Healthy Living

Mother Says She Ate Nothing But Sand And Sponges During Her Two Pregnancies: Rare Disorder "Pica" Causes Bizarre Appetite For Dirt, Clay

sponge
Pearce discovered her strange appetite when her mother-in-law changed the sand in her pet parrot's cage. Blmurch / Flickr

Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s monumental work One Hundred Years of Solitude may remember the timid Rebeca for her strange inclination to eat dirt and whitewash off the walls. To most readers, the strange craving sounds like a figment of Garcia Marquez’s own mythic vision. However, Rebeca’s appetite is modeled on an actual disorder.

British Kelly-Marie Pearce can tell you everything about it. During her pregnancies, the 28-year-old mother-of-two developed pica – an exceedingly rare condition characterized by an insatiable appetite for non-nutritive, “inedible” substances like chalk, dirt, and clay. For Pearce, this meant consuming up to 20 servings of sand and washing sponges a day.

“It tasted really good at the time,” she said, speaking to The Daily News. “It was really satisfying. It was exactly what I needed. I was getting through bowls and bowls of sand a day. I wasn’t eating anything else but sand and sponges.”

Pearce first discovered her bizarre condition five months into her first pregnancy, when her mother-in-law was changing the sand in her pet parrot’s cage. Suddenly, the new appetite was there, like a word on the tip of her tongue. Whatever it was, she simply couldn’t resist.

“I kept getting this weird taste in my mouth. I knew I was craving something but could not put my finger on what until I saw the sand and that’s when I knew I wanted it,” she remembers. “Then when I saw her change the sand in the parrot’s cage I thought ‘I could just eat that’ and I asked her if I could have some and I started eating it. She thought it was mad but let me carry on.”

Soon, Pearce graduated to more substantive objects. When sand alone just wouldn’t do, she began looking for other ways to satisfy her craving. That’s when she discovered washing sponges.

“I was in the bath one day and I looked at the sponge. It was new and I just started eating it,” she said. “I would have a small bite then chew it for a bit until it went soft. I even dipped them in the sand - it tasted really good.”

Pearce estimates that she consumed about 5,000 sponges during her two pregnancies. Her two children, Lucian and Lola-Ruby, were both born in good health without complications. That said, experts caution expectant mother with similar appetites.

“Particularly when someone is pregnant, it’s important to provide suitable nutrition for them and the growing baby,” a spokesperson for the eating disorder charity Beat told reporters. “It’s important that any individual has a well-balanced diet and if they are worried that something like this is affecting them they should seek help at the earliest opportunity.”

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