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October 12, 2007 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Is there any danger to chewing on popsicle sticks, as long as I don't ingest any of the wood?

I am heavily (38 weeks) pregnant, and the last month or so, I have a compulsion to chew popsicle sticks. Previously I had cravings to smell lumber. I do not actually ingest any of the wood, since having splinters in one's GI tract sounds like no kind of a good idea. I don't really feel compelled to swallow the wood, anyway, just to chew it. I don't feel compelled to chew anything that isn't plain wood (like pencils-- all that paint, yuck!) I don't have the urge to eat or chew any other sort of non-food items. Would this be considered pica even though I don't actually eat the wood?

I have tried taking additional iron supplements, but this didn't help. (My OB just tested my iron level, anyway, and it was apparently fine.) Neither did eating woody-textured foods like broccoli stems or almonds. Is there some sort of nutrient in wood that my body is craving? Is there anything dangerous in the wood that might be leaching out as I chew it? If I just get myself a bunch of popsicle sticks to chew, should I stick to ones sold for use with food, or is there any difference between those and ones marketed strictly for crafts? Will this go away once I deliver?
posted by Shoeburyness to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd stick to the ones that are food-grade - either from popsicles proper or the ones for making popsicles. What about skewers or toothpicks?

When I was pregnant, I craved the smell of Windex. My OB said it was a form of pica, but I wasn't necessarily lacking anything in particular. It went away, but once in a while a whiff will take me back. I just like the smell, I guess.
posted by Addlepated at 12:31 PM on October 12, 2007

People typically chew on things or grind their teeth to alleviate discomfort. Whether it’s from anxiety, allergies, or pregnancy – it’s a very common fixation. Yes, sometimes it can be due to vitamin deficiencies but I would conjecture that this is more about you being 38 weeks pregnant! I would just go with whatever makes you more comfortable. Short term, there should be no damage to your teeth. I would stay away from wood that’s not intended for use in food because it may be chemically treated. I also know that a decoction of cedar can lead to miscarriage – so stay away from that. Good luck!
posted by scottiev at 12:41 PM on October 12, 2007

I would think the most likely downsides would involve the wood splintering off, causing either (a) accidental ingestion or (b) splinters in your gums. The idea of a splinter in my gums would be enough to keep me from chewing on popsicle sticks (or toothpicks, since it's a suggestion)--I find that they do splinter if you play with them or moisten them further after you eat the popsicle.
posted by Cricket at 12:47 PM on October 12, 2007

Cricket says: splinters in your gums.

What happens is not "spinters in your gums" but "splinters stuck where your gums meet your teeth".
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:23 PM on October 12, 2007

As a kid I used to chew popsicle sticks to oblivion and never got any splinters. Wood shards aren't very good at penetrating things when they're soaked in spit. You might want to try eating things with woody flavors like hickory smoked beef jerky or bourbon(combine them for a high-class trailer park style meal).
posted by hamhed at 3:52 PM on October 12, 2007

I like the longer/thinner wooden "stir sticks" that my local Peet's coffee provides.
posted by markhu at 4:51 PM on October 12, 2007

when i was young, about eight or nine, we had fish and chips for tea once and I had a hot dog or battered sausage. for some reason i went and tried to get the biggest mouthful i could, chomped right into it and managed to swallow half of it. then i looked down and saw the broken stick, which i had consumer at least an inch of.

i was fine.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:14 PM on October 12, 2007

er, *consumed.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:14 PM on October 12, 2007

Licorice root sticks might be just the chewy ticket!

Also, I've disassembled the stick of just about every popsicle I've ever had into little spitty splinters.
posted by Kwirq at 6:26 PM on October 13, 2007

Kwirq, do they taste like licorice? I really cannot stand the taste of licorice.
posted by Shoeburyness at 11:22 PM on October 13, 2007

Ah, they do sort of taste like licorice. Not like black licorice, which is disgusting, and not like red licorice, which is too sweet. Just the "essence of licorice". The "primal licorice", if you will. Or, you know, just licorice. I just don't know.

If not licorice, how about hickory?

Other than that, I'm out of ideas.
posted by Kwirq at 12:15 AM on October 14, 2007

If you can track down some sugar cane, that's a pretty satisfying "chewing on wood" type of experience. It tastes really good too (like, well, raw sugar.)
posted by nekton at 1:35 PM on October 19, 2007

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