Pica and Autism

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

This week I’d like to briefly talk about an aspect of the autistic spectrum which you may not be familiar with- pica.

So what exactly is pica?

Image result for pika pika gif

No not that guy! πŸ˜›

Pica is a type of eating disorder where a person has an appetite for things that are not considered to be food such as dirt, dust, chalk, hair etc.

It’s often seen in pregnancy however, almost 25% of autists display signs of this behaviour.

Thankfully I’ve never really had any weird cravings like that, however as I child I did like to eat toothpaste on occasion…what can I say Aquafresh just looked too much like sweets!! πŸ˜›

Image result for aquafresh toothpaste

Those red, white and blue stripes were just too tempting! I even think I used to recreate this Werther’s Original ad in the mirror pretending the toothpaste was the sweet! πŸ˜‚

Anyway less of my weirdness, back to pica!

Joking aside, pica can be very serious if the substance that is ingested is toxic such as lead or if the item can cause an intestinal obstruction like hair ingestion.

So what does the science have to say? Why is this behaviour found in autism?

There does not seem to be one uniform cause of pica, however, pica has been associated with nutrient deficiencies (such as iron) and is thought to be the body’s subconscious way of replenishing the missing nutrients, which would be consistent with the often restrictive nature of an autists’ diet.

It’s also thought that pica may be a sensory response to stimuli in autists to relieve stress, anxiety, pain and discomfort or the item simply has a pleasurable texture. Pica may equally be interpreted psychologically as a means of seeking attention.

Science aside, experts say that the cause of pica may simply be that the autist is unaware that they are eating an item that is unconventional/unsafe.

dirt.png

That’s all for this week Earthlings, hope you enjoyed this post! πŸ˜€

Have a great weekend! πŸ™‚

Aoife

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