Eating large quantities of cornstarch will not only make you sick; it can also indicate a condition known as pica, often caused by the presence of underlying conditions such as mineral deficiencies or gestational diabetes. Cravings for cornstarch and other non-digestible things is a red light you should heed and a warning to make an appointment to see your natural health practitioner for evaluation.
What is Cornstarch?
Cornstarch is derived from the endosperm at the heart of corn kernels. It is used in cooking as a thickening agent, and in some cases, as a substitute for talc in body powders. Organic cornstarch does not demonstrate toxicity itself; however, for some people who crave it by itself in great quantities, various mineral deficiencies may be indicated. That being said, there is rising concern that eating cornstarch derived from genetically modified, or GMO corn, may lead to additional loss of nutrition as well as ulcers, acid reflux, cancers, and a variety of other serious ailments related to the GMOs.
Eating cornstarch and non-food items such as dirt, sand, feces or paper is called Pica. Adults and children can suffer from pica; however, it is more common in young children, according to the A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia. Pregnant women may find themselves craving indigestible things due to a mineral deficiency or lack of nutrients such as zinc or iron. Pica is not only a craving for non-food materials, but for the feel of certain textures.
Symptoms, Signs and Tests
Symptoms for pica range from eating a variety of non-food materials like hair, ice, sand, paint and clay. The pattern of doing so should last a minimum of one month before making a diagnosis, according to the A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia. There are no definitive tests for pica; however, because it usually occurs in people suffering from mineral deficiencies, blood tests are often performed to check levels of iron and zinc — the most common deficiencies. Additionally, your health practitioner should test for infection and lead poisoning if contaminated soil, animal feces or paint was consumed.
Treatment often focuses on replacing missing nutrients, resolving other medical conditions and changing behaviors through therapy. Sometimes medications, herbs or homeopathic remedies are prescribed.
Amylophagia is a form of pica and is specific to the compulsive consumption of large amounts of purified starch. It is common to see this condition arise in women during pregnancy. The Archives of Family Medicine note that amylophagia is also a symptom of pregnancy related gestational diabetes. Amylophgaia is distinct from regular pica because it involves only a craving for refined starch such as cornstarch. Amylophagia may also be related to iron deficiency anemia, according to the journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology. The add that this condition is seen more often in ethnic women.
Eating large quantities of cornstarch can also lead to severe constipation, blockages of the bowel, and anemia. If you think you may have pica, contact your natural health practitioner for guidance.
Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology: Amylophagia and Iron Deficiency Anemia
A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia: Pica
La Revue de Médecine Interne: Anemia Caused by Iron Deficiency and Pagophagia. Apropos of a case
Archives of Family Medicine: Amylophagia Presenting as Gestational Diabetes
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