Iron deficiency continues to be a concern of health bodies worldwide as it opens the door to significant problems when properly managed. Nutrients are essential for the production of hemoglobin, the red protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. When the body struggles to deliver oxygen to the cells, it is left feeling tired and short of breath. Another manifestation has been observed where individuals begin to eat foreign objects. According to some studies, this phenomenon is the main manifestation of iron deficiency.
In 2012, a report in the journal Medicine stated that pica appears to be strongly associated with iron deficiency anemia, but the mechanisms underpinning this relationship remain unknown.
Science Direct explains: “Pica is an uncommon disorder […] which can go unnoticed in a psychiatric examination by examination and the patient usually tends to hide it.”
Compulsive states indicate that individuals tend to eat non-nutritious substances, such as paper, soap, paint or chalk.
In 2020, Science Direct presented the case of a 29-year-old female patient who was sent to emergency services after experiencing two days of abdominal pain and constipation.
READ MORE: Girl who craves inedible substances diagnosed with iron deficiency
“The patient’s complaint was a habit of eating four to five packs of matchsticks a day for 3.5 to four years,” the report said.
“At night, when her husband and son were sleeping […]he tossed away the flammable match tip and bit the rest into small pieces, soaking them and continuing to turn them around in his mouth before swallowing them.
“He said that he felt a very strong desire to do this behavior and felt pleasure at every stage and he did not feel disgust.”
The patient has some degree of awareness that pica may be the cause of his symptoms but does not seek psychiatric treatment.
Some other forms of pica, such as the use of earth, are more culturally driven and are considered common types of pica.
How common is iron deficiency?
Unfortunately, iron deficiency remains one of the most prevalent deficiencies worldwide, with an estimated two billion people affected.
Symptoms of this condition range from extreme fatigue and pale skin, to headaches and dizziness.
Failure to treat these symptoms early can lead to life-threatening complications such as anemia.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent the situation from becoming problematic.
This condition can be caused by several factors, such as diet, blood loss, and insufficient absorption of iron from the intestines.
In most cases, eating a balanced diet that emphasizes iron-rich foods will help prevent a deficiency.
Taking supplements can also offer some protection, but consulting a doctor first is advisable.