How to Stop Eating Soil

There are thousands of addictions that people deal with on a daily basis. Some of these addictions include excessive alcohol intake, smoking, gambling and illegal substances. One of the less known addictions is soil-eating. This addiction is more prominent in South Africa, where people literally munch down on sand and dirt all day long.

How to stop?

Eating soil usually comes from an iron or zink deficiency.

You can combat this by eating foods rich in iron and zink by increasing your meat intake. If you are a vegan you can alternatively eat more spinach, mushrooms, beans or wholegrain breads.

Some more foods high in Iron and Zink:

  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Oysters
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach
  • Cashews
  • Whole-grain breads
  • Potatoes
  • Dark Chocolate

Why do South Africans eat non-food items, such as dirt and sand? Continue reading this article to find the answer and more information on soil-eating addictions.

“Sand rusk”

For cultural and other reasons, the people of South Africa eat what is known as “sand rusk”, also known as umcako. Sand rusks are nothing more than a chunk of soil. Anyone could ask themselves why these people eat dirt. But, the truth of the matter is they enjoy eating it. In fact, many of them simply love eating it.

The locals buy sand rusk from street vendors, which costs roughly R10 each. Sand rusk has been described as having no flavor.

So, why is it that many South Africans cannot stop eating it?

Well, it appears that the texture is what draws people to it. Of course, eating sand rusks is a custom practiced by some people and social groups throughout the world. The practice of eating “soil-like” substrates is known as geophagia (geophagy). This practice has been associated with pica, a disorder that involves the consumption of non-food items.

Health benefits of eating soil, if any?!

There is no scientific evidence to back up the belief that sand rusk offers any type of health benefit. However, this does not stop the people of South Africa from utilizing it to ease their upset stomach and diarrhea. It isn’t clear whether the people actually find relief in eating sand. And, if they do one must question whether the improvement is physical or mental.

For people who cannot access healthy food, sand rusk may be the best alternative because it helps keep hunger pains at bay. So, many of these individuals are not interested in learning how to stop eating soil.


As with just about everything you eat, there are risks of ingesting sand rusk. These risks include obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract and a tear in the stomach lining. There is also risk of eating sand that is contaminated with parasites, animal and human feces and bacteria. Women who eat sand rusk during pregnancy are even at a higher risk.

Eating soil while pregnant

The nutritional needs of pregnant women are higher than the average female. Since the pregnant woman’s body goes through a variety of hormonal and physical changes, it requires more nourishment. Without the extra nourishment, the baby’s health will be in jeopardy, as well as your own health.

Researchers believe that the healthy minerals found in soil is utilized as supplements for pregnant women. These minerals include potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, calcium, phosphorus and zinc. So, eating soil can help supplement the minerals missing in the diet. The nutritional value of soil varies from one place to another.

South African women also eat soil to ease their morning sickness during pregnancy. However, eating soil with clay can cause constipation, which is caused by an increase in progesterone, a hormone that helps relax smooth muscles in the digestive tract.

2 Responses

  1. Boikhutso says:

    How can i stop eating

  2. Nomsa says:

    I started eating soil when I was pregnant, afterwards I couldn’t stop, I calms me down when I’m stressed and under pressure, I crave it so bad when I try to stop eating it. My greatest problem is that I’m losing weight intensely…….. I need to stop eating it, but the craving is just unbearable.

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