Q: My kid of 2 years has a craving for soil. How can I stop her?
A: As children grow and discover their hands and their ability to pick up things, they also decide on a favourite destination….the mouth! 😀 And so, things like sand, dirty socks etc may end up in baby’s mouth (I hope not!!!). That’s not what this post is about. If that’s what’s happening with your baby, please be more careful about what’s in baby’s direct path and things she can easily access to put in his mouth. Otherwise, she’ll be fine and as she grows older, she realizes that sand doesn’t quite taste nice 😀
What this post is about is the constant and repetitive eating of items that have no nutritional value like soil, ice shavings etc is called pica. The list of non-food items eaten include paint chips, hair, glue, soap, tooth paste, chalk, hair and the list goes on!
Causes of non-food cravings include:
• Pregnancy: it is thought, though, that women with pica in pregnancy probably had this before pregnancy or have a positive family history of it.
• Deficiency of some nutrients like iron and zinc. Talking about iron, do you know that one out of every two women of reproductive age in Nigeria is likely to have anaemia (shortage of red blood cells)? Out of this number, half of them are likely to have iron deficiency anaemia. Question is, are you likely to be one of these women? Do you eat enough green leafy veggies? Do you use iron fortified seasonings or foods? Discussion for another day!
• Poverty can also lead to this as children and adults alike look for ‘things’ to fill their tummies. In the same way, people on fad diets, look for non-food items with little or no calories to fill their tummies and take the edge off their hunger
• It has also been found that some developmental problems like autism may be responsible.
The exact cause of pica has to be found out as it puts the child at risk of:
• Lead poisoning from eating paint
• Bacterial and parasitic infection from eating sand
• Constipation by eating things like hair or even obstruction of the intestines!
If pica is due to learned behavior, a therapist will work with child to ‘unlearn’ this and restrict access to these non-food items. The doctor will also look out for nutrient deficiencies etc. Usually, this would last for a couple of months…except where compounded by a mental or developmental problem.
So, first steps: restrict access to these items and take her in to see her paediatrician as soon as possible.
All the best…hugs
Have a great night y’all 🙂