Posted in Anemia, life

Vegetarian Pica

Thanks to another flare of my iron deficiency anemia I have not only been enjoying a debilitating bout of fatigue, chills, and ghost pale skin, but I have been dealing with another round of vegetarian pica. Vegetarian pica is a term that I created to explain my sudden desire for and acceptance of meat when my iron takes a rapid plunge.  Having been raised a vegetarian, I had no taste of desire for meat. Growing up the idea of consuming the dead body of a sad faced cow or chicken had no appeal to me. I much preferred my vegetarian hot dogs made of unfeeling soy than the ground up body of a once living and breathing animal.

Then allergies, with their long list of thou shalt not eat this or that came along, accompanied by an inflamed stomach that churned out burning acid at the drop of a pin.  And overnight variety and taste became a distant memory as I dutifully recycled the few remaining dishes in my small culinary library.Despite the bleakness of my sparse diet and the repetitious meals based on beans or potatoes.  I managed to endure without any thought or desire for meat.

Then one day out of the blue things began to rapidly change.  Suddenly as I walked through the grocery store my hungry stomach became desperately aware of the rotisserie chicken the deli section had recently cooked.  As I walked through the parking lot I could smell the noon meal cooking at the nearby steak house and my nose was tickled by the distinct smell of hamburgers cooking on the grill at the burger house a few blocks away.  A few months latter not only had the smell of cooking meat begun to tempt my taste buds and raise a ruckus in my belly, but it had gotten so bad that pictures of the meat I had once despised now looked like a feast. Until at last one day, while grocery shopping with my Father that the smell became so strongly appetizing that I broke down and asked my Father if we could buy a rotisserie chicken.

Having been a vegetarian my whole life, I knew something was strange when the meat I loathed looked and smelled as tempting as a slice of cake.


It  was shortly after this dramatic change in appetite that I was diagnosed for the second time with iron deficiency anemia.  My stores had dropped to less than 3 meaning I was severely anemic.  After that I began to notice a strange pattern.  For days, weeks, even months I would return to my usual disdain for anything having to do with meat.  Then suddenly, like an engulfing wave, I was once again tempted by the look and smell of fried chicken or hot dogs on a bun.  Sometimes I was only tempted by the smell, other times I would give in and buy a few slices of low fat chicken breast to clog up my freezer shelf, and other times it seemed like I could load the cart with chicken and for the next few days meat would play a vital role in my meal plans.

Several times this mysterious cycle repeated itself before I realized that it had one thing in common.  A few weeks after this strange infatuation, I would be diagnosed with anemia.  And the amount of meat I brought or consumed seemed to correlate to the drop in iron.  The lower the stores, the more I brought and ate. If it was a mild drop and I was just inside the borders of anemia it was usually a passing fancy that with a little effort I could overcome.

Pica is a medical condition where the sufferer craves foods such as dirt or ice. For me the discomfort in my tongue was so uncomfortable that I wished I could immerse my tongue in a soothing pool of ice.


Since I knew from my nutrition classes at my local community college that pica, or a desire for inedible items such as dirt and ice (I also crave ice because my tongue feels so miserable and the ice creates a wonderful numbing sensation), I decided to give this term my own creative spin to explain the unwanted phenomenon that accompanied my rapid drop in iron.  Any time my family or I notice that I have a craving for meat the immediate response is, looks like my iron is getting low because my vegetarian pica is acting up.

So if you are a vegetarian who is wondering why that usually gross meat smell like food fit for a king, or you know someone who once hated meat with a passion who out of the blue acts like a fly drawn to a fire, it might be time to ask your doctor to check your blood and see if you are low on iron.