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What is the phenomenon called pica?

Dr. Mike Dow, PsyD
Addiction Medicine
Watch as Dr. Mike Dow explains the phenomenon called pica, how it came about and steps you can take to treat it. 

Pica, which comes from the Latin word for "magpie," is a physiological eating disorder that is characterized by the desire to items that are not food.

Studies of pica have found that roughly one in five pregnant women experience it.

A study of pregnant women with pica found that half of them ate ice and around 15 percent of them ate clay, cornstarch or some form of dirt.

The practice of eating dirt, which is known as geophagia, happens more frequently in the deep South of the United States and in some African countries, including Uganda and Kenya, where some people eat dirt to practice religious customs or to relieve a stomach ache.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.