Eating cornstarch cannot only make you sick, but also it can indicate the presence of underlying conditions such as mineral deficiencies or gestational diabetes. Cravings for cornstarch and other non-digestible things is a red light you should heed and a warning to make an appointment to see your health practitioner for tests.
What is Cornstarch?
Cornstarch is derived from the endosperm at the heart of corn kernels. It is used in cooking as a thickening agent and, in some cases, as a substitute for talc in body powders. Cornstarch does not demonstrate toxicity itself; however, for some people who crave it by itself, it can indicate various mineral deficiencies.
Eating cornstarch and other non-food items such as dirt, sand, feces or paper is called pica. Adults and children can suffer from pica; however, it is more common in young children, according to the A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia. Pregnant women may find themselves craving indigestible things because of a mineral deficiency or lack of nutrients such as zinc or iron. Pica is not only a craving for non-food materials, but for the feel of certain textures.
Symptoms, Signs and Tests
Symptoms for pica range from eating a variety of non-food materials such as hair, ice, sand, paint and clay. The pattern of doing so should last a minimum of one month before making a diagnosis, according to the A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia. There are no definitive tests for pica; however, because it usually occurs in people suffering from mineral deficiencies, blood tests are often performed to check levels of iron and zinc -- the most common deficiencies. Additionally, your health practitioner should test for infection and lead poisoning if contaminated soil, animal feces or paint was consumed. Treatment often focuses on replacing missing nutrients, resolving other medical conditions and changing behaviors through therapy. Sometimes medications are prescribed.
Amylophagia is a form of pica and is specific to the compulsive consumption of large amounts of purified starch. It is common to see this condition arise in women during pregnancy. The Archives of Family Medicine note that amylophagia is also a symptom of possible gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Amylophgaia is distinct from regular pica because it involves only a craving for refined starch such as cornstarch. Amylophagia may also be related to iron deficiency anemia, according to the journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology. This condition is seen more often in ethnic women.
Eating large quantities of cornstarch can also lead to severe constipation and blockages of the bowel. There is also some anecdotal evidence that eating genetically modified cornstarch, or GMOs, may lead to additional loss of nutrition as well as ulcers, acid reflux and digestive upsets of all kinds.
- Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology: Amylophagia and Iron Deficiency Anemia
- A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia: Pica
- La Revue de Medecine Interne: Anemia Caused by Iron Deficiency and Pagophagia. Apropos of a Case
- Archives of Family Medicine: Amylophagia Presenting as Gestational Diabetes