Home > Eating Disorder Types > What is Geophagy?

What is Geophagy?

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 5 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Geophagy eating Disorder pica eating

Geophagy is an eating disorder in which an individual ingests earthy substances, such as chalk,soil, mud and clay. Geophagy is not a common disorder, so relatively few people understand it. To clarify some of the confusion, below are basic answers to a few frequently asked questions about geophagy.

What Causes Geophagy?
It is not known what causes geophagy, but research indicates that it may be related to mineral deficiencies. This means that the compulsion to eat soil substances, particularly clay, may well be a way of rectifying this deficiency. However, geophagy may also have a mental health basis and will need to be treated as such.

Who Suffers from Geophagy?
Geophagy is generally diagnosed in children and pregnant women. For children, geophagy is only diagnosed when eating soil substances is developmentally inappropriate, and therefore geophagy is usually diagnosed only in children over the age of two. Most often geophagy is diagnosed in rural or pre-industrial societies, though it does exist across all races and social classes. Some studies have also investigated a link between geophagy and negative emotions such as homesickness and depression. In non-Western parts of the world geophagy is not subject to the same stigma that it is here in the UK.

Why Geophagy is also Considered an Adaptive Behaviour
In the West, geophagy is often categorised as a type of pica, and therefore an eating disorder. In other areas of the world, however, geophagy is sometimes considered an adaptive behaviour because it is used to even out an individual’s diet. In this way, because it is used to add minerals to the diet or neutralise the harmful alkaloids found in some plants, it is not necessarily aberrant behaviour but a way of ensuring health.

What are the Signs of Geophagy?
Cravings for soil substances and eating soil substances are the only two signs of geophagy. There are, however, some health risks associated with geophagy including intestinal blockage, intestinal perforation or tear, dental injury due to grinding sharp objects from the soil, poisoning and parasitic infections. Often, it is only when an individual is being treated for such an associated problem that geophagy is recognised and diagnosed.

How is Geophagy Diagnosed?
As a type of pica, geophagy is diagnosed in individuals who have routinely consumed soil substances for at least a month and for whom this behaviour is inappropriate to their developmental stage. But geophagy can only be diagnosed as a form of pica, and therefore an eating disorder, in those who do not consume soil substances as part of a recognised cultural or religious practice. If the practice of eating soil substances in recognised as a cultural or religions practice, it is considered an adaptive or traditional behaviour and not an eating disorder.

How Is Geophagy Treated?
Treatment for geophagy will only be recommended if geophagy is diagnosed as a form of pica and therefore an eating disorder. The type of treatment recommended for geophagy will depend upon the type of geophagy that is diagnosed. If geophagy stems from a nutritional deficiency, then this will usually be treated with supplements to rectify the deficiency and the behaviour should cease. If geophagy is diagnosed as a having a psychological basis, then an appropriate treatment plan for this condition will result.

How Can I Obtain Further Information on Geophagy?
Both medical and mental health professionals will be able to provide further information on geophagy. Contact a local GP or private mental health specialist to obtain more information on geophagy.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
i belive its got to be made in cornwal for a cornise pastie
bbbbbbo - 12-Dec-12 @ 10:59 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Tapping
    Re: Binge Eating Disorder
    Hi, I want to heal from my binge eating disorder as it has claimed so much of my life. I can only do online due to me living very…
    1 December 2018
  • Ruby
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I chew the paper towel cardboard holder, I don't swallow it I just chew until I can't anymore. Lately I've been having some really bad stomach pain…
    30 November 2018
  • Jazzy
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I've been eating ashes none stop Half my pregnancy I can't stop even thou I try to avoid it I crave all day when my dude buy black milds I smoke them…
    30 November 2018
  • Bhavna
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I am eating pencils lead chalks dry paint of walls soil from last 8 years but not regularly .sometimes i stoped myself from eating but suddenly i…
    25 November 2018
  • Lisa
    Re: Stomach Problems for Anorexics and Bulimics
    Hey So I’m recovering from starving myself, I would basically only eat veggies and no sweets or meat , and…
    6 November 2018
  • Abe
    Re: Oesophagus Problems for Bulimics
    I have had a total thyroidectomy 5 months ago and in the last couple of months have fallen back into the binge and purge…
    24 October 2018
  • Gwen
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I have a horrible problem and I have no idea how to make it better I have texture issues with fruit and veggies it the smell and texture it'll…
    24 October 2018
  • Mike
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I forgot to add that I chew on silicon glue sticks before they go through the gun and I chew on them for a very long time until they are tiny pieces…
    17 October 2018
  • Mike
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I’ve always had weird eating habits. All my notebooks never had a”dog ears” because I tore the upper right hand bit and chewed and swallowed on them.…
    17 October 2018
  • Alyssa
    Re: Why Does Eating Make Me Feel Sick?
    Alright so, I'm only 12 years old. For the past month or so I haven't really been eating the best. I don't eat breakfast,…
    15 October 2018