AP Image
Shailene Woodley is an avid hunter-gatherer and also extols the benefits of eating clay.

Actress Shailene Woodley Eats Clay—And It’s Not That Weird

Darla Antoine

Divergent film star, Shailene Woodley, has received more attention in the press for her alternative lifestyle than for her acting chops. From gathering medicinal plants to making her own natural toothpaste and deodorant, the media (and Woodley’s publicist) loves to flaunt how kooky the girl is. Case-in-point: Woodley recently appeared on The David Letterman Show to promote her latest movie, The Fault in Our Stars, and the majority of the segment focused on Woodley and her daily intake of clay.

But it’s really not that weird. Clay-eating, or geophagia, has a very long, very global, history. In ancient Greece and Rome clay tablets were traded as medicine and cures against poison and, later, the plague. Indigenous cultures the world over, including our own here in North America, have been eating clay for around two million years. Though we’ve been eating clay since we were primates, in this day-and-age geophagia is often viewed as a symptom of a mental illness.  

Although clay-eaters have been shunned or deemed insane by the modern world,
Clay actually has many beneficial properties. In this industrial food age we are eating foods that are grown in soils depleted of many beneficial vitamins and minerals. In turn, our food becomes less nutritional and our bodies begin to crave these trace minerals. Many of these minerals our bodies need are, in essence, dirt and rock. Ingesting small amounts of clay on a regular basis can help our bodies function optimally.

Eating clay has another function as well: detoxification. Many animals and primates have been noted to eat clay in order to free themselves of the side effects of eating slightly toxic foods and leaves. The clay binds to the toxins and allows the body to eliminate them with little side effect on the body and can even prevent diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Shailene Woodley says foraging and her natural lifestyle suit her soul. (AP Image)But worldwide, do you know who craves and eats the most amount of clay? Pregnant women. Whether it’s the minerals, the elimination of toxins or the anti-nausea properties of some clays, pregnant women often report cravings for dirt. In fact, during my first pregnancy I was warned by my doctor to let him know if I began to crave dirt. Since pregnancy is very demanding on the body he wanted to know if I had any cravings so that he could look into any mineral deficiencies that might be causing the desire to eat dirt. Though I never craved any dirt during my first pregnancy I have found it to be very beneficial during my second pregnancy and in an usual form: toothpaste.


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