Why Do Some People Eat Dirt?
Hey, brain stuff, Lauren Vogel. Von here in gas stations and flea markets. All around the southeastern United States, you can find packets or boxes containing crumbles whiteclay in Kenya. You can buy reddish dirt on the street formed into little pellets that look like baby carrots in Uganda. You can buy Yankee doodle brands dirt at the grocery store, a website called earth's. Klay store sells Klay from all over the world and ships them right to your home. But what are you supposed to do with it? When it gets to you. Well, you eat it. You might have a vague sense that you've heard of people eating dirt before pregnant women. Maybe pica is the overarching term for craving and eating things that are not food in the sixth century, see the physician Flavius Asia's noticed people sticking nonfood items in their mouths the way that Magpies pica in Latin pick up random objects in their beaks e figured these people had entirely indiscriminate appetites for just any old thing and termed the behavior after the magpie. It turns out pica is kind of misnomer because pica cravings are actually very specific though. According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or DSM. It includes a range of behaviors some people crave paperclips, batteries or coins. These potentially dangerous cravings are considered by the DSM to be actual disorders. But pica can also include cravings for Ross starch that's amylase g ice, that's pathogen and dirt. That's geology. Geology is one form of pica found an almost every country in the world. We spoke with Sarah young assistant, professor in the department of anthropology at Northwestern University. She said I was surprised when I first saw it. I was studying pregnant women nog Raphy in Zanzibar. And I asked a woman what she ate when she's pregnant, and incidentally, she said every day, I take earth from this wall and eat it. I was just learning. Sahelian was pretty good at it. But I really didn't think I was understanding correctly. My research assistant was like, yeah. You heard right. Young ended up writing her PHD dissertation on geology and winning the Margaret Mead award in twenty thirteen for her book craving earth, which detailed her research about geology practices worldwide in her research. Young tracked down medical literature historical texts research on animal behavior soil science in parasitology and came to the conclusion that there are four possible explanations. As to why people eat dirt. The most common longest running take on geology is that there's no good reason for it that it's a pathology. It's an aspirin behavior of some unknown origin, young explained, the racism sexism and classism behind that simplistic, take, quote, it's the women they know not what they do explanation. It was basically white men writing about this for the past few hundred years, and it was dismissed as abberant we can refute this. There are so many species of animals that go to great risk to get clan. Charcoal like the coldest monkey that steals charcoal from villagers, but even so we know very little about geology because for centuries. Scientists were stubbornly lacking curiosity about it. When scientists did start looking into it, the first hypothesis they came up with to explain why hundreds of thousands of people worldwide craven eat dirt is that. There must be something useful in the clay micronutrients of some kind young said the mother nature's multivitamin explanation is a really intuitive one. But. Fortunately, it doesn't really shake out for starters. Although the Klay her study participants in Zanzibar were eating was tinged with red indicating iron content investigations into whether that iron could be absorbed and used by the body came up empty, plus according to young people generally prefer whiter Klay. If you give geologist to the option of snacking on Georgia, white Kaelin or the reddish clay found on men's bar. They'll almost always pick the white Kaelin, which does not contain iron. So we turn to another hypothesis could hurt provide protection from germs the explanation that eating dirt somehow an immune system boost might not make sense on the surface. After all we're supposed to stay away from dirt wash our hands cleaner, close take off our shoes when we enter the house, but clay face masks can draw germs and oils and dead cells from your skin, and they're made of dirt. Right. According to young eating clay might collect stuff inside of the gut similar to how a mud mask collect stuff from your face. But why would somebody need an intestinal mud mask? The answer is protection from pathogens and harmful compounds many harmful microorganisms and compounds can enter your body via the things you eat. You digest the food and it's absorbed through the wall of your intestine and into your bloodstream, but lots of potentially harmful stuff can get to his in this way to Klay may stimulate the mucous membranes on the surface of your guts to create more mucus, thus forming a sort of protective barrier against those pathogens and compounds young said, it can also bind with whatever harmful thing you're eating for example, in the Andes people eat wild potatoes, which contain these toxic chemicals called glencoe alkaloids. But after they dip the potatoes in clay, they become safe to eat. But while eating clay might protect from pathogens and harmful chemicals, which is especially important in pregnant women. There's something of Goldilocks principle at play here. You want to shield yourself from the harmful stuff, but you also don't want to protect yourself from the nutrients you need, for example, if you eat a steak that's full of both bioavailable iron and pathogens. But you eat clay at the same time. The iron could also become bound by the clay and wouldn't be absorbed by your gut, although the claim might be protecting you from pathogens to some extent. It's also preventing you from absorbing the nutrients the fourth hypothesis for why people eat dirt or clay is that it might help nausea vomiting and diarrhea by coating stomach after all a number of anti-diarrhea treatments. Have Kaylynn in them. Kaelin puts the KO in kopech tape. Though, the reasons for geology are still rather mysterious young stresses that it's far more common than we realize partially because of those old stigmas against it. Young said people don't like to talk about it or admit it when I'm doing ethnic, graphic interviews. I always ask how much earth do eat instead of do you eat earth? Because so many people have sworn they don't eat it. And later told me that they do, but they lied because I didn't want you to think I was