Mom's Toilet Paper Pregnancy Craving Explained by Doctor

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Mom-of-five Jade Sylvester has developed an unusual habit — she eats a roll of toilet paper every day. Which, according to a medical expert, is a disorder that has roots in mental health issues.

The 25-year-old from from Lincolnshire, England, has been downing the bathroom tissue on a daily basis since she first developed the craving while pregnant with her now-15-month-old Jaxon. Now, she eats one roll per day. “I like the feeling of the texture in my mouth, rather than the taste,” Sylvester told the U.K. paper Mirror Online. “I like the dryness.”

The idea to eat toilet paper randomly occurred to Sylvester one day while using the bathroom. “While I was pregnant I went to the loo and looked at the toilet roll and thought ‘I have to eat that’ — I know it sounds silly,” Sylvester told the paper. “Today I try and hold off going to the bathroom because I know if I go I will eat the paper. I usually eat around eight pieces per visit - sometimes I go to the bathroom just to get some toilet roll. It does fill me up quite a bit. At first I used to eat a couple of squares at a time, but I keep eating more and more.”

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And just like anyone else with a favorite snack, Sylvester is loyal to certain types, preferring supermarket brands to pricier ones. “Different brands taste different. I have one roll in the bathroom for eating and one to be used normally,” she says. Sylvester wants to kick the habit to avoid developing health problems and setting a bad example for her children, Billy, 8, Mayson, 6, Harrie, 5, Harlow, 5, and Jaxon, one. “I try to hide it from my kids, if they spot me eating toilet roll they tell me off,” she says. “If my daughter sees me she says, ‘spit it out Mummy, spit it down the toilet’.”

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The circumstances that surround Sylvester’s eating habits are unclear, however, her behavior mimics a rare eating disorder called Pica in which people routinely eat substances that lack nutritional value. Examples include paint, charcoal, and various household items. And while the prevalence of Pica is currently unknown, doctors diagnose it by looking for symptoms such as intestinal blockages, toxins in the blood, and infections. One trigger for the disorder is obsessive-compulsive disorder which is involves anxiety and distressing thoughts. There is no known cure for Pica.

Pregnancy-related Pica is rare, however it could be trigged by an iron deficiency — pregnant women need significant amounts of iron to carry oxygen to the placenta. “Toilet paper contains undigestible cellulose and in moderate amounts, it probably won’t cause much damage, however in chronic forms, it could prevent the body from absorbing nutrients and coat and scrape the intestinal lining,” Joseph Pinzone, MD, medical director of Amai Medical and Wellness in Santa Monica, CA. “This could lead to dehydration and malnutrition, which could be very harmful for a developing fetus.”

It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to exhibit a variety of unusual habits or behaviors. An estimated 85 percent develop strong revulsions to certain foods, even fresh produce. One theory points to evolution — back in the day, there were no refrigerators to preserve food so pregnant women may have evolved to repel foods that could easily spoil. Others experience wildly vivid dreams and super-human dream recall, due in part to the fetus moving around at night which can wake up the mother. And some women become extremely irritated by certain types of music, according to German research. Women who dislike pop music, for example, hate it even more while pregnant, due to unknown physiological reasons.