On TikTok, more and more users are filming themselves eating blocks of kaolin. A surprising trend when we know that it is a white clay mainly formed of hydrated aluminum silicate. "It is used in cosmetics, to make porcelain, in the glass, paper and medicine industries," explains Stanislas Agbo, a general practitioner.

A well-known practice in traditional African medicine

According to Olivier Spatzierer, head of the gastroenterology unit at the American Hospital in Paris, this consumption dates back to antiquity: "It is a well-known practice in traditional African medicine. First, because eating earth symbolically absorbs the energy of this earth. But it also has more obvious therapeutic properties that concern wound healing, the digestive plane or the skin plane."

Eating soil has a name: geophagy. "Consumers – since they are usually women – say they consume it to manage stress, to calm stomach upset, against nausea, vomiting (especially in pregnant women) and sometimes for pleasure or as a trompe-la-faim," adds Stanislas Agbo.


However, this practice can be dangerous for health: "Ingesting kaolin does much more harm than good, warns Stanislas Agbo. Excessive consumption is dangerous because it can lead to addiction." Olivier Spatzierer adds that "when you take too much, it can lead to real clogged digestive problems, occlusive and sub-occlusive syndromes or relatively deep anemias".

This article is produced by Brut and hosted by 20 Minutes.

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