|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 57-58
Geophagy is a worldwide health hazard for pregnant women: A view
Muhammad Shahidul Islam1, Anup De2
1 Office of Physical Education, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh
2 Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
|Date of Submission||10-Feb-2022|
|Date of Decision||15-Mar-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||13-Apr-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||27-Jul-2022|
Dr. Anup De
Former Research Scholar, Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Islam MS, De A. Geophagy is a worldwide health hazard for pregnant women: A view. Res Cardiovasc Med 2022;11:57-8
Geophagia or geophagy is the unusual activity of purposely consuming earth or soil-like things such as clay, chalk, or termite mounds to supplement a deficient or mineral-deficient diet or as part of a cultural tradition among individuals., Although in modern society, the habit of intentionally ingesting earth soil is not significantly practiced. Indeed, this practice was noted by several ancient writers and is nearly common in tribal and traditional rural societies worldwide. Altogether, the activity is widespread in some human communities and is easily accessible in few places if one has sufficient knowledge of the subject. On the other hand, picas, an eating condition in which people desire and eat nonfood items, commonly consume dirt. Some anemic persons, as well as some pregnant women around the world, ingest soil.
According to previous studies, a very few pregnant women still have a significant craving for soil, probably due to the possible protection soil offers against toxins and parasites. Interestingly, some people believe that consuming earth substances is a cultural tradition that has some benefits. Some communities believe that it can aid stomach problems, make softer skin or alter skin tone, provide protection during pregnancy, and prevent or treat illness by absorbing toxins. Geophagia is a condition that affects many pregnant women, especially in Africa. Geophagia is justified for various reasons, including cultural, medical, and religious ones, making it a socially acceptable practice despite the health dangers associated. In Bangladesh's tea-growing Sylhet district rural area, an increasing number of pregnant women are eating burned earth locally called shikor mati [Figure 1], following a practice intended to enhance their appetite, which, in turn, will improve their health and that of their unborn child. People believe that soil which has a calming effect is used as a medication and could be used to treat ulcers, diarrhea, and menstruation pain when taken orally, rectally.
|Figure 1: A sample of clay locally called shikor mati obtained from vendor in urban Sylhet, Bangladesh|
Click here to view
The cause behind geophasia is that pregnant women seek the flavor and texture of dirt, and in ancient times, they preferred red clay dirt. Some people feel that eating dirt is helpful for a baby; however, when the soil contains toxins or parasites, it can be hazardous. Not long ago, Shamsunnahar Hena, a gynecologist in a Bangladeshi hospital, was taken aback when one of her pregnant patients admitted to eating half a kilogram of soil every day since conception. However, doctors warn that the soil-eating habit is harmful to both the mother and her child. In Bangladesh's Sylhet, very few people still consume earth soil, particularly those who are pregnant women and practice geophagy or earth-eating. Drinking contaminated groundwater has already exposed a huge percentage of Bangladesh's population to high levels of arsenic (As) and other harmful substances. A previous study found consumption of geophagic materials at large doses regularly could be harmful, especially during pregnancy. Scientist found 75% iron deficiency due to geophagia which makes it a serious health hazard. Basically, females are more prone to iron deficiency due to their monthly menstruation cycle, which is the most common cause of anemia and is classified as hypochromic microcytic anemia. Consumption clay cannot absorb iron as well. Clay can also prevent potassium and zinc absorption in the body. This could also result in zinc insufficiency., Without a doubt, eating soil can be hazardous because this may contain metals, human waste, parasites, and other dangerous substances. Likewise, potential associations of maternal geophagic activities with adverse birth outcomes include low birth weight, neural tube defects, premature birth, and elevated prenatal mortality detected due to heavy metal toxicity and maternal nutrition. Therefore, this practice certainly affects the new generation. Some researchers found that the practice of geophagia during pregnancy is also connected with high serum levels of heavy metals. Finally, geophagia may influence pregnant women to gestational diabetes, electrolytes imbalance, and reduced intestinal enzymes behavior. As a consequence, earth dirt-eating should be avoided, and people should be aware of the risks, especially for pregnant women.
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Conflicts of interest
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