Destructive Eating: Alabama Woman Eats Corn Starch from the Box

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - An Alabama woman is dealing with an odd and dangerous disorder. She eats large amounts of corn starch directly out of the box. WHNT NEWS 19 is taking action to help this woman overcome her addiction and spotlight this relatively rare disorder for others who may be struggling with the same problem.

Kenya Jones is a 30-year-old wife and mother of two. She eats corn starch every day, but isn’t exactly sure why she started.

“I believe it was from my pregnancy, but it might be my iron deficiency,” says Jones. “I really don’t know.”

Now, the problem is out of control.

“I eat at least four boxes of corn starch,” says Jones. “I cook it, but sometimes I eat it powdered.”

Jones also eats other things.

“I eat the chalk, baby powder, Georgia dirt, matchsticks,” describes Jones.

After dealing with severe headaches, skin irritation and digestive problems, Jones says she’s tried to stop, but can’t seem to cut corn starch out of her life.

“I think I have panic attacks and get light headed if I don’t have it,” says Jones. “I start shaking and stuff. I just can’t stop. It’s hard to let go.”

Making the problem worse, in her family’s opinion, is a YouTube channel Jones started where she records herself eating the corn starch. Jones agrees it has made her corn starch cravings more intense.

“Because they want me to keep making videos and eating it different kinds of ways is making it worse,” explains Jones.

Experts say destructive eating like this is likely a mental health disorder.

“It’s relatively rare,” says Mary Beth Chamberlain, Outpatient Services Coordinator at the Mental Health Center of Madison County. “It really is a serious problem and needs to be taken very seriously.”

Chamberlain couldn’t comment about Kenya Jones’ case specifically due to privacy.  But, she did offer some insight into what’s classified as the Pica condition which is eating non-nutritional non-food items.

“It’s not healthy and I would recommend that anybody doing that sort of thing seek treatment,” says Chamberlain. “It could be detrimental to their physical health and it certainly isn’t good for their mental health.”

Chamberlain says the most important thing to know is that help is available.

“I think people should be aware that they need not suffer and suffer alone.”

After our initial interview, Kenya made an appointment at the mental health center to be evaluated. As part of our commitment to doing this story responsibly, we plan to meet her there to make sure she follows through on her promise to get help.

One of the reasons Kenya hadn't previously sought professional help is because she assumed it would be very expensive. WHNT NEWS 19 is committed to taking action and getting results for our viewers. We let Kenya know that the Mental Health Center of Madison County works on a sliding fee scale which is based on income. So, help is available and likely at an affordable cost.

WHNT NEWS 19 is also taking action when it comes to the YouTube videos that Kenya's family wants removed. We contacted YouTube to ask about its security policies and why videos of this nature are allowed to remain on the site.  At this time, they have not responded. We will continue to press them for answers. In the meantime, we have flagged the videos for review in hopes of getting YouTube's attention.

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