Desire Ice? Dirt? Clay? You May Need Something

If you've installed an automated icemaker to satisfy your craving to eat ice, or if you're dining on actual mud pies -- your body may be trying to tell you it needs iron.
Neither ice nor dirt will add iron to your diet, but there may be a link between nonfood cravings and iron deficiency.

An appetite for nonfood items -- such as ice, dirt, clay paste, starch, hair and refrigerator frost -- is called pica. The connection between pica and iron deficiency is unclear, but consuming clay actually worsens the deficiency because clay inhibits iron absorption.

"Pica is most often reported among pregnant women," says registered dietitian Joyce Barnett, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School. "But it can occur among nonpregnant women, men and children. Children usually outgrow it, but make sure they aren't eating toxic items, such as lead-containing paint chips."

If you find yourself craving lots of nonfood items, see your doctor. Usually adding iron to the diet is enough to curb your

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