HEALTHY LIVING
10/18/2011 02:08 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2011

Natalie Hayhurst, Indiana 3-Year-Old, Eats Light Bulbs Because Of Pica Disorder

While some young kids only eat white foods (potatoes and pasta!) or fast food (chicken nuggets!), 3-year-old Natalie Hayhurst has the opposite problem of eating everything -- even a light bulb.

Hayhurst, from Indiana, has the eating disorder pica, where a person has the urge to eat non-edible items, ABC News reported.

"She prefers the wood, paper products, cardboard, sticks," her mother, Colleen, told ABC News. "She'll eat rocks, dirt; she's had a bite out of a Diet Coke can; she's eaten the little magnet out of the shower curtain, plastic bottles, toys."

Hayhurst has even eaten a light bulb (glass and all) earlier this year. Her parents rushed her to the emergency room, where doctors performed surgery, ABC News reported.

While the condition is rare, Hayhurst is part of a growing trend of children being hospitalized for pica. Earlier this year, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued a report showing that hospitalizations for pica have nearly doubled over the last decade, increasing by 93 percent from 964 to 1,862 cases between 1999 and 2009.

This could be caused by an increased number of children being diagnosed with autism in recent years, MyHealthNewsDaily reported. In fact, 31 percent of pica cases among children in 2009 were in kids with autism.

Pica is a little more well-known these days thanks to the TLC Show "My Strange Addiction." On the show, several people have admitted their pica-like addictions; in one episode, one woman confessed to eating couch cushions and foamy furniture, eating in her lifetime two chairs and seven couches. And in another episode, a woman told about how she ate her husband's ashes to comfort herself after his death.

There is even a special name for people with pica who eat dirt -- geophagy. The craving for the sandy stuff is most often noted in pregnant women and young children, and may come as a response to malnutrition or mineral deficiencies, though there is not enough research to back that up.

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