Dr. Oz: Pica | World’s Weirdest Eating Disorder

Dr. Oz Pica: People Eating Chalk, Rocks, Baby Powder & Cigarette Ashes

Dr. Oz Pica: World’s Weirdest Eating Disorder, this disorder is called Pica and the craving it creates eat at these people all day long. They’re driven to eat chalk, paint chips, dry wall, baby powder, blankets, the filling inside of a sofa or cigarette ashes – and it’s more common than you know. These bizarre eating disorders may be eating at someone you know. Today we met two women with extreme cases of Pica. Alexis who eats chalk, soap, dirt, rocks and drywall-Saneika who eats baby powder-Elaine who ate cigarette ashes.

Dr. Oz showed us video clips of one woman who takes her two fingers and dabs them into the laundry soap, one women was eating what looked like the cleaning agent comet, and another was eating toilet paper. You can see all these strange eating disorders on TLC My Strange Addictions. Dr. Oz said that even though doctors don’t know the reason for this unusual affliction, people with Pica are driven repeatedly to eat non-nutritive substances sometimes 8 to 9 times a day.

Like all eating disorders Pica can cause serious bodily harm and it is comparable to someone who is addicted to Meth and in some cases it can even be fatal says Dr. Oz.

Pica the most extreme eating disorder of all can be treated and cured. Dr. Sue Varma joined Dr. Oz today and treats patients with Pica. People with Pica eat chalk, soap, dirt and even cigarette ashes. Dr. Varma said there are certain common associated factors, people with Pica have underlying nutritional deficiencies. For example iron deficiency may be present, they may have low zinc like seen in pregnant women who have low iron deficiency. There could also be a history of emotional deprivation coming from families with divorce or conflict, not enough emotional nurturing.

Dr. Varma said “it is a common ailment, because there is so much stigma, shame and quilt associated it a lot of times people don’t come forward, but we do know that in children it is 25 to 30%. It is very common in young kids but usually by the age 2 or 3 they outgrow it. In pregnant women we see about 15 to 20% have pica.”

Dr. Oz said that 1 in 5 pregnant women have Pica and are just not telling anyone about it.

Dr. Varma said that in pregnant women because of the iron deficiency it may be ice chips or mud they may be craving and in certain parts of the world Pica is culturally normal.

Dr. Oz Eating Disorder Pica

Complications caused from Pica are constipation, sometimes people don’t have bowel movements for two to three weeks, they may have intestinal obstruction, they may have malnutrition which is interesting said Dr. Varma because even though iron deficiency can cause Pica, Pica can also result in iron deficiency.

Dr. Oz said there are toxins in the things you are eating therefore they are poisoning you, and if you cannot deal with the stress and anxiety in your life and it’s out of control then it’s going to manifest itself in some fashion through your health.

Alexis first started eating chalk when she was about 4 or 5 then started eating rocks in her late teens then discovered she liked eating drywall when she was a grownup, but her favorite is ice with a little bit of soap in it. She said she has eating habits that people don’t understand.

Alexis keeps chalk and rocks in her purse, she gets her rocks from a beach and these rocks are very chewy and they break easily which means they won’t chip her teeth. She likes to chew the rocks and feel the crunching between her teeth. Alexis said she doesn’t want to stop because she doesn’t know what she would replace it with.

She went on to say the the problem she has with Pica is her tongue drying out her being very sensitive to spicy foods, the cold and the hot, and she chipped a tooth on a rock, other than that she doesn’t feel guilty about eating these things.

Saneika was 17 when she first started eating baby powder, she said “the first time I ate it, I felt relaxed and calm”.
She carries baby powder everywhere she goes, when she is out in public she goes into the restroom and puts a little in her mouth and says that it is her high and gives her relief and peace of mind and it just gives her that sense of satisfaction.

It is an addiction because she said she eats it all day and she would like to stop and get help. She wants to know how it’s effecting her body.

Dr. Oz asked Saneika what would happen if she didn’t eat the baby power and which she has a bottle or two of it a day and she explained to him that she would be really bored and have the urge to go out an get it because she has to have it. If she didn’t eat baby powder she would have to eat ice as a backup. This eating disorder started for her when she was pregnant for her first child, now after her third child it is still happening and her 4 year old son is now asking for a little bit of baby powder in his hand.

Dr. Oz asks Dr. Varma how do we begin to help these 2 women and many other women who have Pica and are too embarrassed to talk about it publically or will not aknowledge that this is a problem?

Dr. Varma says “well the first step was being here and being open and very honest and sharing your story with millions of people that takes a lot of guts and courage. It sounds to me like you want to start to think about what is going on, maybe not necessarily want to change it but recognizing the situation and are on the right track about it.”

Dr. Oz explains the results of pica eating disorders and what it is doing to Alexis’s and Shaneika’s bodies:

Dr. Oz says “okay right now I got some testing done on you two girls and I just looked where I thought the biggest health hazards might be with your eating habits.

Dr. Oz: “Shaneika and Alexis you are both severly anemic, and there is not enough iron in your body which will make them exhausted tired and so weak which will make it hard be able to deal with the stress’s we feel in life and that we have to try to overcome. So not only are you in my opinion medicating your self with the pica, but your are causing the problem you have to medicate. Now that’s just one, iron deficiency is a very common driver of people wanting to eat crazy things, dont forget we are looking for iron and nutrients.”

“The other big one is Vitamin D, because if you dont have enough vitamin D your bones become brittle, so we checked both of your vitamin D levels and Alexis your’s is profoundly low and Shaneika your vitamin D level is 6 the least we would tolerate is 30, which means that your bones are like a piece of chalk and are so brittle that it will not take very much to crack them and that is my concern.”

“Right at the get go I knew your were torturing your body and you know what, when you’re young you think that your body is indestructible at 22, now at the age of 30 you are going to be like a little old lady. Alexis has the bones of a 70 year old women.”

Dr. Oz asked Shaneika “you are 22 and have 3 children there has to be someone in your life that sees you eating this stuff”?

Shaneika: “No one in my family knows and my boyfriend just caught me eating it and seems to be okay with it now.”

Dr. Oz went on to ask her ‘why is that ok that hes ok with it?’ and she said I really don’t know Dr. Oz, I don’t have an answer. He then went on to ask her ‘do you want to have baby powder as one of the things you rely on in life?’

Shaneika said “I don’t think I rely on it and would like to not have it in my life anymore, I want to stop.”

Dr Sue Varma said “The first step is to replace any nutritional deficiencies after we are done with the medical work up, I think we should also talk about some of the psychological issues, because there are always psychological problems involving pica.”

“One type of treatment is medications,and we find with pica you recieve low serotonin and dopamine which are the feel good transmitters in the brain.”

“Also therapy can help and what I’m talking about, is help you change the way you think to effect the way you feel. Example would be let’s say you were afraid of heights so I would say ok your avoiding going to tall buildings maybe you need to work in the tall building but you don’t want to go in because you are all anxious about going into the tall building. I would get you to face your fear head on, you have to face your fears and as we were climbing each level I would ask you to rate your level of anxiety from 1- 10, ten being the highest level of anxiety and I would try to get you to a level of 7 until you get to the point where you feel you cant go on. Then I would sit you down and talk to you about how we can distract you, to get your anxiety level down enough to move forward. ”

Dr Varma asked Shaneika what is the #1 trigger in your life that causes this?

Shaneika said she thought it may be due to the stress of being a mother of 3 kids and going to school myself, and Alexis’s trigger that sets her off is just everyday issues and maybe just boredom.

Dr Varma asked both women if there is at least 1 distraction, it could be pleasurable to get their mind off their eating habits?

Shaneika says that shopping and music helps soothe her and for Alexis it is when she’s with grownups and on social gatherings. Alexis goes on to say I dont eat it in front of people because then they start judging me and saying that its weird and asking all these questions that I do not want to answer.

Dr. Oz says well what about me, I do think it’s weird and I don’t think you should be manifesting with the emotional changes and challenges you face in your life by eating rocks, baby power, and chalk.

Dr. Oz: “I know you don’t have enough red blood cells in your body, I know your bones are like chalk maybe because your eating the chalk. I think you have enough good reasons to start to push back on the idea that ‘it’s not people except but its ok for me, and I need you to feel that deep inside you or otherwise the kind of things that Dr. Varmar is talking about don’t make any sense because you are not going to apply them, does this make sense?

Dr. Oz introduced the women to Elaine her addiction was with cigarette ashes, she has broken addiction 8 years now. she explained to us on how difficult it was to break such a heavy burden in her life and recovering from a pica disorder.

For Elaine at one point she was very iron deficient and once she had gotten the iron put back into her body, that helped break the physical cravings and the physical need. Also another big thing for her was the shame and that’s what helped her eventually get the help she needed.

Elaine: “Now I dont smoke and I was eating the ashes even at work. I found myself following the smokers so I could eat the ashes when they left them, then it came to a point where I was begging them to give me their ashes. People would begin to think I was strange because I was eating their cigarette ashes, I just had to have them I felt like it was out of my control.”

Elaine thinks that Alexis and Shaneika are on the right track talking about this and trying to seek some help and the understanding of this disease, and trying to find something to replace this eating disorder.

Dr Oz asks the girls do you want help? both girls do, so Dr. Oz is sending them both to a therapist in their hometown to try and help, but it will only work if you want to help themselves.