Eating non-food objects such as chalk can lead to nutritional deficiencies and can interfere with the consumption of foods that are actually healthy, WebMD warns. In addition, when items that cannot be digested are consumed, they can cause blockages, constipation and other problems in bowels, intestines and other areas of the digestive tract.
The act of eating non-food substances such as chalk, paint, dirt, rocks or other items is known as pica. Although the number of people suffering from pica in the general population is not known and is difficult to determine, up to 26 percent of the institutionalized population is affected by it, according to WebMD.
Other complications that can arise from pica include poisoning when items that contain lead or toxic substances are ingested, and an increase in brain damage and learning disabilities as a result. This is sometimes the case when paint chips are consumed. Eating dirt can cause the introduction of parasites or bacteria into the body that can lead to serious infections. Sharp objects, such as metal scraps and paper clips can tear the intestines and cause serious problems, notes WebMD.
Treatment for pica involves tenacious medical monitoring and implementation of behavioral strategies to learn which foods can and cannot be consumed, according to WebMD.