When we hear that anyone eats dirt, we think of harmful germs or parasites that can cause severe reactions to the body. But some people like to eat dirt or soil due to extreme craving for it. They often like to eat items that are not related to food (called Pica).
All over the world, many pregnant women eat clay or soil as they think that eating soil can protect against toxins and parasites. Patients suffering from Anemia also eat dirt.
Role Of Dirt (Soil) In Our Lives
Basically, dirt is a combination of rocks, clay, sand and many other organic microscopic matters. The quantities of these substances can vary from area to area. Dirt (soil or earth) also have different minerals present in it. As plants grow on Earth, they get their nutrients from the Earth, so soil contains number of nutrients and minerals which are also beneficial for people but in moderate amount.
The Earth or soil also provides support for buildings and roads which are used by humans. Many ancient fossils and other materials are also buried under the surface of Earth which are discovered by humans in modern days. All those materials gave an insight into the living style of ancient humans in the past.
Types Of Eating Dirt Disorder
- Pica: Some people crave for non-food items that is dirt or clay. This is called Pica. People suffering from Pica like to eat:
Patients of schizophrenia and trichotillomania can also develop Pica but mainly this occurs due to nutritional deficiencies.
- Geophagia: In many cultures or communities, dirt eating is a cultural practice. If members of family are eating dirt, one thinks that it is compulsory to eat dirt. They have clear reasons in their minds for eating dirt. They also think that eating this benefits the health in many ways like the dirt helps to relieve the menstrual cramps and also protects the pregnant mother against many diseases. Some women also think that this practice of consuming soil can give a glow to their skin tones. Many also think that soil is beneficial to cure stomach diseases. This culture of Geophagia history backs when Hippocrates first mentioned it. In history as well, Geophagia was always more related to pregnancy.
In modern world, Geophagia is still practiced and more common in tropical regions which have rich fertile soil. Still many people think that it cures stomach problems like food poisoning.
Benefits Of Eating Dirt
There are many benefits of eating clay as prescribed by researches. Some of them are:
- Smooth Digestion: The healthy bacteria present in our stomach, develops and grows more rapidly when exposed to dirt. The “Gut Microbiome” are good bacteria in our stomach which helps in smooth digestion of food we eat. Due to the binding ability of clay or soil, loose bowel movements can be cured.
Whenever, we have upset stomach, we often take medicines which has chalk like taste. This chalky taste is because of the substance used to make that medicine which is found in white clay, called Kaolin. Kaolin is also effective in nausea, heartburn or indigestion.
- Body Detoxification: Many of us apply clay masks or charcoal masks on our faces and body. This is because clay or charcoal has detoxifying abilities, which cleans the body deeply. This removes the toxins and bacteria, deep inside from the skin and body. Keeping this in mind, people of many communities have made soil-eating, their culture.
- Prevents Allergies: Children which tend to live in rural areas, have strong immunity against many allergies and diseases as compared to children living in urban areas or cities. Research has found that this is because of the reason that rural children live more close to soil and clean environment which prevents them from getting infected by any kind of allergies.
- Good for Immune System: Research shows that immune system of human body is boosted when they consume soil or clay. The presence of uncountable bacteria and viruses, help to support healthy immune system.
- Beneficial for Pregnant women: The presence of minerals like magnesium, copper, calcium and iron in the clay, increases the craving in pregnant women as their bodies should consume more minerals as compared to normal women. The creation of another human life within their bodies flourish the need of eating clay more rapidly.
Side Effects Of Eating Dirt
The habit of eating soil has many negative effects as well. Humans are more likely to experience negative effects and illnesses. Let’s have a look at the side effects of this habit:
- Tetanus: As dirt also contains many bacteria, on is likely to get Tetanus which is life threatening.
- Parasites and Heavy Metals: Dirt also contains lots of parasites and heavy metals like potassium. Large amount of potassium in blood can cause high blood potassium level. This much level can cause cardiac arrest or other heart diseases.
- Complications in Pregnancy: As immune system changes slightly during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of getting infected by toxins and other health problems. The binding property of dirt binds the essential nutrients which is needed by the body, thus causing their poor absorption and also putting health at risk. The toxins present in the soil are harmful for both mother and the unborn child.
- Constipation: People eat dirt to avoid bowel looseness but if the soil/clay is consumed largely, it can also cause constipation or perforation. These symptoms of constipation are less but still present.
When To Consult A Doctor?
Though dirt eating is not any kind of disease or abnormality but if any person experiences any severe negative symptoms, doctor should be consulted. Problems like bowel movements with blood, diarrhea or nausea or vomiting, require a visit to doctor.
Eating clay or dirt is beneficial to eat as it boosts the immune system and many other people eat clay or soil because of their cultural trends but in moderate and controlled amount. The thinking that dirt relieves stomach issues or absorb toxins is true but if taken in excessive amount, it will be very harmful. If this habit is becoming addictive and nutrient deficiencies are occurring, then proper therapy is required.