What the hell is Pica and why do I have it?

Iron and Apple Juice Picamy liquid Iron and Apple Juice
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UPDATE:  My Pica is CURED!  Yup, I have been super iron deficient.  today is March 20th 2016 and I haven’t been having any cravings for coffee beans/grounds in 2 weeks.  I am so happy to not have this craving but even more, to have all the other effects of my iron deficiency anemia really start to improve.  I can ‘see’ and feel my nails starting to get stronger. I’m less affected by the cold and now find myself realizing that I am not always freezing.  I haven’t been lightheaded or get dizzy when I stand up every morning or at various times throughout the day.  There is hope for anyone out there who has been feeling ‘weird’ or struggling with a weird (freak) craving like mine.  Get your Iron and Ferritin levels checked and start working on getting your vitamins and minerals leveled out.  

Until recently I didn’t know there was an actual name for a condition I have.  It’s called Pica.  I just thought I had a super weird craving that came from nowhere.  I never told anyone about it outside my family because I thought it was just weird but harmless.

About a year ago I started craving Espresso beans.  It started off with just the chocolate covered beans.  But then I started realizing that I liked the coffee more than the chocolate so I started chewing on a few espresso beans every day.  Then, one day we ground up all of our available beans so I thought, hell, I’m going to grind it up when I chew it anyway so why not try it.

I was hooked.  Some days I’d chew on a small dixie cup amount of coffee beans.

Weird right?  RIGHT!

It’s been kind of a shameful habit.  I have tried to quit but I was compelled to keep doing it.

You know that show My Strange Addiction?  Well I was ashamed to even compare myself to the people who were eating fiberglass, borax, baby powder and so many other very weird things.  It seemed so ‘sick’ to me.

Was I like these people.  OMG.  Am I?

I thought, ‘well, at least Coffee is something you drink so it is food related and something you ingest’.  I kept telling myself that I needed to quit because I was getting a lot of extra unwanted caffeine in my diet and also, WTH kind of damage could these coffee grinds cause?

There are some medial findings on both bad and harmless coffee bean eating habits.  I wasn’t super worried but I still didn’t like that I couldn’t stop eating them.

Hell, I quit smoking ( I was a social smoker off and on for years) in the summer of 2014 but I couldn’t seem to quit this stupid and weird habit.

Over the years I’ve tweaked my supplement and diet needs to fix my various ailments.  I’ve always been very healthy.  I’m almost never sick with a cold or flu but when I do get a bug or virus, I have a super strong immune system that kicks it’s butt super fast.

But this time, I’ve struggled to figure out what exactly my issue is – until now.

How I figured out I had Pica

Over the past 6 months I’ve been feeling weirder than normal.  Over the years I’d gotten use to being light headed when I sat up in the morning.  I’ve almost always had cold hands and feet but lately, when I am cold and put my hands in hot water or take a shower, they turn dark red and feel kind of numb before going back to normal color (could be Raynaud’s disease).  I get light headed, low energy, my nails are super thin and brittle and a few other symptoms.  You don’t always start adding up all these ‘little’ things and lumping them together.  When you try you can research and find out that these symptoms are all related to various Cancers, Heart issues, Diabetes, Crohn’s disease and countless others.  Basically, I could assume I was dying.  I knew I wasn’t but still, it could be so many things.

I started the research again 2 months ago to figure out what I have.  Yes.  I could go to the Doctor but I really just don’t believe the western medicine for general health needs.  They throw pills at everything and don’t look towards food and nutrition as medicine for the most part.

Pica

Me just a few months before my Gastric Bypass Surgery in June 2008

Anyway, a bit of history here:  I had bariatric surgery, Roux-En-Y surgery, 8yrs ago.  I weighed 310lbs and have now lost 1/2 my body weight.  But.  I’m a horrible pill taker and and I just tried to get all my nutrients from food.  Well, I really let myself go with my Iron intake.  No matter how much food I ate with iron, my surgery made it impossible for my body to not only absorb enough iron but my Ferritin levels in my system were very low and were not actually disbursing my iron to the critical areas needed.

Basically I’ve become an Iron Deficient Anemic.  AND, this is where Pica comes in.

While researching my iron deficiency I stumbled across this weird side effect, some call it a disease but I’m choosing to accept that it’s a curable side effect.  This was the first online post I’d found about Pica and my Coffee Ground addiction.  If you read this link you can see that people will eat Ice, Chalk, dirt, Coffee Grounds and even more.  It’s crazy.  I’m actually glad that my pica addiction is coffee vs. chalk or dirt.

I was SO Happy!  Finally! There are other Freaks like me out there.

There’s something so comforting in knowing you aren’t alone.  Why is that?  I was happy to know that others were experiencing the same thing as me and that I couldn’t seem to quit for lack of will power but that there was a greater force at work.  My body was trying to scream that it was missing some vital nutrients.

Aren’t our bodies amazing?

My mom and I were chatting about this a month ago and I found out that she always craves Ice.  This is one of many other Pica cravings from Low Iron.  She also had gastric bypass surgery with me in 2008 and we have had pretty similar experiences in all areas of our health and weight loss so this next part was really no surprise to us.  She must have Ice in her water.  MUST.  Then, she told me that at her last Dr’s appointment her Ferritin levels were really low but that her Iron was in a good range.  Doctors have a hard time connecting the dots many times unless they specialize in specific areas like weight loss surgery.  She’d been taking some Ferritin supplements and went back to drinking liquid iron.  She’d done so in the past but wasn’t consistent.  Neither of us are great pill takers.  Like mother, like daughter I guess.

Coffee Ground and Pica

Coffee Grounds

A couple of weeks ago I found a new Liquid Iron supplement that has already made a huge difference in how I feel but also in my Pica addiction.  I’m still craving my coffee grounds but – not as much.  Yesterday I went all day without having any. That was HUGE.  Sometimes I’d just have a little in the palm of my hand like this.  It’s not always a lot but some days it was way more than this.

The Iron is already making me sleep better.  I’ve always had sleep issues since I was a child, have always had cold hands and feet as well as being super pale. I wonder if I’ve always been anemic but never diagnosed by my doctors these past 40yrs.

Now that I’ve self diagnosed myself and have taken steps to get my iron and ferritin levels under control, my Pica craving should go away on its own.

I’m an awesome researcher on all things nutritional and medical – who needs Dr Oz when there is Dr Wendy? In all my research over the years on nutrition, supplements, vitamins, minerals, immune systems, etc. I’ve somehow never paid attention to the warnings of my bariatric surgeon’s warnings about keeping up with my Iron intake.

I regularly take my sub-lingual B12’s for the past couple of years after noticing some fatigue. I always remembered that I needed a certain amount of B-12, protein, Calcium, Folic Acid and other vitamins but for some reason I just totally and completely forgot about my Iron levels.

When you have an Iron deficiency it may take years to have any noticeable symptoms show up.  Further, years after having a bariatric surgery you can show normal iron levels but if you don’t know to look for ferritin levels you may just assume you have other issues.

It will take many months to get all my levels back to where they need to be but I’m already starting to have more energy, I’m sleeping better and I’m already not as ‘cold’.

Iron and Apple Juice Pica

my liquid Iron and Apple Juice

My mom and I have tried several iron liquids that haven’t delivered the results we needed, until I found this brand.  It’s a Ferrous Sulphate Iron Elixir Supplement Liquid and we take 1 Tsp, 3 times a day.  My mom takes it with a bit of orange juice and I take it either with water or apple juice.  When you do taste the aftertaste (I don’t always taste it though) it’s like you are sucking on a dirty penny or something.

I can’t wait to not have my Pica craving for Coffee grounds any longer.  It’s a nuisance, weird and I don’t like having any addiction at all.  I feel weak for not having the will power to quit.

Yesterday was epic for me not having any.  Today I did have a very little ‘taste’ but I am not fixated on it like I have been. I’m hopeful that before the end of the month I can be free of this Pica addiction.

Anyway, I wanted to share so that if there are any other people out there who have felt like a freak, like me, you can know you aren’t alone.

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About the Author

Wendy
My name is Wendy and this is my Blog. I love to share my thoughts, Recipes, My Family, our Nomadic World travel, plans and adventures. I'm a business owner and entrepreneur, WAHM, Mom, Scentsy SuperStar Director; Cooking, Baking and Recipe Making, Cat lover, Blogger and Kick Ass Wife and Partner.

6 Comments on "What the hell is Pica and why do I have it?"

  1. Debbie Mickelson | February 19, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Reply

    Thanks for sharing. This is an interesting topic and brave of you to sharw.

  2. I suffer from anemia. Every few years I have to have an iron transfusion. I know when I am becoming anemic, not from fatigue, but because I want to eat roasted espresso beans. I am not a coffee drinker. So I always thought I was a little nuts, and was afraid to tell my doctor. I finally did, and he told me well the next time you feel the craving coming on come in for lab work! So espresso beans are my telltale sign. I knew I could not be the only one 🙂

    • I’m so glad it wasn’t only me as well. I felt like such a freak. Glad you figured it out too. Our bodies are so weird sometimes

  3. I am going through this exact thing myself. I buy a bag of whole roasted beans so that I can munch on the beans when the craving kicks in. I knew I was anemic but I didn’t relate the 2. I have to increase my iron intake through food but it hasn’t helped significantly. I will need supplements but I’m a horrible pill taker.

    It is an encouragement to read your story. I know I’m not alone in my coffee bean cravings but, more importantly, I know what to do about it.

    Thank you for sharing.

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