The 2018 Sedona Health and Nutrition Conference was held for health care providers to discuss and identify general and specific approaches to the incorporation of nutritional intervention in medical practice. The conference aims to recognize the links between dietary choices and illnesses, such as eating disorders.
In the case of the less recognized and understood eating disorder such as Pica, an individual or his family may not know the behavior as a disorder. As it is not motivated by the desire to change one’s appearance, it is considered a feeding disorder more than a classic eating disorder. Pica is especially challenging to detect as the person may be aware and worried about their eating patterns but may be embarrassed to seek help. The first step to overcoming Pica is to understand the condition and the available treatment options.
What is Pica?
Pica is a compulsive feeding disorder that causes people to eat non-food items that do not contain a significant nutritional value for at least one month. These non-food items and substances ingested may vary with age and availability, but they are usually:
- Dirt and sand
- Paint chips
- Cigarette butt
It can affect children, adolescents, adults of any genders, as well as pregnant people. Pica often occurs alongside mental health disorders. It is associated with impaired functioning, such as schizophrenia, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, excoriation disorder, and hair-pulling disorder.
Treatment of Pica
The diagnosis for Pica is usually made from the clinical history of the patient. Hence, the patient needs to be honest with their doctor about the substances that they eat.
The first line of treatment for people diagnosed with Pica is to correct any mineral or nutritional deficiencies caused by the disorder. Surgery may also be performed to remove substances from the patient’s digestive tract or to treat other injuries caused by the digestion of non-food items. The doctor may refer the patient for psychological evaluation and behavioral interventions.
After the results, the patient may be prescribed with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. These treatments will help the patient develop coping skills and strategies to deal with the impulses of eating non-food items. Along with these treatments, the awareness of and support by their loved ones can help set off a Pica patient towards healing.