What Happens If You Eat Chalk? Is It Safe?

What Happens If You Eat Chalk Is It Safe

Let’s put it straight: chalk is not something you eat. However, some people, especially children, crave chalk and, in the quest, pick one and put it in their mouth.

If you get such a craving and wonder can you eat chalk, the article will help you through it. Keep reading to know why you crave chalk and if there is some underlying medical condition to blame. 

Why Do People Eat Chalk?

People Eat Chalk

If you often desire to eat chalk, it indicates a medical attention called pica. Even though eating chalk once may not cause any serious issues, eating it regularly can disturb the digestive system, leading to serious complications in the future. 

Pica is an eating disorder wherein people crave items that are not edible (1). Usually, dirt, chalk, ice, and raw starch come under the category. Some major reasons why people want to eat chalk include-

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Malnutrition 
  • Pregnancy 

A study conducted on people who crave chalk revealed that such people lack red blood cell count and have lower levels of zinc in the body (2). Besides zinc, such people are also associated with low levels of iron. 

Here are some common causes of craving chalk-

1. Nutritional deficiency– When the body lacks an adequate level of zinc and iron, it craves chalk, dirt, and other non-edible food items.

2. Food Insecurity/Malnutrition– Those having food insecurity or hunger due to lack of food find chalk a feasible option. At the same time, food insecurity causes malnutrition in the body, and thus, the brain sends the signal to consume chalk to fulfill the nutritional demand. 

3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder– Even though there is not enough scientific evidence to support it, people with OCD or anxiety report their cravings for chalk as it makes them calm. 

4. Pregnancy– Often, the pregnant body requires more than the normal dose of nutrients to cope with the changes. Getting anemic (low iron level) is not uncommon in pregnancy. It is when the desire to eat chalk may arise. 

Is It Safe to Eat Chalk?

Eating chalk is not life-threatening but also not a habit that contributes to your health. In fact, it can disrupt your digestive system and, in severe cases, damage the internal organs. Therefore, it is never a good idea to eat chalk.  

Below are the adverse effects that you may face as a result of eating chalk regularly-

  • Cavities and tooth damage 
  • Difficulty in digestion 
  • Constipation 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lead poisoning 
  • Parasitic infestation 

For pregnant women, eating chalk is a strict no as it can negatively impact fetal development. Firstly, if a pregnant woman is craving chalk, it means she is malnourished and her body lacks iron. Secondly, eating chalk will make her lose their appetite, and thus, the body will not be able to receive nutrients that will help her maintain a healthy pregnancy. 

When Does Eating Chalk Become Problematic?

As already mentioned, chalk is not toxic or poisonous. Eating it once will not show any adverse effect; however, if the craving is persistent, the condition is problematic. 

Usually, children under the age of 2 are not diagnosed with pica as they are in their developmental stage.

The doctor will conclude that you have pica if-

  • You have been eating chalk for a long time
  • There is a constant urge to eat chalk most of the time
  • You are pregnant and anemic 
  • You have OCD.

For patients with pica, a blood test becomes mandatory to determine nutrient deficiencies. If you have been eating it for long, stool tests may also be prescribed to check if there are parasites in the body. 

How Do You Treat Chalk Cravings?

The line of treatment for chalk craving depends upon the underlying cause. The doctor will perform a blood test to check nutritional deficiencies in the body. On the basis of the result, he will prescribe supplements. 

Most of the time, taking supplements is enough to manage the condition and put an end to your chalk craving.  

However, if the cravings for chalk are due to OCD, you might need a therapist along with medications. 

At the same time, it is essential to visit the doctor if you find your child eating chalk. Make an appointment if it is becoming a repeated behavior even after you have consulted him and told him all the drawbacks of eating chalk. 


The answer to can you eat chalk is a straight NO.

Chalk is not a delicacy to enjoy. In fact, if you are craving chalk, it means you are suffering from a medical condition called pica, which is associated with nutritional deficiency and OCD.

Pregnant women, children, and those who have low levels of iron and zinc in the body are often found to have chalk cravings. If you have the same, keep hold of your urge and try not to eat chalk, as it will only harm your body, especially the digestive system and internal organs.

If you find that your craving for chalk is not subsiding, visit a doctor and get a blood test done to know if every nutrient is in the adequate amount or not. It is always a good idea to take nutritional supplements instead of chalk to curb chalk cravings. 

Feature Image Source – freepik


  1. National Library of Medicine – A meta-analysis of pica and micronutrient status
  2. National Library of Medicine – Eating everything except food (PICA): A rare case report and review

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