Craving for unusual food (and some non food items like ash called pica) is considered as the first sign of pregnancy. In reality, although some women do get strong cravings, many do notNo one knows for sure what causes food cravings. Many women find that their senses of taste and smell are changed by pregnancy. For example, some women experience an odd metallic taste in their mouths very early in pregnancy (maybe the first sign of pregnancy for an `experienced’ mother); others find that taste and smell are dulled. It is possible that these changes affect food likes and dislikes.
Some people think that cravings happen in response to temporary deficiency of specific nutrients. There is probably some truth in this, but it is not the whole story. We only need minute quantities of each vitamin and mineral — certainly not enough to justify a continual craving for just one food. For some women, food cravings may be a conscious or subconscious response to emotion.
They may crave a favourite childhood food, or a food that is of special significance to their religion or culture. Craving unusual foods may also be a private way of marking the special state of being pregnant.
Rather than develop a food craving, many women find they suddenly go off certain foods or drinks like fried foods and coffee.
This is often related to pregnancy sickness, but may also be the body’s way of ensuring that they eat and drink wisely. Generally, there’s no harm in giving into food cravings, especially if doing so helps getting through phases like early morning sickness which can be pretty distressing. However this must be done in moderation.
Eating a lot of one food only means eating less of other foods and therefore running the risk of becoming deficient in important nutrient. A craving for non-food items — such as ash or soap or toothpaste — is known as `pica’.Pica is potentially very harmful if indulged in and must be resisted.
Also, substances like soaps and ash may prevent the absorption of nutrients and other food substances.
Dr. Krishna G. Seshadri,
Consultant, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Sri Ramachandra Medical Center, Chennai
Courtsey : The Hindu