Food perversions: diagnosis, correction, prognosis

The uncontrollable desire to eat little or inedible substances and objects is called food perversion. The disorder manifests itself during pregnancy, stress, pysycho-diseases, deficiency of some chemical element in the body. To determine the cause of the pathological condition, laboratory diagnosis, consultation with a psychologist or examination by a psychiatrist are used. There is no direct connection with leptin in this case. But indirectly, fluctuations in the level of the hormone of fat cells in the blood can provoke an irresistible desire to satiety, with food perversions – not with useful products, but with indigestible substances.


  1. General information.
  2. Triggers of pathology.
  3. Diagnosis.
  4. Correction.
  5. Prognosi.


The term itself means, essentially, an improper appetite. Food strangeness has been described since the time of Hippocrates, and today it is on a par with bulimia and anorexia. Patients have an irresistible urge to eat something that, according to the norms of human perceptions, simply should not be consumed: chalk, earth, paint. This can be dangerous not only to health, but also to life.

This eating disorder most often occurs in women of reproductive age in 1% of cases, and in children and adolescents in 15%. As a rule, people in economically underdeveloped regions suffer from perverted eating disorders. The group of such pathological conditions does not include cases of children eating inedible objects out of curiosity, consuming inedible objects as components of national cuisine or in forced extreme conditions.

Triggers of pathology

There are several of them, the most common being food perversions:

  1. During pregnancy, against the background of hormonal restructuring, the expectant mother begins to experience a desire to eat spicy and salty foods, sweets, mixing incompatible foods. As the fetus enlarges, it needs more and more new nutrients and in larger quantities, so deficiencies form in the pregnant woman. Micronutrient deficiencies provoke in the body of the future mother’s desire to saturate the earth, soap, ice, fresh dough, raw meat or fish. The peculiarity of food cravings during gestation is considered to be a pregnant woman’s retention of control over her behavior. Understanding that eating dangerous substances can cause harm to the baby makes you eliminate potentially dangerous substances from your “menu”.
  2. Due to deficiency states resulting from insufficient intake or absorption by the body of specific vitamins and trace elements. In food perversions there is a combination of signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies – a feeling of brokenness, skin rashes, immunodeficiency. Cravings for indigestible substances accompany such pathologies as anemia, zinc or calcium deficiency, hypovitaminosis B6.
  3. As a sign of juvenile chlorosis in girls during puberty. This condition is preceded by fatigue, lethargy, drowsiness, tachycardia, and tinnitus. As the symptoms progress, there is a desire to eat earth, impaired sense of smell, alabaster pallor of the skin, dyspepsia, amenorrhea.
  4. Psychological disorders as a result of chronic stress. Eating indigestible substances provokes an increase in energy expenditure and nutrient consumption to balance the stress metabolism. The ratio of leptin to ghrelin in the blood is disturbed, which causes indomitable hunger and makes the person eat toothpaste, chalk, earth, in addition to the usual foods. Some patients begin to chew their nails, eat their hair, pieces of skin. This is caused in childhood by insufficient attention from parents, bullying by peers, excessive psychophysical stress, moving to a new place of residence. The child needs care and begins to eat paper, sand, stones to attract attention.
  5. In mental disorders, eating perversions indicate the severity of the pathology and the poor prognosis of the disease. Such disorders are poorly corrected, and attempts to limit the eating of indigestible foods cause aggression. Autism, oligophrenia, and schizophrenia are the most common triggers of eating disorder.

Rare causes include: anorexia, senile dementia, Klein-Levin syndrome, psychosocial dwarfism, having valuable supernatural ideas (urinotherapy).


The diagnosis of changes in eating habits is made by pediatricians or internists, depending on the age of the patient, provided there are no signs of mental illness. If eating disorders are accompanied by mental disorders, however, the diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist. The goal of diagnosis is to identify the root cause of the eating disorder, and for this purpose they are used:

  1. Laboratory testing to determine levels of vitamins, macro- and micronutrients, which is especially informative in pregnancy. The OAC gives a picture of hypochromic anemia. Serum iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6 concentrations in serum and urine are also determined.
  2. Tests for celiac disease to rule out deficiency states due to impaired absorption in the small intestine: antibodies to gliadin and tissue transglutaminase are determined. If necessary, an additional biopsy of the intestinal mucosa, endoscopic examination, D-xylose test and Schilling test are performed.
  3. Test the feces for worm eggs, taking into account possible mineral deficiency against the background of parasitic infection. Modern practice involves serology and skin testing.
  4. Psychological counseling establishes psychological triggers of food cravings: stress, interpersonal conflicts, standard intellectual tests.
  5. Examination by a psychiatrist helps assess a person’s thinking patterns, intelligence, diagnoses pseudo-hallucinations, hypochondria, which can provoke food perversions.


Therapy consists of measures before and after diagnosis. Before clinical diagnosis, it is sufficient to correct the diet of pregnant women with minimal changes in eating behavior and little mineral deficiency. Products rich in iron, zinc, and calcium are indicated: bran, pine nuts, cottage cheese, meat, and hard cheese. After delivery, symptoms of eating disorders often disappear on their own. When overeating harmful substances, it is important to supervise the patient and guarantee the suppression of repeated attempts to eat something inedible. Plus, urgent medical attention is needed.

Psychotherapy is considered to be the main treatment for eating disorders associated with psychological triggers. For celiac disease, a lifelong gluten-free diet. Otherwise, the therapy regimen includes: vitamin and mineral complexes, antihelminthics, sedatives, and psychotropics.


As a rule, food perversions are not life-threatening for the patient. The risk of intoxication and severe complications arises only when hazardous substances are overeated. This can be fatal, so patients with food perversions need to be monitored at all times.


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