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What Happens if You Eat Paper? (Answered 2023)

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What happens if I eat paperCravings for nonfood items, known as pica, are not uncommon. Studies show pica affects up to 33% of small children, 20% of pregnant women, and 10-15% of individuals with learning disabilities.1 With such a wide range of people affected by the urge to consume items with no nutritional value, you may wonder what happens if you eat paper.

After all, it’s not the most appetizing snack. Let’s examine whether consuming paper is safe and why some feel compelled to do so.

Key Takeaways

  • Pica is common among specific groups such as small children, pregnant women, and individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Consuming paper can lead to nutritional deficiencies, digestive issues, and potential intestinal obstructions.
  • Choking risks are associated with dry, fibrous paper that can obstruct airways or the esophagus.
  • Eating paper provides minimal survival benefits and is not an effective strategy for obtaining sustenance.

Is It Safe to Eat Paper?

Is It Safe to Eat Paper
You’re wise not to let peculiar cravings jeopardize your health. Eating paper isn’t advised, as the indigestible cellulose may clog intestines. The ink contains concerning compounds like heavy metals and solvents that accumulate.

Instead of paper, try healthier alternatives for chewing like sugar-free gum, carrots, or celery.

While occasionally eating paper likely won’t immediately harm, over time it may cause malnutrition or intestinal issues. Don’t let temporary cravings create long-term complications. Find creative, healthier outlets for those impulses without risking your body.

What is Paper Made Of?

What is Paper Made Of
Previously, we discussed whether it is safe to consume paper products. Now let’s explore what paper is made of.

You may be surprised to learn that paper is primarily made up of cellulose fibers from wood pulp or recycled materials.

  1. Cellulose: This structural component comes from wood pulp or recycled paper. It gives strength and durability.
  2. Lignin: Also from wood, lignin cements fibers together. Removing lignin makes paper more flexible.
  3. Additives: Various additives like clay or chemicals give paper desirable qualities.

While cellulose provides little nutritional value, the manufacturing process introduces concerning compounds. Recycled paper lowers the environmental impact but may contain more contaminants. Accidentally swallowing paper likely causes minor irritation. However, larger quantities could obstruct the intestines.

Ultimately, outside of survival situations, eating paper has negligible benefits and poses some risks.

Can Eating Paper Harm Your Health?

Can Eating Paper Harm Your Health
You may experience nutritional deficiencies, digestive issues, and choking hazards if you eat paper. While cellulose from paper cannot be digested, the ink contains toxic chemicals like azo dyes, mineral oils, solvents, pigments, and resins that can accumulate in the body and cause health problems over time.

The ink in paper often contains compounds that should not be ingested. Over time, eating paper and absorbing these chemicals can lead to toxicity and deficiencies. Paper is not meant to be eaten, as it provides no nutritional value and poses choking hazards.

The cellulose fibers cannot be properly digested by the human body. Furthermore, the chemicals in ink have been linked to health issues when consumed. It’s best to avoid eating paper products, as they provide no benefits and carry potentially harmful compounds.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Consuming paper can lead to nutritional deficiencies, since it lacks vitamins and minerals. Eating paper provides no protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates or micronutrients you need. This increases risks for malnutrition, fatigue, weakness and anemia. Preventing malnutrition requires meeting daily nutritional needs through consuming real foods.

Eating disorders like pica require treatment to overcome unhealthy cravings. Address any underlying medical conditions, seek therapy, and get veterinary attention if needed.

Nutrient Function Deficiency Risks
Protein Tissue building, energy Muscle wasting, weakness
Carbohydrates Energy, brain function Fatigue, confusion
Fats Energy, absorption Growth impairment, infertility
Vitamins/Minerals Immunity, metabolism Anemia, nerve damage

Digestive Issues

The cellulose in paper will pass intact through your gastrointestinal tract, potentially causing intestinal obstructions. While paper has no nutritional value, its insoluble fibers can bind with digestive enzymes meant for breaking down nutrient-containing foods, which can lead to enzyme depletion and nutrient malabsorption.

Consuming large quantities of paper may also cause gastrointestinal discomfort and possible paper blockages. To support healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Choking Hazards

You’ll gag as the dry, rough paper scrapes down your throat. Eating paper poses real choking hazards. The fibrous material can easily obstruct your airway or become stuck in your esophagus. Don’t chance this perilous behavior. Focus your oral fixations on more secure choices to prevent harm.

Seek behavioral solutions for undesirable cravings. There are superior ways to get attention or nourishment without jeopardizing your wellbeing.

Why Do Some People Eat Paper?

Why Do Some People Eat Paper
Folks with pica disorder crave and chew on paper and other non-food items to ease anxiety or nutritional deficiencies. Underlying psychological causes like stress, OCD, and autism spectrum disorder can trigger abnormal cravings.

Malnutrition and mineral deficiencies like iron and zinc may also drive people to eat non-nutritious substances.

Paper eating, called xylophagia, is a type of pica that’s more common in kids but can affect teens and adults too.

Treatment focuses on replacing missing nutrients while addressing any co-occurring mental health or developmental issues. Coping strategies include redirecting urges and substituting healthier alternatives like sugar-free gum.

Getting to the root cause is key, so work closely with your doctor and therapists. With comprehensive treatment, pica and paper eating can be overcome. The first step is acknowledging these abnormal cravings so you can start the journey to healthier eating habits.

How to Stop the Habit of Eating Paper

How to Stop the Habit of Eating Paper
Y’all can break the habit of eatin’ paper by identifyin’ the triggers for pica, seekin’ treatment for any underlying conditions, and findin’ healthier alternatives when cravings strike.

  1. Get to the root cause. Look at when and why you start munchin’ on paper. Is it boredom, anxiety, an iron deficiency? Knowin’ the trigger can help you address the issue directly.
  2. Talk to your doctor. They may recommend counseling, medication, or bloodwork to check for nutritional imbalances.
  3. Satisfy the urge safely. Chew sugarless gum, snack on carrots, sip herbal tea, or squeeze a stress ball when the paper craving hits.

Replacing a habit takes patience and creativity. But you’ve got this – it is possible to break free of pica. With self-awareness, professional help, and go-to alternatives, you can quit paper and choose nutritious options to nurture your body.

Focus on the rewards of better health and be proud of each paper-free day. Small steps stack up to big change.

What to Do if You Accidentally Eat Paper

What to Do if You Accidentally Eat Paper
Chewing on paper can quickly turn into an accidental habit. If you’ve accidentally eaten some paper, try not to panic. While paper itself has little nutritional value and isn’t digested easily, occasional accidental consumption likely won’t cause major issues.

Focus first on hydrating and giving your digestive system a break from other irritants like caffeine or spicy foods. Eating some probiotic foods can also help maintain gut health after accidentally eating paper.

If you experience ongoing symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, or bleeding, contact your doctor, as a blockage may require medical intervention.

To prevent future accidents, keep paper products out of reach, especially if you tend to mindlessly snack or chew on items. Finding alternative outlets like gum, carrots, or mints can help curb subconscious paper cravings.

With mindfulness and removing temptation, an accidental paper habit can be stopped.

Is Ink on Paper Toxic?

Is Ink on Paper Toxic
My friend, ingesting printer’s ink may make you distinctly green. This fantastical desire likely stems from boredom and an unchallenged mind. I suggest redirecting your energy to more wholesome pursuits. Invest time in dog training, perhaps, which builds communication and understanding.

Clicker training offers immediate feedback and mental stimulation for both human and canine.

Printer ink contains petroleum distillates, pigments, resins, solvents – none made for human consumption. While toxicity levels vary by brand, inks introduce unnecessary chemicals. The paper itself, largely cellulose pulp, provides minimal nutrition beyond fiber.

Instead of munching newspaper columns, engage your hands and thoughts. Discover new skills, like painting or origami. Fold paper into art, rather than down your esophagus. I have faith your mind will find more nourishing ways to unlock its potential.

Can Eating Paper Provide Any Survival Benefit?

Can Eating Paper Provide Any Survival Benefit
You’re better off not attempting to derive any survival benefit from eating paper. While it’s unlikely paper contains any real nutritional value, some may consider it in extreme survival situations.

Paper is made of cellulose, which humans can’t properly digest. At best, you may get a tiny amount of fiber. But paper provides no protein, fat, vitamins, or minerals for sustenance. The small amount of fiber also doesn’t outweigh the potential choking hazard.

Surviving harsh conditions requires maximizing limited resources. Searching for edible plants, trapping small animals, or fishing can offer some nourishment. Paper consumption only fills your stomach temporarily while offering no calories or nutrition.

Those lost and struggling to survive must carefully consider if eating paper is worthwhile given the minimal benefits and real risks.


You may’ve heard of someone eating paper and wondered what could possibly happen if you tried it. Eating paper is certainly not a healthy habit to adopt, as it can lead to a range of health issues, including nutritional deficiencies, digestive problems, and potential choking hazards.

Paper eating is often associated with underlying mental health issues like pica disorder. If you’re struggling with eating paper, it’s important to seek out professional help and to make lifestyle changes that can help you break the habit.

Understanding the potential risks and seeking help is the best way to ensure your safety and health when it comes to eating paper.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is an author and software engineer from the United States, I and a group of experts made this blog with the aim of answering all the unanswered questions to help as many people as possible.