You may have come across your fair share of people who love eating soil in your life. People who crave soil so much that they are desperate just to have a bite of a piece of dirt. This practise is medically termed geophagy. The type of soil eaten by these people tend to differ. Some of them eat roasted clay soil which they get from suppliers in vegetable and road side markets. They usually crave soil so much that they don’t even care about the source of the soil they are eating. Whether it comes from a graveyard, industrial waste dumpsite or contaminated mining area, they don’t seem to care.
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People of all ages can eat soil
Studies show that when a child picks up geophagy, it becomes difficult to drop as they grow older. Which means that they can actually continue it throughout life.
I have seen young children, from the age of as little as 4 up to the older women of all generations eating soil. I have eaten a little bit of soil myself, maybe you have done it too! Is it normal for you to eat soil? Is it harmful to your health? These are some of the things that I am going to address in this article. I am going to address the question, “How to stop eating soil during pregnancy or at home?”
How to stop eating soil during pregnancy or at home
Eating soil is very harmful to health as I will explain later on this article, but how do you stop it? Well, there are several ways and methods to do just that! These are:
- Talk to a trusted friend about your problem: Talking to a friend or family can help you get rid of the geophagy habit. If you find friends when the cravings are too high, you may actually forget to take your daily dosage of soil.
- Dietary treatment: Some professionals believe that geophagy or eating results from some nutrient deficiencies. If medical professionals examine your medical history, they can reveal the underlying deficiencies that may trigger you to crave to eat dirt or soil. If your geophagy arises from nutrient deficiency, treating the underlying deficiency can stop you from eating dirty. In one Kenyan study in secondary school students, practitioners used traditional food supplements to help impede geophagy.
- Speak to a therapist: I know many people underrate the importance of a good therapist but they can actually help you to deal with your soil cravings. Therapist can also help device ways that can help distract you from eating soil.
- See your dietician or nutritionist: These professionals can play a critical part in identifying nutrient deficiency linked geophagy.
- Use positive reinforcement: Whenever you crave eating soil, reward yourself with eating your favourite food. Therefore, you will think more of your favourite food rather than soil.
- Nutrition education can also play an important part in deal with geophagy, a largely ignored and unsafe dietary behaviour.
Eating soil explained
Geophagia is the term used scientifically to describe the condition were people eat soil. Now, people with the geophagy condition don’t just eat any type of soil as many of them have specific preferences. Usually when people eat soil, they tend to eat the soil brought up by termites when they destroy trees or furniture or any other organic matter. While this condition is abnormal, it’s a very common condition especially among women. If you were to check, you would find that many people around the world especially women, eat soil. The women may be pregnant or not, as well as young or old, but they have different ways to eat soil.
While some people eat soil occasionally, some people crave soil on a daily basis. And this defines extreme cases of geophagy. Some researchers have shown that geophagy is common in children than adults’ women, in the African race than the Caucasians, in rural than in urban areas and finally in pregnant women than those who are not. I cannot really say that such studies are conclusive as I have seen my fair share of women and man from all walks of life eating soil!
Why do people eat soil?
I don’t know where the act of pregnant women eat soil come from and how it became a culture. However, I have seen that many pregnant women eat soil, but they have different reasons. Some eat soil because they really feel cravings for I, but others just copy what they have seen others do. That’s how eating soil became a culture among a specific group of people.
- They believe that eating soil helps in fighting nausea which is the feeling of wanting to vomit.
- Soil is believed to have a therapeutic effect.
- Soil stops hyper salivating.
- Is a natural stimulant.
- Can stop vomiting.
- Can actually replace food which is very weird!
- Can add additional micronutrient absent in the diet.
- Has the capacity to detoxify secondary compounds found in food.
- May alleviate some pathologies.
- Can protect stomach and intestines from some harmful biochemical substances.
- Can help in the treatment of diarrhoea and harmful parasites.
These are just about a few reasons why people eat soil. Some studies have shown that if you have cravings for soil, you may also have deficiencies of certain nutrients. This means that you may not be eating enough of certain essential nutrients like iron which may lead you to craving soil to compensate.
Why eating soil during pregnancy or at any other time is not a good idea
There are many reasons why you should not eat or should avoid eating soil at all costs. Many of the supposed benefits of eating soil mentioned above are based on assumptions not on any scientific evidence. Eating soil has many side effects for everyone especially pregnant women:
- The soil you are eating may be contaminated: Soil can be contaminated by harmful heavy metals like mercury and cadmium in industrial, mining and agricultural areas. Also, soils from fields are more likely to have pesticides and herbicides residues which may harm your health.
- You can get heavy metal poisoning from geophagy. In one 2017 study, eating soil was shown to have the ability to increase lead exposure to unborn babies.
- Those who eat soil may also get poor birth outcomes.
- Eating soil may interfere with your intake of real food and nutrition. And as a result, you may increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies.
- Some compounds and metals in soil can chelate and bind to other nutrients and mineral making them unavailable for absorption into your body.
- Can temper with the levels of iron in the body. Eating soil can improve iron content which is good. However, it can also chelate with haem iron making it difficult to absorb.
- There are risks of eating soil contaminated with human and animal waste or eggs of harmful parasites or even radioactive matter. This may lead to diseases and health problems.
- Eating soil can lead to teeth damage or blockage of your intestines.
- Excessive intake of clay may cause intestinal perforation and death.
- May lead to anaemia, zinc deficiency, delayed growth, enlargement of spleen and retarded sexual maturity.
Eating soil is common and yet abnormal. I have seen people who eat soil for pleasure or due to peer pressure. Some see it as a requirement for pregnant women or ladies. I remember trying to convince the kids I teach from geophagy found on garden poles that were being eaten by termites. It’s good for you to know that geophagy is more harmful than good and you should try to desist from eating soil. While its quite common for people to eat soil, it does not mean that it is right.