Pica is when you eat or want to eat something that is not food. It is a strong desire and craving for something as if it was for food. Pica is a “feeding disorder” that can occur at any age. We don’t know much about why people might crave or eat non-food items. We do know that the cravings sometimes have to do with a nutrient that is missing in their diet. Pica is also related to stress.
People with pica may crave and eat:
- stones & pebbles
- feces (poop)
- laundry starch
- paint chips
- light bulbs
- cigarette butts
When you eat non-foods, it can lead to problems with digestion. It can damage the stomach and intestine. It can also be very dangerous if you eat something that is toxic. Eating something toxic is like taking poison, and can be deadly.
People with this disorder regurgitate their food – food comes back into the mouth after they swallow it. It is not due to nausea or vomiting. Someone may be diagnosed with rumination disorder if they regurgitate their food often for a month or more. People of any age including infants and children can have this disorder.
People may regurgitate food if they have certain medical conditions or eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. In these cases, they would not also be diagnosed with rumination disorder.
A person who regurgitates food can develop serious problems like malnutrition. It is important to speak to your family doctor if you have concerns.
More information about rumination disorder can be found at: