Identify common non foods items consumed by one with
List problems associated with Pica.
Recognize the symptoms of Pica.
Birthday of name entered above
Can you name non food substances one might
craving if they suffer from Pica?
What Is Pica?
The name "pica" comes from the Latin
word for magpie, a bird known for its large and random appetite. Pica is
the craving or eating of items that are not food. There are many reasons why
people eat dirt or other non food items. This practice has been described as
"abnormal" and is a very misunderstood problem. To be diagnosed with Pica, a
person must exhibit or show signs for at least one month. There is no specific
medical test that can confirm Pica. Quite often, Pica is only seen and
recognized when it results in complications that leads someone to obtain
medical attention. There is no specific prevention of Pica. Individuals are
encouraged to eat appropriate nutritional meals and follow healthy guidelines
needed for optimum health.
The non food substances that may be ingested by a someone with Pica
Above are some common non food substances however,
coffee grinds, rust, hair, baking soda, glue, and ice have also been known to be
ingested by sufferers of Pica.
Who Can Get Pica?
Most frequently, pica occurs in women
before or during their pregnancies or while they are breastfeeding. The
incidence of pica during pregnancy varies. It has been suggested that pica during
pregnancy occurs more frequently in people who exhibited similar practices
during their childhood and non-pregnant states.
have poor nutrition (malnutrition) or vitamin deficiency
Pica is also found in people who diet;
they may attempt to ease hunger cravings with low-calorie and non-food
substances. Sometimes, people with pica have family, ethnic, or religious
customs that include eating a particular non-food substance.
Pica also has been found among small
children and people with epilepsy, mental retardation, and mental illness.
Sometimes, several household members may share these cravings, and those in
lower socioeconomic groups seem to have more non-food cravings than those in
higher socioeconomic groups.
People who have ethnic
customs or live in cultures where this is practiced
For some pica is a cultural
feature of certain religious rituals, folk medicine, and magical beliefs. Some
people believe that eating dirt will help them incorporate magical spirits into
their bodies. Still others believe that consuming certain kinds of clay can
suppress morning sickness.
who live in poverty
history of Pica
Causes of Pica
The specific causes of pica are unknown.
Some doctors suspect that deficiencies of
iron or zinc may lead to the condition.
A common nutritional theory suggests that
appetite-regulating brain enzymes, altered by an iron or zinc deficiency,
trigger specific cravings. Yet, the non-food items craved usually do not supply
the minerals lacking in the person's body. Pregnant women, for
example, have given up pica after they were treated for iron-deficiency anemia,
a common condition among pregnant women with pica.
One physiological theory to explain pica is
that eating clay or dirt helps relieve nausea, control diarrhea, increase
salivation, remove toxins, and alter odor or taste perception during pregnancy.
There is no evidence that this practice works - and it can be harmful for you
and your baby.
*Despite the wide variety of theories, not one
of them explains all forms of pica. A doctor must treat every case individually
to understand what may be causing the condition.
What are the problems or complications?
There are possible complications for those who
Pica. The eating of non food substances may interfere with the body's
consumption of normal nutritional food. More so, since substances such as paint
chips have toxic substances in them, ingesting these things can cause lead
Complications of Pica can include:
Intestinal infections or parasites from
Liver and Kidney damage
Constipation and abdominal problems
If an individual has Pica and experiences
abdominal pain, problems with their bowels or any other discomfort and pain,
they should seek prompt medical attention. While Pica can be harmless,
ingestion of contaminated material could lead to death.
Lead Poisoning :
Children are poisoned by exposure to lead
dust from lead based paint in older homes than by any other source, usually
through normal hand to mouth activity after getting lead dust on their hands and
toys. Also, children can be seriously poisoned by eating lead based paint chips.
Lead can be found in dust, paint, food, soil, water and in the air. Eating a
healthy diet that includes iron, calcium and foods low in fat causes the body to
absorb less lead.
Which of the following groups are least likely to suffer form Pica?
Name a nutrient deficiency that may cause Pica?
List two problems associated with Pica.
Pica is seen more in children than
adults. Children between the ages of 2 to 6 years of age have been known
to have Pica. Babies and children up to the age of 18 months do not get
Pica primarily because babies during this age
will often put everything in their mouth which is normal. Some children with
Pica have been said to be imitating a family pet (cat or dog) who they have
watched eat a particular item. Appropriate supervision of children and any
dangerous substances should be placed well out of their reach. Some Pica is
considered harmless however, if you are concerned and would like more
information you should always consult with your pediatrician or health care
Does My Child Have Pica?
Young children are naturally curious about their environment, and they may, for
instance, eat some dirt out of their sandbox. Yet children with pica go beyond
this innocent exploration of their surroundings.
Look for these warning
signs to determine if your child may have pica:
Repetitive consumption of a non-food
item, despite efforts to restrict it, for a period of at least 1 month or
The behavior is considered inappropriate
for your child's age or developmental stage
The behavior is not part of a cultural,
ethnic, or religious practice
Your child has another developmental
If pica is suspected, your child may also
display signs of iron deficiency, including pallor and thinned nails that are
concave and have raised edges, known as spooning of the nails. The small
elevations on your child's tongue may be flattened, and he may have superficial
erosions and fissuring at the angles of the mouth, which frequently signals
What Does Pica Mean for My
If your child continues to consume non-food items, he may be at risk for
potential health problems, including lead poisoning, bowel problems,
intestinal obstruction or perforation, and parasitic infections.
If your child faces the risk of consuming toxic
or potentially harmful substances, such as those contaminated by lead paint,
seek medical attention immediately.
Pica and Pregnant Women
Pica has been very common among pregnant women. It has
been said that Pica is a response to fill nutritional deficiency, such as low
iron or calcium. If you
are pregnant and experience Pica, you should call and see your family doctor to
discuss problems that could occur to you and your unborn baby. In some cases,
Pica stems from nutritional deficiencies and nutritional supplements may be
given. In most cases, Pica ceased once the sufferer was treated for iron
deficiency. Pica in pregnant women commonly disappears after childbirth takes
place yet it has been know to occur during the post partum period.
Pica and Culture
In some cultures, Pica is a common practice and it has
been estimated that clay eating is practiced as a daily ritual by over two
hundred cultures worldwide. The practice is also known as "Geophagy". The eating
of clay or dirt is done for a number of different reasons. It has been done for
religious reasons such as ceremonies, to satisfy the needs of pregnant and even
nursing mothers and as remedy for disease. Most people who eat dirt live in
Central Africa and the Southern United States. The ancient Greeks
ate clay to fight a variety of ailments.
Pica and Eating Disorders
If you're wondering if Pica is some form of an
eating disorder, the answer is no. While the behavior is odd and seems
strange to many of us, it is not considered as disordered eating.
Pica has been seen in people who diet who have great
cravings and have attempted to cease the cravings with non-food substances since
they are obviously low calorie. Feelings of hunger are also relieved and/or
It is believed that it is rare for people who
have Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa to have Pica.
Many of those who suffering from eating disorders commonly
suffer from iron or other vitamin deficiencies. In cases of Anorexia where
extreme starvation and malnutrition is taking place, it is believed that a person suffering from Anorexia would consume non food items to
ease extreme hunger.
If you have an eating disorder and have developed Pica, it
is important that you seek medical attention for both of these conditions.
Now let's review!
1. An infant who
puts anything in his mouth suffers from pica.
2. If your child
ingests lead paint you should seek medical attention immediately.
3. Pregnant women
with pica may not be receiving the nutrients she needs.
List three symptoms of Pica.
Which WIC Office do you go to?
Lake Havasu City
are you taking today's lesson?
You have completed the lesson on “Pica”.If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail one of our
nutritionists.We’ll be glad
to answer any of your questions.
If you have an
extra minute, please fill out our survey on the WIC home page (where you chose
this class) so we can better serve you. Thank You.
1. Clay, dirt, glue, chalk,
starch, paint, gravel
1. It is rare that adult men suffer from
2. Folate and potassium have not been found to cause pica.
3. Ingestion of toxic substances,
interferes with the body's consumption of normal nutritional food, and
constipation and abdominal problems have been associated with pica.
4. Repetitive consumption of a
non-food item, despite efforts to restrict it, for a period of at least 1
month or longer
The behavior is considered inappropriate for your child's age or
The behavior is not part of a cultural, ethnic, or religious practice
Your child has another developmental problem