Maybe this isn’t quite as stomach-turning as some of my other entries, but it’s still pretty damned un-appetizing: clay.
That’s right – clay. Minerals. Dirt. Soil. Dry mud. Who the hell would eat this? Read on.
In Georgia & Alabama, there are rural (generally poor) places where eating a particular type of chalky, white clay called “kaolin” is common. People claim to crave it, and its use is particularly common among pregnant women. It is believed to settles the stomach; in fact kaolin is or has been used as the active substance in liquid anti-diarrhea medicines such as Kaomagma and Kaopectate . Such medicines were changed away from aluminium substances due to a scare over Alzheimer’s disease, but have since changed back to compounds containing aluminium as they are most effective.
In Africa, a special type of clay is eaten by some tribesmen in parts of Africa. The clay is very rich in minerals and is similar to a multi-mineral tablet. Clay for eating is carefully dug and sold in the market-place. This practice is found all over the world. One woman in Britain likes to buy especially dirty potatoes in order to lick the dirt off them. Many urban people eat laundry starch in place of the clay they used to dig out in the countryside.
There’s even a term for dirt-eating: geophagia. It’s closely related to pica – the persistent consumption of non-food items. I’m not even going to mention another related disorder, coprophagia. Oops. I mentioned it.