Desire to eat dirt, hair, soap and even cigarette ash? Meet allotriophagia, a strange appetite disorder.
You’ve probably never heard of allotriophagya disorder also known as pica syndrome. However, maybe you know someone who wanted to eat something out of the ordinary, like dirt, clay or cotton for example.
So, the allotriophagia is a disorder where there is the ingestion of substances without any nutritional value, which are usually apart from any food culture.
It is, therefore, a disease where the patient feels an almost irresistible desire to eat things that are not edible and that he knows he should not eat.
There are even people diagnosed with allotriophagia who report wanting to eat wood, hair, wall paint chips, soap and even cigarette ash.
On the other hand, some patients feel like eating equally unusual things, but which end up being harmless to the organism, such as ingesting ice, for example.
Usually, this disorder is associated with children at the age when food is introduced. However, it can happen up to 6 years of age or older. In adults, pica syndrome can be a symptom of another medical condition or, in some cases, a mental illness.
Allotriophagy: why do people eat things that are not edible?
The causes of allotriophagy can be many and different. Usually, it appears in patients who have some kind of nutritional deficiency where there is a desire to eat unusual things as a way to help the body replenish all these nutrients.
For example: in people who have an iron or zinc deficit, there seems to be a desire to eat earth to compensate the body (as is the case with pregnant women).
In addition, know that allotriophagia may appear especially during pregnancy – where the mother presents wills and desires that may deviate a little from what we consider normal.
The disorder may also be associated with anemia. In these cases, it is recommended that the pregnant woman talk to her doctor in the presence of some abnormal symptoms.
The problem may also arise in people who have some type of mental disorder – such as depression, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Therefore, in case of suspicion, it is essential to carefully observe certain behaviors and talk to the doctor.
What are the symptoms of allotriophagia?
Unlike other pathologies, in the case of allotriophagia, there is only one symptom: the urge to eat something that is not at all edible.
But it must be borne in mind that we may be facing a case of mere curiosity only, when it is a single episode (especially when verified in children).
Like this, for it to be considered a case of allotriophagia, it is necessary that the behavior lasts for a month or more. In addition, it needs to happen in an age group where the person already understands that certain things should not be ingested.
In cases where individuals get to the point of ingesting materials harmful to the body (such as chemicals, feces, urine or cleaning products), they may experience symptoms of intoxication. We are therefore talking about vomiting, stomach aches or even diarrhea, for example.
What kinds of things are ingested by people with pica syndrome?
It is normal for there to be doubts about what people with allotriophagia ingest – this is not a rare condition in humans. We list some of the most frequent associated with the disorder:
- for the;
- cleaning chemicals;
- beauty products;
- egg shell;
- cigarette ash;
Is there treatment for this disorder?
As we have already noticed, allotriophagy is not characterized only by a punctual event. It must be diagnosed by a doctor, after verifying the permanence of the same type of behavior for at least 1 month.
With regard to treatment, it will be indicated according to what the doctor has identified as the cause – since it can be associated with several reasons, including those of a psychological nature.
Among some of the procedures used are the psychotherapy and the prescription of vitamin supplements. However, for cases of patients with gastric problems, intoxication or infection associated with the ingestion of toxic things, there are specific treatments for each of these problems.
Basically, there is no particular medicine that effectively treats allotriophagia. It all depends on the condition and age of the person.. For example: in the case of children, special monitoring is required.
Therefore, the faster the disorder is detected, the lower the risks and damage that ingesting inappropriate things may bring in the future.
If you suspect the presence of this condition, the ideal is to talk immediately with your family doctor, psychiatrist, nutritionist or even your psychologist. After all, the important thing is to start the treatment as soon as possible without there being time for consequences to arise for our body.