Dental nurse Kerry Trebilcock has eaten 4,000 sponges and over 100 bars of soap, but it hasn't been in the name of oral hygiene.
The Sun reported that Trebilcock, 21, suffers from pica, a rare disorder that causes sufferers to crave non-food items. In Trebilcock's case, this means washing sponges and organic soap. She told the Sun that she began to have these bizarre cravings in 2008, after contracting hookworm in Morocco. "I didn't want to tell anyone as I felt like a freak," she said. "But after a week I'd eaten nine sponges and over a pound of organic soap."
Just because she eats non-food items, however, does not mean that Trebilcock is not particular. She prefers lemon- and lime-flavored soaps, and she described to the Sun how she used to meticulously prepare sponges for consumption: "If I went out for the day," she said, "I'd carry a small plastic bag of cut-up pieces of sponge with some tomato and BBQ sauce in Tupperware. I was never without a 'snack.'"
Though Trebilcock also eats regular food, her heavy consumption of sponges -- in the past, she sometimes ingested five a day -- and soap has caused her severe constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, according to the Telegraph.
Due to embarrassment, Trebilcock did not seek medical attention until 2009. Since then, vitamin supplements and counseling have helped her improve, but she still struggles with the disorder. Trebilcock told the Sun that she still consumes a one-inch sponge square and three teaspoons of organic soap with every meal.
Pica is underreported and often unrecognized, so the prevalence of the disorder is difficult to estimate. While Trebilcock craves sponges and soap, other individuals with pica may eat a variety of non-food items, including dirt, rocks, wood, paper, light bulbs and furniture.