A MUM who was addicted to eating 14 sponges a week claims she has been cured – by This Morning’s resident therapists.
Last week, we revealed Emma Snowdon was so hooked on munching sponges she got “shaky” when she didn’t have one – and even begged nurses for them instead of gas and air when she was in labour.
But the 26-year-old, from Stockton-on-Tees told the ITV show that she had finally won her a decade-long battle with the condition Pica, which makes sufferers crave inedible objects, with the help of Nick and Eva Speakman.
She told the show: “On my worst day I probably go through three sponges. When I had my oldest, Jack, it was a very traumatic pregnancy. I took about 20 sponges with me but they wouldn’t let me because they said I’d choke.
“After I had Jack I still got the sponges and its never stopped but my kids are getting older and I can’t let them see what I’m doing. It’s become a big problem,”
She revealed she once spent the bus fare on a special sponge – leaving her kids to walk home in the rain.
She said: “I had forgotten my bank card and we were cutting through Boots and we went along the aisle where the sponges were, and these were the really nice sponges.
“They were called the honeycomb sponge which I hadn’t had before but they were £2.29 and I only had £2.50 in my pocket, and that was the bus fare, so we walked home in the pouring rain because I needed the sponge.”
But the Speakmans soon got to the root of her problem – when she admitted the strange eating habit started after her gran’s death ten years ago.
She said: “A week and a half after my Nanna died. I had a small abscess in my mouth and I just broke the sponge off and put it in my mouth to keep ice on the abscess but then I started chewing it, and as I was chewing it I got a sense of relief.”
She said she had never talked about the death and admitted she hadn’t grieved.
“She got ill with kidneys, and she needed another operation, but if she had the operation she would need full-time care. She asked to stop taking her medication, and the last time I saw her, there was something there, like I knew she wasn’t going to be OK. Then I got a call to say she’d gone in her sleep.
“I don’t talk about that. I feel like she didn’t need to make that decision. She just met my new partner and she knew she’d be OK but I feel like I failed her because she didn’t come to me.”
Nick told Emma she shouldn’t blame herself.
He said: “She made a decision. Not many people have that opportunity and she knew she was going to die. But she made sure you were OK first.”
The pair also told her that the sponges were “toxic” because they were made from cellulose which were soaked in chemicals and bleached.
Nick told her: “You’re slowly killing yourself.”
Emma was stunned: “I’ve never thought of that. I always thought they were clean because you clean yourself with them. I thought there would be nothing there to harm you.”
She also said that tests had revealed that the sponges were making her ill.
She said: “There were foreign bodies in my blood which are the toxins and that’s why I’ve been ill for the last six or seven months – loss of hair, bad stomach, bleeding gums and lots of other difficulties.”
But she said her session with the Speakmans had CURED her of her addiction.
“I feel great, I’ve never touched a sponge and I’ve got rid of them all out of my house.
“I’ve realised that it’s never been about sponges, it’s been problems that I’ve kept for years and I didn’t need it. It was something I thought I wanted to help me with my problems but really all I needed to do was talk to somebody.”
Last week, Emma revealed she has sent her husband, Mark, to 24-hour garages to but new sponges in the dead of night.
She said: “Mark gets annoyed when he opens the cleaning cupboard and sees bite marks taken out of the sponges.”
What is Pica?
According the Boots WebMD, Pica is long-term eating of inedible things such as stones, coins, shampoo, clothes or cigarette butts.
The charity The Challenging Behaviour Foundation says research into the causes, assessment and treatment for pica are have been extremely limited.
Estimates suggest between 4 per cent to 26 per cent of people with learning disabilities display pica symptoms, and a craving may also be experienced during pregnancy.
Pica may be linked with iron and zinc deficiencies, but is most often thought to be a psychological disorder.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said: “There has been no definitive explanation as to why some people consume such substances as hair, ice, soil/clay, wood, stones, glass or laundry starch.
“Obviously there is a reason for starting this particular habit – to alleviate access pain. Emma’s initial use of chewing sponge led to comfort so this behaviour was reinforcing (i.e. rewarding) and the habit has just developed where she no longer needs to do it for pain relief, but is likely to be psychologically comforting.”
Another woman suffering from pica ate 500g of talcum powder every day and a mum recently revealed her five-year-old suffered from the condition, which made her eat door frames and even carpet,