Pica is an eating disorder where individuals eat substances that have no nutritional value. They may eat less harmful item like ice or at times may have harmful substances like dried paint flakes or metal chips which may lead to severe food poisoning. It is most common among children and pregnant women.
Pica is more severe and long-lasting in people with mental and developmental disabilities. However, in most of the cases it is temporary, but seek immediate medical help if your child cannot stop the habit of eating nonfood items.
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People suffering from this disorder generally eat nonfood based products and if the eating behaviour continues for more than a month, then the condition is termed as Pica. Also Read: Emotional Eating: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
The individuals crave for the following nonfood items include:
Dry Paint Flakes
There is no specific cause of pica, generally, a deficiency of iron, zinc or other vital nutrients may be associated with Pica. Anaemia may be the root cause of pica in pregnant women. Unusual cravings are a sign that the body is trying to restore low nutrient levels. Individuals with mental disorders like schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may develop pica as a way to manage the disorder.
Excessive dieting and severe nutritional deficiency may also lead to pica.
Diagnosis And Treatment:
Generally, there’s no specific test to diagnose pica. The doctor usually evaluates the person based on a complete medical history, dietary practices, eating behaviour and other factors. The patients should be honest to the doctor about the nonfood items they take, which help the physician to accurately diagnose the condition.
The doctor may also suggest doing a blood test to determine iron and zinc levels to rule out if the patient has an underlying nutrient deficiency. As nutrient deficiency in most cases may be related to pica. Also Check Out: 5 Foods Super-Rich In Iron That Are Essential For Overall Health-Infographics
Treatment of pica depends upon treating the complications that have result from eating nonfood stuff. For instances lead poisoning from eating paint chips where the doctor may suggest chelation therapy. This therapy allows the lead to excrete in urine.Vitamin and mineral supplements are recommended to correct the nutritional deficiency. Taking a multivitamin supplement is an effective way of treating pica. For individuals with OCD and other mental conditions, doctors recommend behaviour therapy and medications.