Eating Clay: An Ancient Tradition with Benefits and Risks
Since time immemorial, mankind has had a peculiar relationship with the earth it walks on. Beyond cultivating it or building on it, in various cultures around the world, people have consumed clay. But why would anyone want to eat earth? And what are the risks involved in this ancient custom?
Geophagy: The habit of eating clay
The consumption of clay, also known as geophagy, is a practice that has existed in many cultures throughout history and in various parts of the world. A very frequent type of mineral that is ingested is calabachop, stones of very low hardness and high kaolinite content.
There are several reasons why people consume clay:
- Detoxifying Properties: It is believed that certain types of clay can help detoxify the body by absorbing toxins, heavy metals and harmful bacteria
- Mineral Supplement: Clay can be a source of essential minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc.
- Digestive Aid: Some people believe that clay can help relieve digestive problems such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Toxin Protection: In some cultures, clay is consumed along with foods that may contain toxins. It is believed that clay can neutralize or reduce the absorption of these toxins in the body.
- Cultural and Traditional Customs: In some cultures, eating clay is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. It may be associated with rituals, spiritual practices or beliefs about health and wellness.
- Cravings During Pregnancy: Some pregnant women experience cravings for non-food substances, such as clay, chalk. This is known as pica and, although the exact causes are unclear, it may be related to nutritional deficiencies.
- Antidiarrheal properties: In some regions, clay has been used to treat diarrhea.
- Psychological Aspects: In some cases, clay consumption may be related to psychological or emotional disorders.
Anecdotes and Curiosities
One of the most fascinating stories related to clay consumption comes from the Amazon region. Local tribes are said to consume clay along with certain fruits that, although nutritious, contain toxins. The clay acts as a neutralizer, allowing people to enjoy the fruits without suffering the toxic effects.
It is important to note that not all clays are safe for consumption. Some may contain impurities or toxic levels of certain minerals. In addition, excessive consumption may lead to intestinal blockages or nutritional deficiencies, as clay may inhibit nutrient absorption.
As with many ancient practices, the act of eating clay is a reminder of the complex relationship between humans and nature. While there may be associated benefits, it is essential to be aware of the risks and consult a health professional before venturing into this ancient tradition. After all, what worked for our ancestors in a specific context is not necessarily appropriate for the modern world.
Author: Alfred Guinaroan
Sculptor, ceramist, writer
Modeling and creating from the infinity of the raw material captivated me since childhood, a few years ago now, in a small mountain village in Barcelona. My parents are not Spanish, but they fell in love with the beauty of the area and there I was lucky enough to grow up among nature.
I have been caught up in the world of sculpture and ceramic work for more than ten years now.
Art is my passion. To appreciate it and spread it is my vocation.