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Avatar universal

Are weird cravings sign of possible mineral deficiency?

I have a strange question about something that happens to me quite often.  Whenever I pass a construction site, am exposed to airborne concrete dust, or smell certain kinds of damp metal, I begin having the most overpowering cravings, chewing (sometimes hard) at the insides of my cheeks, or compulsively biting the sides of my tongue.

I spent 5 years (94-99) as a strict vegetarian / vegan, and have been eating mostly Lacto/Ovo with some poultry and seafood since 1998.  I have been anemic my whole life.

Could this strong, bizarre craving have something to do with my mineral deficiency, and can anyone suggest a possible regimen that may help it?  Thank you very much...
142 Responses
Avatar universal

There is a condition called PICA where one has strong cravings for non-food items such as dirt, clay, rust, chalk, paint chips...

Some experts think it may be related to a specific mineral deficiency such as Zinc, Iron, Magnesium....

Don't know if that's what's going on with you, but you did mention you're anemic.  Perhaps mention this to your doctor.  

P.S. NEVER take iron supplements--or others without your doctor's approval (especially iron!).  

Best of luck

Was Iron Deficient Anemia.
Avatar universal
I've been looking for a site to explain the same cravings you are having   - I myself have been a strict veg 5yrs ago - anemic - now just eat healthy without meat/pasta accept chx/fish/shellfish - I walk in a ceramic pottery warehouse and go nuts -  I eat this natural gum 5-8 times a day called peelu dental gum - it gives me that hint taste of cement. The explaination of mineral def makes sense - I'm surprised I did not figure that out myself - since I read up on homepathic/herbs/def and advise others and not focus on healing myself - I will give the minerals a try and advise in a month.

Avatar universal
I experienced these cravings of clay, dirt, chalk and other simular things as a child.  Although I have always been aware of the strong attraction to the smell of wet clay or wet concrete after a rain, I have not experienced the strong cravings from my childhood until this last month.  The funny thing is, although I do not eat a lot of meat, I do eat meat, I am not pregnate, nor am I low in iron.  I have been taking vitamins pretty regularly but I think I'll keep a closer watch on the cravings when I take calcium.... I'm at a loss.  I can say that I have not been very hungry lately but crave ice like crazy!  How can we figure out what is causing this?
Avatar universal
I've actually been eating mud and dirt since I was about 10. Grew up that way my whole life, never could stop.

Just kidding~.

For the anemic lady, I would advocate that you ask that your copper level be checked (Plays just as big of a role w/ anemia as iron-unfortunately, it is rarely looked into) and ask your physician about the merits of adding B12, Folic Acid and B6 to your diet.

Knowing where your copper level is sitting is HUGE-more than you would ever know, as a matter of fact. If he/she would ever agree to run this test for you, remind him/her they must take into account that of the two genetic disorders that can go along with distortions to copper serum.

As for why anyone would want to eat dirt or clay, etc, I wouldn't begin to know what that would ever be about.
Avatar universal
Oh my gosh,I am so glad I found this site, I thought I was going crazy, I want to eat fresh laid asphalt, anything at a construction site, drink bleach and gasoline, and anything with a strong smell, I also want to eat my sons sidewalk chalk when we are outside,  not to mention wanting to crab ahandful of dirt and shoving it in my mouth, these cravings are overpowering Iwill salivate when we pass construction sites......
Avatar universal
Hi my name is Andi, I am an 18 year old female and I have a serious concerns about my latest food-related (or lack there of) cravings. For the past 2to3 months I have the strongest urges to eat clay, chalk or sand .  I’ve even gone as far as licking the vents in my house as compensation.  As far as I know I am on the healthier side, my weight is on the lighter side for my height but I am still normal. I have no idea what to do every time I go to the beach  or pass a construction site I seem to find myself salivating  at the smells. Once even (when no one was looking) pouring handfuls of sand into my mouth hoping to get rid of the craving. I don’t know what’s wrong with me I’m hoping  writhing this e-mail to u will help me. Please respond in urgency.  Thank you.
Avatar universal
I have the strongest urge all the time to smell gasoline.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  It is driving me crazy I want to smell it all the time.  I want to taste sooo bad but I know that it would prob. kill me.  We have a gas can in our garage and everytime I walk past the garage my mouth begins to water.  I am anemic also and drink diet pop alot.  I like other chemical smells also like old car fumes, dirtbike and atv fumes, some paints, some markers, etc. Does anyone have a clue what causes this?  I am at my witts end because I am a smoker and sniffing gas is very bad for me.  I DO NOT want to get high from it, I just crave the smell so bad.
Avatar universal
I am having the same problem... craving the smell of gasoline, asphalt and exhaust fumes... but mainly gasoline.  I also am not wanting to get high from it, but just want to inhale the smell... I have told my husband about this and he just kind of laughs at me... but it is kind of scary... why all of the sudden is this happening?  I am not a junky... I am a normal, functioning person!
Avatar universal
If you crave smells like gas, asphalt, exhaust, PineSol, Vicks, bleach, ceramics, or if you want to EAT ice, dirt, clay or other similar things, YOU PROBABLY HAVE IRON DEFICIENCY. These symptoms are called PICA. Pica is found most often in pregnant women and children who are anemic but pica can sometimes happen in healthy non-pregnant women and men. Even mild iron deficiency can cause pica. Go to your doctor to get tested. Tell him you think you have pica and anemia, and ask for anemia testing. He/she test your blood for iron, ferritin, MCV, MCHC, RDW, RBC, Hematocrit, and Hemoglobin. Your doctor may do tests to see whether blood loss is the cause of your anemia, for instance, bleeding from stomach ulcers, excessive menstrual bleeding or from donating blood. You should let him/her know if you are vegetarian, do not eat red meat, or are an endurance athlete (these increase your risk of anemia). If you are indeed iron deficient, once you start taking an iron supplement, your pica symptoms will disappear in 10 days - 2 weeks.
I'm not iron def or vegetarian, but I always have an excessive urge to inhale dust from a dusty road or crushed rock and sand. Does anyone else have this, or know why?
144586 tn?1284666164
Boy, that is an interesting question. I think jh1234 is going in the right direction to suggest iron deficiency and the testing recommended  by jh1234 is right on the money.
Avatar universal
WOW!!  I can't believe I just happened to come accross this forum!!  I am sooooo thankful I did!  I was researching, AGAIN, about these overwhelming cravings I have, and that is how I found this forum.  I can't believe I finally found other people who can relate to these cravings I've been experiencing for some time now!!  To be honest, the few people I have shared this "problem" with really do think I'm crazy!!!!  I have yet (until now) found anyone that can even begin to understand how or why I crave the things I do.  I believe I started having these cravings for about 2 years now, and maybe more!

I'm embarassed to say that just talking about these cravings here is making my mouth water!  I think the very first cravings I started having were for fuel.  I especially LOVE the smell of diesel fuel before it is burned in a vehicle, but I also love the fumes that come from a diesel truck of any kind.  I also love the smell of other fuels about as well now, such as gasoline and kerosine!!  I don't just love them-----I LOVE them, and I desperately want to eat them!!  I also find that I love the smell of fresh cut wood, such as you would find in the lumber isle of Home Depot, etc.  I have even stopped at Home Depot just to walk through the lumber isle and smell the wood, all the while salivating!!  I also want to eat the wood, and I try to think of ways that I can do this without harming myself.  I sit and daydream of eating sawdust that is soaked with gasoline!!  I have told my son and my husband this, and they seem very concerned.  I have assured them that I will not eat anything harmful, but to be honest, sometimes the cravings are so overwhelming that I think I HAVE to eat something to satisfy my cravings.  My cravings now include MARKERS, certain kinds of DIRT (just by the way it looks to me), lots of chemical smells, such as CLEANING PRODUCTS.  I also crave the smell of WOOD STAIN, too!!  There is a shop some miles from my house that sells Amish made oak furniture.  When you go in that shop, you get a strong smell of stain!  It makes my mouth water, and I feel like I want to lick the furniture!  Also, another craving that is just as powerful as the rest is ASPHALT (blacktop)!!!  I want to inhale it and eat it!  Whenever I went through a construction area this summer where they were laying asphalt, I would roll my window down and take deep breaths to inhale every bit of the fumes I could!

My cravings are so bad I try to think of places I can go to smell the things I crave!!  I get bottles of cleaner out of the cupboard and smell them over and over again.  I think the biggest problem is, though, that smelling never seems to be enough.  As I said before, I want to EAT these things.  I even want to feel certain textures between my teeth while I'm chewing them!

I am a vegetarian but not totally vegan, as I do use milk and eggs in baking.  I also eat cheese, but I don't eat any red meat, poultry, or seafood!  I am cold all the time, and people have told me before that I am probably anemic.  I am terrified to go to the doctor for ANY reason, so I have never been tested for anemia!  The whole doctor thing is a huge issue of it's own, but I really am a normal person!  I'm so glad to find out that I am not alone with these cravings!  They are much more powerful than most people could ever understand, and these cravings are with me EVERY single day, all day long.  Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!
Avatar universal
Oh my goodness!  I thought I was the only one who experienced this wierd need to smell Pine-sol, Seabreeze facial astringent, Vicks vapor rub, gasoline, magic markers, and tea tree oil.  I feel like a drug addict because I will stand and smell these things hoping nobody sees me.  I would be so embarrassed.  Fortunately, I don't want to eat these products.  However, I do feel like sniffing sometimes isn't enough.  I don't feel  loopy after sniffing these items, but I do feel better after taking several whiffs.  I have previously been checked for anemia, but that came up negative.  So, what other reason could there be for these crazy - and sometimes insatiable - smell cravings?
Avatar universal
maybe cravings for such substances are due to all the artificial highly potent flavor/smelling stuff in our food these days o_O perhaps some persons' bodies get confused :-D  while others just might have smelled those things since their childhood, aquired a taste for it and subconsciously associate these smells with something positive. I mean... why not. Lots of people even like the taste of burned tobacco, while everyone who tries first in youth (or childhood nowadays...) has to force himself to get used to it because it's disgusting :-D If one can aquire a taste for smoke, why not all the other things listed... Doesn't seem particularly weird to me, in comparison to people who voluntarily inhale gaseous residues of burned substances.
*just making wild guesses* :-)

As a child I liked the smell of a particular brand of "lighter petrol" hehe. But not so much that I wanted to sniff it for its own sake.

Avatar universal
I am not pregnant.  I am in my 30's.  I am overweight.  I am not anemic.  I have a lot of anxiety.  And, I crave the most unusual smells.  I am addicted to the scent of permanent markers, gasoline, sulphur phosphates, Pine Sol, bleach, Gain detergent, diesel exhaust, dust, tire stores, just about anything that has a harsh fume to it.  I don't crave sweet smells.  I used to crave sweet smells like shampoos, perfumes, potpourri, years ago in my 20's.  When I was pregnant years ago, I craved dirt and Pine Sol like crazy!  But, now, for some reason--- I cannot fascinate myself enough with the "fume" smells that so many products emit!  I don't sniff them to get high.  I don't want to eat them, though I've dabbed a touch of Gain detergent on my tongue to see if it would relieve my addiction to the smell.  I like to take cleaners with bleach and spray them on a paper towel and smell it.  I have to take it with me sometimes, before traveling far.  I cannot keep myself from looking under the bathroom sinks of my friends' houses, to see if I can find something to take a whiff of.  I keep a marker in my pocket and purse all the time, and no matter where I go, I have to have it.  I like to pull over and smell it, but I'm embarassed that someone is going to see me.  The other day I put the tip of the marker in my mouth to see what it tasted like. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't good, either.  If I knew that Pine Sol wouldn't kill me, I'd drink it.  

What is this?  I've done research.  I don't know if it's PICA or not and if it is, is there anything to do about it?  This is a growing problem, from what I've discovered.  Is there research on this topic being checked out?  
Avatar universal
wow,,, I am so relieved. my family thinks im crazy. i just recently started having the urge to sniff at first Ajax cleaner. I love it so much i would inhale the can until i'd choke from the particles mouth. ivealways loved the smell of gasoline, but not as much as i do now.
my sister accidentally got attacked at the gas pump and got her sweater and jeans soaked with it. she came home and immediately gave me the sweater off her back bcuz i begged for it so much. i wanna sniff rubbing alcohol until i cant sniff anymore. problem is, when i smell these fumes..i'm never satisfied. ive been wanting for a while now to be in the midst of any chemical that has a powdery-like texture. that will leave a cloud of heavy dust or smoke. i wanna be right in the middle of it..inhaling.
yes, i could sniff these fumes all day. yes, i cant get enough. but the only difference with me is that i enjoy it so much i find myself getting turned on by it. ( as weird as that may sound)
unbeknownst to me i began  making moaning sounds. im getting turned on just thinking about it. things like clorox disenfecting wipes, rubbing alcohol, ajax, gasoline, bathroom cleaners, and sometimes even powder(bcuz of the dusty, smoke type texure.
i want these urges to go away. but in a weird way, i dont!!!

im 24..female. at first i thought i was pregnant but im not. at least now i know what to tell my doctor to check for. thanks alot!!
Avatar universal
I am having problems with Anemia. My doctor has put me on HUGE iron pills and We've even been talking about blood transfusion. But i find myself EATING ICE. when i work at the mall I always go to starbucks and get a VENTI glass full of ice and when i'm working at the nursing home i keep my water bottle full of ice. it's ridiculous.

I have this face wash taht when i am washing my face it smells sooo good i want to eat it and it scares me half to death. But the doctor says it's just because i'm low on iron.
Avatar universal
I just looked up PICA and some of the symptoms seem to match what people are writing about here. However, it is a diagnoses for 'eating non food items'. I have not (like many of you here) eaten the things that I crave to smell. PICA also does not mention smell at all. Also there is quite a lot of causes, from (the easiest to cure) Iron deficiencies to mental diseases. I am like the rest of you 'normal' functioning. I printed off the messages and I am taking it to my doctor. Hopefully she will be able to help.
Avatar universal
i also have these cravings sometimes particularly for chalk, wet cement and such....but unlike most of you i'm male and i eat fairly well with no restrictions to anything...i also work out and was wondering if these cravings were a way of my body telling me that i need to consume particular nutrients for muscle growth or growth in general as im only 19??

any ideas?
Avatar universal
I have been doing a lot of research on zinc deficiency and an important first sign is loss of smell, as well as pica and many other odd cravings. Zinc is so basic to our body’s functioning (enzymes, reproduction, digestion, brain, immune system, and much more) that even a mild deficiency causes major problems in every bodily system-including hair loss, both obesity and anorexia, depression, acne, all dental problems, and much more. Zinc is lost from our bodies from chemicals, sugar (zinc is a component of insulin, and is lost every time we eat sugar!) and processed foods. Someone mentioned diet soda-every ingredient depletes zinc! Zinc is in all sources of protein, so we should all have enough, but there are so many chemicals that we’re exposed to-preservatives, taste enhancers, pesticides, metals, food dyes, solvents, medications, estrogens, etc.-that we’re probably all at least somewhat low in zinc, and teens, young adults and elderly may be quite low. To pardus-zinc is absolutely required for building muscles-check out ZMA (but they should be adding copper to protect the heart, prevent premature white hair and much more).
Many of the cravings mentioned here-ice, sand, clay, concrete, soil and chalk-are definitely from a mineral deficiency.  A deficiency in zinc leads to an imbalance of metals: low usable copper, which leads to low blood iron (as someone mentioned) as well as high storage iron (dangerous).  Heavy metals can accumulate in zinc deficiency because zinc normally takes them out of the body, and heavy metals then displace zinc further. Someone I know with ADHD, who is low in zinc, also craves strong smells, like deodorants, gasoline, lighter fluid, air fresheners, cleaning products, so I believe these cravings are from a mineral imbalance, probably with some accumulation of heavy metals (which all Americans have to some extent).
Zinc and copper are our protective minerals in many ways, and they help us properly digest our food so we can get all our other nutrients, including minerals like iron, B vitamins, vitamin E and vitamin A. I think everyone should be taking at least some zinc and copper, along with a tablespoon of cod liver oil (vitamin D and fatty acids are necessary for zinc absorption) and boron (helps with copper and protects teeth!). Take zinc and copper (they both must be taken or else zinc lowers copper) at least 2 hours apart: 25 to 50 mg zinc and 3 to 5 mg copper. Also, no high doses of vitamin C or calcium-they displace zinc. Also, cut way back on sugar/processed foods, especially soda, and eat lots of pumpkin seeds, seafood and beans! All my friends and family are taking zinc and copper now and there’s been some great results, so I really think this will help. Be patient though, it can take up to 2 years to correct a zinc deficiency.
410943 tn?1202262442
The craving for things like paint and dirt is usually from a deficiency in either Vitamin D or Calcium. Your doctor can have these tested so ask and find out where you are at.

Good Luck
Avatar universal
wat do i do i have aneamia and not do i only crave this wierd stuff ive been eating it since 2 years bt only very small amounts and i stopped for ages bewteen these two years.

sometimes going to the toilet is hard especially when im menstruating.

i want to tell a doctor bt i dnt no what to do and what will the doctor do to me or say?
what should i tell my doctor? im so scared

plz plz help me guys!!!!

thnku soo much

Avatar universal
Celtic,  just tell your doctor what you are experiencing.  I'm sure he or she has heard it ALL before.  You can even admit to the doctor that you are embarrassed and scared by this so you want to address it head on.  Make a list of things you want to ask before you go into the doctor so you can refer to it.  Everything is going to be just fine!  But you have to take that first step and call for an appointment.  Good luck!
Avatar universal
WOW!! I am not from another planet! I have told all of my family and friends about my cravings and they think I am crazy, my boyfriend even told me that I was doing it for attention. My biggest cravings are vapor rub, moth balls, pine-sol, finger nail polish and cedar but all the other things mentioned, I love too!  I have to admit, I have went the extra mile, I have been eating vapor rub on a regular basis for over a year. I started having to carry it with me all the time and then after a while, I couldnt resist it anymore!! I had to taste it! It was the most wonderful thing that I had ever tasted! Just commenting on it, I am having to eat it because my mouth is watering. I could just take a moth ball and dip it in vapor rub and have a glass of pin-sol along with it and be in hog heaven! I havent tried anything oraly except for the vapor rub, I just hope that I can continue to fight it off. Coal is another thing, its not the smell but just the fact that when I chew it, it leaves gritt in my mouth. Ice is another thing that I cant get enough of. I have had problems with my iron and I am on a anti-deppresent called Effexor, I am a white female, 32 years of age. I also have social anxiety problems. Does anyone else crave moth balls?
553792 tn?1215287687
I was driven to the emergency room yesterday.  I thought I was dying.  After being there for hours.  They said I was anemic.  I had lost 1/2 of my blood count.  They wanted to transfuse me.  I chose iron supplements.  Well, I said that to say, that explains my TWO super cravings.  I had to have extra PICKLES on my double cheese burger.  And I hate pickles.  I don't recall when it began, but the craving was there.  Now for the ultimate super craving.  Sniffing gas.  I had it for the last month or so.  I got to have it.  I want it now. At the gas station I would sit in my car with the door open and inhale the fumes with great concentration.  When I would get home at night (dark so no one would see me) open my gas tank and sniff as much fumes as would come out.  I crave gas in the morning, day, and night.  What makes it so bad, I like the cravings.  This has to be damaging in some way.
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