Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mama Ate Clay Dirt. I Ate Ice.

So... I read that poorly written, stereotype-pushing, trash of a paper, the UK Daily Mail. Yeah. I also watch the Real Housewives shows and tell myself I do it so that I know what kind of woman not to be. Whatever.

Anyway, I glanced at the DM a while ago and noticed this story about women who eat dirt. An image of my mother flashed through my memory. She was taking out a pan of clay dirt that she'd baked in the oven. I remembered how she'd almost gone through withdrawals when she was no longer able to get more of the stuff. My aunts used to mail it to her from Arkansas and Texas. When one of them contacted her to tell her there was no more "good, clean" dirt to be found, I think Mama went into a sort of mourning. Boy, she missed getting those packages in the mail.

(By the way, I wanted to write this post before I actually read the DM article so that everything I'm posting isn't contaminated (heh heh) by the news story.)

As crazy as it sounds that my mother ate dirt - and it was, I believe, more of a clay substance - I read somewhere that it's the minerals in the dirt that people crave. Mama ate that red dirt until she was about 50. I don't know when she started, but I know it's when she was young. In our family, we used to joke that a gravelly-looking birthmark on my little brother's temple was from all the dirt Mama ate. I guess she craved the dirt (or clay) most when she was pregnant. Sort of makes sense, when you think of minerals and cravings...

I love the part of Psalms that speaks of our bodies as being "wonderfully made." We are amazing creatures. Weird too.

For years I used to chew ice. I think that habit started when I was in my late teens. I drove people around me crazy with my ice-chewing. Any time I spent around my nieces and nephews, they complained about my crunch-crunch-crunching. Thinking back, I guess it was pretty annoying.

I chewed so much ice, I did damage to a couple of my back teeth. My habit was so bad at one point that I became an ice connoisseur. Ice from the fridge was too hard and chunky. Bagged ice was no good either because it was not uniform enough. The best ice was that from fountain drink machines: not too hard or soft and with just the right amount of crunch.

Weirdest of all about this habit of mine was that I was constantly cold. That didn't stop my cravings. It's as if the colder I got, the more I craved ice. And I shivered all that time, whether I was on an ice binge or not. Sometimes, I shivered so violently that could shake whatever chair or bed I was on. I did realize I was anemic and I did take iron pills. Since I was never sick otherwise, I never thought to mention it to a doctor.

Think the strangeness ends there? My mother had a distant cousin who craved cornstarch. I guess this is back when people bought the stuff in it's cakey-powdery form. Family lore is that this relative bought cornstarch as a part of her regular diet the way other people keep milk or butter or eggs around.

Guess what? Turns out that my habit (and my relative's) might point to signs of medical or nutritional conditions. 


The interesting thing in my case is that, when I was hospitalized for my sarcoidosis, I happened to have one of my shivering fits when some of my doctors were present. I was too loopy from the sarc then to tell you now what they had to say about it, but I know that they considered it part of the symptoms I was exhibiting. The only thing I liked about being in the hospital was discovering they had a blanket warmer. Those wonderful nurses that I had practically wheeled that bad boy right up to my door. After my initial stabilizing treatments for sarc, my shivering (and ice cravings) went away. I can't even imagine chewing on ice now.

I just find it so interesting how our bodies try expressing diseases and issues. Usually, we only listen when our bodies are telling us about things like hunger, thirst and fatigue. I wish I had paid more attention to my cravings and habits years ago. Who knows - I might have been diagnosed before my sarcoidosis got so out of hand.

So, if you know someone who has odd craving, you might want to have them mention it the next time they see a doctor. My mother never did, probably because she was embarrassed or didn't find it important.

Now I'm going to go and read this article about the other women who eat dirt.