Pregnant Kenyan women crave stones

The phenomenon of craving non-food items like soil or soft stones is referred to as pica, a Latin word for magpie, the bird notorious for eating almost anything.
Researchers from the University of Nigeria interviewed 1,071 pregnant women attending a prenatal clinic at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi.
At least 800 of those interviewed said they ate soil, stones and other non-food items during their pregnancy.

Nancy Akoth is four months pregnant and like many women in her state has strange cravings. Some women eat coal, gherkins or soap but Mrs Akoth craves soft stones, known in Kenya, where she lives, as "odowa".

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Stone-seller Stephen Ndirangu unsurprisingly says women are his main customers.

"I just have this urge to eat these stones. I do very crazy things, I would even wake up at night and go looking for them."
"I consulted my doctor and all he told me is that maybe I'm lacking iron and gave me medication on iron, but I still have the urge to eat those stones."

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Most of them buy the stones to go and sell them to women who are pregnant

Luckily for Mrs Akoth, she is not alone in craving stones and they are easily found on sale in Nairobi's sprawling Gikomba market.
It can actually cause things like kidney damage and liver damage, if you don't take enough fluid
Experts say that the craving to eat odowa is largely due to a deficiency of vital minerals, like calcium, in the body.
Although they are stones, they are too soft to break the teeth of Mrs Akoth and her fellow cravers. Nutritionist Alice Ndong says the stones have a bland taste.
"It's a pleasant taste. It doesn't have a tangy flavour or a salty or a sugary flavour. It's a bit like eating flour," she told the BBC.
I cannot do without it.


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