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How can I control my sister from eating raw rice?

Answered by: Dr. Irwin Ziment
Professor of Medicine,
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA),
USA

Q. My 49-year-old sister is married and has three grown up children. She has a habit of eating raw rice for the past 3 years. All family members, including her husband and children, counselled her that eating raw rice is harmful and she should stop. When we tell her, she agrees but in vain. She says she gets tempted or some sort of power provokes her to eat raw rice. She tries to control, but she says, she cannot. We tried our best to correct her but it is of no use. She has become more fat after she go into this habit. My mother also had the same habit. Is it being carried forward as a hereditary disease? Is there any treatment for this? Is it a psychiatric problem? Please guide me, which doctor should we consult?

A.  Eating raw rice may be a variant of a well known disorder called pica. Usually the patients craves dirt, clay, laundry starch or corn starch. Obviously, if the habit results in increased calorie intake, the patient will put on weight. The condition is sometimes seen in pregnancy, suggesting hormone imbalance may be a factor. In other cases there is an iron-deficiency anaemia and this can be treated. However, there is often a problem of habituation which would require psychologic counselling or aversion therapy for a cure of the behavioural disturbance. This is not an inherited problem, but it is often learned by a daughter from a mother.

A.  Eating raw rice may be a variant of a well known disorder called pica. Usually the patients craves dirt, clay, laundry starch or corn starch. Obviously, if the habit results in increased calorie intake, the patient will put on weight. The condition is sometimes seen in pregnancy, suggesting hormone imbalance may be a factor. In other cases there is an iron-deficiency anaemia and this can be treated. However, there is often a problem of habituation which would require psychologic counselling or aversion therapy for a cure of the behavioural disturbance. This is not an inherited problem, but it is often learned by a daughter from a mother.

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