Eating Dirt – it’s good for you apparently!

Yep – you got it ! It’s one of the health crazes that came to my attention a few months ago.  I thought it was really weird. But curiosity got the better of me so I did a bit of research on it.


It melts in your mouth like chocolate, says Ruth Anne T. Joiner, describing her favorite treat.

“The good stuff is real smooth,” she adds. “It’s just like a piece of candy.”

Joiner is describing the delectable taste of dirt — specifically, clay from the region around her home in Montezuma, Ga.

While most people would recoil at the thought of eating mud or clay, some medical experts say it may be beneficial, especially for pregnant women.

“Every time I get pregnant, I get a craving — I have to eat it,” says Joiner, 40, who has given birth to four healthy babies.

“If I could get just one little bitty piece, that would stop the craving,” she says. “It has a fresh, natural-feeling taste, like the rain or something.”

Joiner, who has eaten clay for over 20 years, refuses to eat certain clays because they contain sand or have a gritty taste. “Make sure you get the real stuff,” she advised. “Some people just go out locally and get it. The store’s chalk is not as good. I could actually taste the difference.”

Eating clay during pregnancy actually calms the gut so it helps with morning sickness. White clay is best as it has kaolin which is used medicinally for nausea and tummy upsets in antacids.

“The old drunks, they used to get drunk and put it [clay] in water and drink it, then go to work. The old-timers and people in Louisiana and Mississippi — they just love to eat that Mississippi mud.”

Now that is just weird, don’t you think ?! I have heard of pregnant women craving it.  It may well have been the world’s first mineral supplement triggered by cravings in pregnant women for minerals such as calcium, iron, copper and magnesium otherwise lacking in their diet.

I just had to find out more. So here’s what I discovered –

Eating clay, mud or dirt is called geophagy. Can you believe that? There’s even a term for it!  Some experts say it is similar to pica, which is ‘the abnormal urge to eat coins, paint, soap or other non-food stuff and is included as a disorder in the classification manual for mental illness..

From the Ancient Greeks to Native Americans, geophagy has been practised, it seems, for centuries. It remains common in sub-Saharan Africa from whence it probably travelled to the United States during the slave trading days. It is still a contemporary, culturally acceptable practice in some places such as Cameroon, Haiti, Mississippi.

Some experts believe that it has health giving properties.  “It is possible that the binding effect of clay would cause it to absorb toxins,” said Dr. David L. Katz, nutrition expert at the Yale School of Medicine and a medical contributor for ABC News.

Clay, for example, is known to absorb plant toxins. The practice of cooking in clay may have originated as a way of making inedible foods edible.

Research has shown that the soil based organisms (SBO) actually create new compounds such as B vitamins, Vitamin K2, antioxidants and enzymes.  The SBO’s help get rid of nasty bugs  from the body. Not just that, they help to regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation through the whole body.  Well, I’ll be!

SBOs also help regulate the immune system and naturally reduce inflammation in  the whole body.  I’m not so sure that this is something I could bring myself to do, but there seems to be some interesting scientific evidence to back up this practice.

Now, if it came to making mud cakes and plastering my face in a clay mask – oh yeah!! I have done both in my time….

© Raili Tanska


20 thoughts on “Eating Dirt – it’s good for you apparently!

  1. There is an old adage – A child must eat a pound of dirt before she grows up. Funny how those old adages seem to always ring true. Raili, Jacqueline said that you might be interested in joining us as a host for the Writer’s Quote Challenge. It would be a delight to have you join us. Are you still interested?

  2. That’s an interesting phenomenon, but not one I think I’ll be exploring personally. It does make me wonder if there’s a market somewhere for a dirt restaurant, though.

  3. Hmm, I know kids/babies love to eat dirt. And , In my village , if I cannot find soap to wash hands after a poo-trip , am always offered to rub my hands on the dirt/mud/soil and wash it off with water . And I believe it cleanses my hand.

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