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9 months ago
Pica during pregnancy: safe alternative options for non-food cravings

Pica is an eating disorder in which one feels a strong urge to eat non-nutritive substances like soil, clay, chalk, charcoal, paint, paper, soap, glass, hair, ice, etc. These cravings are most common in pregnant women and children. Some women develop pica for medicinal purposes. But the most common cause of pica is possible nutritional deficiencies (vitamin and mineral deficiencies). One of the most widely postulated causes of clay and dirt pica is iron-deficiency anaemia.
Pica could be life-threatening for the mother and the child if the cravings are non-food items or dangerous items like dirt or paints and solvents. Dr Aruna Kalra, Gynaecologist and Obstetrics Surgeon, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, says the first focus should be to treat pregnant women of her deficiencies by supplementing her diet with iron and mineral-rich foods and providing her with vitamin supplements. Here are some safe alternative options for non-food cravings:

Clay/earth eating i.e. geophagy: Red raspberry leaf tea, iron-rich food like black channa, seaweeds and seafood.

Laundry starch (pagophagy): Ice and frozen fruit pops.

Chalk: Calcium tablets and iron-rich fruits, dried berries.

Paint: See your doctor for a blood test. You shouldn’t smell or eat any type of paint or solvent — it can be dangerous for your body and even lead to serious solvent addictions. If you really can’t resist — try and only smell fresh paint in an open, ventilated area, from a distance. You can also try products such as food dye, which is safe for human consumption.

Other safe food items: flat dry bread, nuts, ground nuts, chewing tablets, saunf and dried fruits.

So what’s the best way to find out what the problem is? Seeing your doctor is the first step — the doctor can do a blood test and let you know what your body is lacking. Usually, the reasons for cravings are easy to identify and you can either increase your intake of the lacking nutrient through diet or by taking supplements.

Read: Pica during pregnancy: why women crave non-food items during pregnancy and how it affects them.

Image source: Shutterstock

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