Can you eat chalk?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat chalk?” with an in-depth analysis of chalk, the harmful effects of eating chalk, why do some people crave chalk, the causes and treatment of chalk addiction.

Can you eat chalk?

No, you should not eat chalk. Chalk is a non-food item, hence it is not edible. Although consuming small amounts of chalk may not be harmful to you but if consumed regularly and in larger amounts, it can result in major health problems, as well as can cause severe damage to the digestive system and internal organs.

What is chalk made of?

Chalk is made up of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which is a kind of limestone formed from the shells of smaller aquatic animals, regarded as foraminifera, and from the calcareous remains of aquatic algae called coccoliths. In addition to calcium carbonate, chalk also has minor amounts of silt and clay. 

Widespread sediments of chalk are found in various parts of the world. Chalk typically has white or light grey colour. It is very perforable, porous, and delicate hence, easily breakable. 

Pastel chalks are made up of calcium sulfate (CaSO4), which is acquired from gypsum (CaSO4-2H2O). Gypsum is a mineral that is formed by the accumulation of ocean brine; it is also present in the limestone.

Harmful effects of eating chalk

Although consumption of chalk in smaller quantities may not cause much harm, regular eating of chalk that too in larger quantities can lead to severe health problems. The side effects of eating chalk include:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Respiratory problems
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue 
  • Gastric problems such as vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation
  • Eye allergies 

Other risks of eating chalk consistently involve:

  • tooth damage 
  • difficulty in eating regular foods
  • lead poisoning
  • Parasitic infection
  • loss of appetite

Causes of chalk addiction

Various factors are known to cause can chalk addiction, for instance::

Pica: Chalk craving is mostly associated with a condition known as Pica. Pica is an eating disorder where a person craves or eats non-food items that have no nutritional benefits such as, chalk, coal, soap, crayons, paper, soil, washing powder, and ice. 

Mental disorder– Many times, pica is linked with other mental health conditions or disorders. It is believed that mental disorders drive the addiction of eating chalk in some people, all the time.

Nutrient deficiency– Chalk craving also relates to a diet that lacks vital nutrients. Lack of beneficial nutrients in the diet induces the body and the mind towards compulsive disorder. For instance, when people suffer from iron deficiency, their bodies lack enough iron to produce haemoglobin. This triggers unusual cravings including that of chalk. 

Pregnancy– Often pregnant women are found to crave unusual items including chalk, pickles, ice, etc. It may be because women experience major physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy and their sense of taste and smell can be considerably affected. 

Poverty- Poor people often become a victim of pica because they do not have proper food easily available to them, so they eat chalk to minimize their hunger.

People who are at risk of developing pica

Some people are more at risk for developing this eating disorder. These people may include:

  • Pregnant women 
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Malnourished individuals
  • Autism 
  • Children within the age of one to six.
  • Adults with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 
  • Schizophrenia patients
  • Individuals who have mental or developmental disabilities.

Treatment of chalk addiction

The treatment for chalk addiction depends on the underlying problem. For instance,

If the person has a nutritional deficiency as revealed by a blood test, the doctor will recommend nutritional supplements to make up for the deficiency. In many cases, supplements that fulfil nutritional requirements are enough treatment to put an end to the craving and addiction.

However, if eating chalk is related to some other condition, such as autism or obsessive-compulsive disorder, prescription medication and appointments with a psychologist might be suggested.

Also, your physician may check for the damage caused by chalk ingestion. For this, the doctor may perform blood tests, x-rays and endoscopy tests.

You can also play your part by getting rid of all means through which you can have your hands on chalk and associated substances.

Withdrawal symptoms of chalk addiction

After you start your treatment you will notice some major changes in your body. Some withdrawal symptoms of chalk addiction include:

  • The extreme desire to resume eating chalk
  • Sad, negative and depressed behaviour
  • Extreme weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains.
  • Bloating, dizziness, anxiety, and irritation 
  • Muscle pains, headaches, and chills 

Conclusion

In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat chalk?” with an in-depth analysis of chalk, the harmful effects of eating chalk, why do some people crave chalk, the causes and treatment of chalk addiction.

References 

https://www.healthline.com/health/eating-chalk#outlook
https://www.lybrate.com/topic/treatment-for-addiction-of-eating-chalk

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.