloth, paper, chalk and hair.
Why Do We Feel This Urge?
Researches are on going to find out why we feel attracted to dirt. Though the researches are inconclusive, researchers gathered that eating dirt could be as a result of some nutritional deficiencies such as lack of iron in the body. The body, knowing what it wants, pushes you to start eating what it lacks. This is just one case. If this is how it is with you, you should be able to stop eating dirt when you start taking the right nutrients.
For others, it's an addiction. Weather they have sufficient nutrients or not, they just can't stop eating dirt. And continuous consumption of dirt leads to various health complications. (We'll get to that part soon). Some people report finding it difficult to stop, even after they start having health problems associated with eating dirt.
Besides these reasons for eating dirt, (lack of iron and addiction), people are known to eat sand because of it's unproven benefits. These benefits include;
1. Eating sand helps improve stomach issues. This is because sand has the ability to absorb toxins in the body. Harmful elements therefore get absorbed. It is said to help food poisoning and diarrhea (This benefit also comes with its own trouble)
2 Eating sand softens skin or alter skin tone. I do not know how this could be
3. It offers protective benefits during pregnancy. This is what is believed in some places. Pregnant women are also known to suddenly develop this craving for sand. It is said that this is as a result of hormonal imbalance (not thoroughly proven though)
Why We Have To Stop Eating Sand
Eating dirt is not a death sentence but consuming a lot of it can lead to a number of health issues.
Taking sand can interfere with your ability to digest necessary nutrients, since clay in your stomach may bind to iron, zinc, and other nutrients. In other words, eating dirt could increase risk for anemia. According to the Oxford English dictionary, A medical condition in which the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen to the tissues is reduced, either because of too few red blood cells, or because of too little hemoglobin, resulting in pallor and fatigue. Consuming sand is also a signal that one could be anemic. But it doesn't help the situation.
Eating dirt can expose you to parasites
Bacteria, and toxic heavy metals are present in dirt. Dirt that contains a lot of potassium could lead to high blood potassium, increasing your risk for cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac arrest.
Constipation is a common side effect of soil consumption. An intestinal obstruction or perforation is also possible, though these side effects are somewhat less common.
When To See A Doctor
If you have any new or concerning health symptoms and you’ve eaten dirt, you may want to talk to your doctor. Signs to look out for include:
1. Painful or bloody bowel
2. Bowel movements
5. Unexplained nausea and vomiting
6. Shortness of breath
7. Tightness in your chest
8. Fatigue, trembling, or weakness
9. If there's a general sense of feeling unwell
Did You Know?
It’s possible to get tetanus from eating dirt. Tetanus can be life-threatening, so see a doctor right away if you experience:
1. Cramping in your jaw
2. Muscle tension, stiffness, and spasms, particularly in your stomach
3. Head pain
5. Increased sweating
And that's about it. Thanks for reading. If you really feel you've done damage to yourself by consuming dirt, don't feel embarrassed to tell a doctor. If you're addicted, it iw possible to quit with determination.
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