Do you ever crave non-food items like ice, chalk, mud, or eraser? No, it’s not something you imagine, there is indeed a reason behind such weird cravings. Simrun Chopra, a hormone specialist, points out iron deficiency as being one of the primary reasons behind your desire to eat chalk or mud. “Iron deficiency is very common in India, and is also the cause of unusual cravings for non-food items. Sometimes just knowing the symptoms can help you or even your partner or child. Get a test for iron deficiency if you also have a headache, dizziness, hair fall, and pale skin,” she suggested.
Another reason, according to Dr Sonal Anand, psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, that can make one crave non-food items is Pica, an eating disorder.
Pica is an eating disorder in which a person feels compelled to eat non-nutritive things such as dirt, clay, chalk, charcoal, paint, paper, soap, glass, hair, ice, and so on. “Geophagy is the consumption of mud, while amylophagy and pagophagia are terms used to describe an abnormal hunger for uncooked starch and ice,” Dr Anand told indianexpress.com.
Again, iron deficiency is largely responsible for Pica disorder. “Your unexpected desires might be a sign that your body is attempting to replace depleted nutritional stores,” said Dr Anand, adding that Pica is caused by a variety of factors, including “by a lack of iron, zinc, or another nutrient in some situations. Anemia, typically caused by iron deficiency, may be the underlying cause of pica in pregnant women, for example,” she told indianexpress.com.
The expert further pointed out that certain mental disorders, too, can cause Pica. “It may emerge as a coping technique in people with certain mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD),” she informed.
The first thing to do on experiencing such cravings is to consult a physician and get yourself tested for iron deficiency. An expert is most likely to prescribe supplements and dietary modifications. “However, if the cause of Pica is a mental disorder, you will need to consult a psychiatrist. Another option is a treatment to address mental health or environmental health concerns. It is strongly advised that a resolution be found as soon as possible because untreated pica can last for years and create permanent harm,” stressed Dr Anand.
Chopra shared a list of people who have higher chances of having iron deficiency. They are:
People who have had blood loss (if you have very heavy periods or are a regular blood donor)
Vegetarians As the absorption rates from veg food is lower, it means they need to eat more iron-rich foods.
Infants and children For kids who had low birth weight, were born premature, or did not get enough breast milk. All children need more iron during growth spurts.
People who can’t absorb iron well
While you will be prescribed medicines based on the level of your deficiency by your doctor, Chopra suggested some dietary modifications to add more iron to your diet. They are:
*Focus on adding iron rich foods such as meats, seafood, beans, dark leafy greens and peas to your diet.
*With these, have vitamin C rich foods to ensure better absorption (can be as simple as adding lime else capsicum or bell peppers, tomatoes etc).
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