Can You Eat Paper?

Can You Eat Paper?

Can You Eat Paper?

While eating paper is technically possible, it is not recommended or safe for human consumption. Paper is not food and neither humans nor animals should eat it. Eating paper is bad for your health since it is difficult to digest and can develop clogs in your digestive tract. Paper manufacturing chemicals like bleach and other additives may also damage your health.

The Composition of Paper

The paper’s composition is a complex mix of processes and materials refined over time to create an extremely versatile and widely used product. Paper comprises various materials, such as cotton, wood pulp, and recycled paper, processed with various mechanical and chemical processes.

Wood Pulp

Wood pulp is the main ingredient in a lot of paper products. It is made of the wood fibers of trees and is processed through mechanical or chemical pulping. The most commonly used method for making wood pulp is the Kraft process, which involves heating wood chips with a mix of chemicals like sodium sulfide and sodium hydroxide.

This breaks down lignin, a polymer that connects the wood fibers and separates the cellulose fibers. These are then cleaned and transformed into paper.

Wood pulp can be made from various species, including hardwood and softwood trees. Softwood trees, like pine and spruce, are preferred for paper production because they are characterized by longer fibers, which create stronger paper. Hardwood trees, like maple and oak, have shorter fibers, which help make more flexible and lighter paper products.

Once the wood pulp has been processed and combined with other chemicals, including fillers and sizing agents, to create a pulp slurry, the pulp slurry is then fed into a paper mill, shaped into sheets, and then dried.


Cotton is another popular material that is used in the production of paper. It is made of the fibers from the cotton plant. It is typically used to create top-quality paper products like currency, fine art paper, and archival documents.

Cotton fibers are longer and more durable than wood fibers, making them ideal for creating long-lasting and durable paper products. They are processed by a chemical or mechanical method similar to the process used for wood pulp that creates cotton pulp. The pulp is later mixed with water and various other chemicals, like fillers and sizing agents, to form a pulp slurry. The slurry then gets shaped into sheets and dried, like the process used to make wood pulp.

Recycled Paper

Recycled papers are an important element in the paper industry. It is made of papers that have been used up and removed from the market, such as newspapers or cardboard, as well as office paper. The paper that is recycled is processed through the process of de-inking, which removes ink and other contaminants from the fibers of the paper.

The de-inking process involves placing the paper in water and chemical solutions such as hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide to remove the ink and other toxins. The resultant pulp is blended with water and other chemicals like fillers and sizing agents to form a pulp slurry. The slurry is made into sheets and then dried, like in the cotton and wood pulp processes.

Chemicals Used in Paper Production

Chemicals play a crucial part in the process of making paper. They are used to break down raw materials, like cotton and wood, into a pulp and then to make the paper produced. The most common chemicals used in the production of paper include:

  • The sodium hydroxide is used as a component of the Kraft process to break down the lignin in wood fibers.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: It is used in de-inking to get rid of the ink and other contaminants from recycled paper.
  • Sizing agents: They are used to improve the water resistance and strength of papers.
  • Fillers: They are used to increase the brightness and opacity of paper.

While these chemicals are essential to making paper, they can also adversely affect human and environmental health when not taken care of.

Can Paper be Digested?Can Paper be Digested?

Paper should not be consumed by either humans or animals because it is not a food ingredient. Although eating paper is technically possible, it isn’t advised or suited for human consumption. Paper is made of a variety of materials, including recycled paper and cotton and wood pulp, which are processed using a variety of mechanical and chemical techniques.

Health Risks in Connection with Consuming Paper

Consuming paper is not an appropriate or safe method. Consuming paper could cause various health problems, which include:

  • There are blockages in the digestive tract. Consuming a lot of paper can obstruct the digestive tract. This could cause constipation, abdominal pain, and many other digestion issues. In extreme instances, blockages could need medical attention to be cleared.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Paper consumption doesn’t provide any nutritional value to your body. Consuming paper instead of healthy food can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health issues.
  • Exposure to chemicals: Paper is typically treated using chemicals in manufacturing, including bleach and other ingredients. Consuming paper exposes your body to chemicals that may be harmful to your health.
  • Choking: Consuming paper can lead to choking if it gets trapped in the airway or throat. This could be a life-threatening situation that requires immediate medical care.

Safer Alternatives to Eating Paper

There are a variety of healthy and safe alternatives to paper. Eating a healthy and balanced diet that supplies the necessary nutrients to maintain good health is crucial. Alternatives that are safe and healthy alternatives to paper consumption include:

  • Fruits and veggies: Fresh vegetables and fruits are packed with minerals, vitamins, and other minerals vital for good health.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains, including brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread, supply complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other important nutrients.
  • Lean proteins: Lean proteins like fish, chicken, and tofu supply essential amino acids needed for creating and repairing tissues.
  • Dairy-related products: dairy products, including yogurt, milk, and cheese, offer calcium, protein, and other vital nutrients that are essential to good health.

Reasons Why People Eat Paper

Although it isn’t recommended or safe to consume paper, there can be many reasons why people might be prone to this behavior. Some people take in paper to treat a result of pica, a condition characterized by constant and recurrent cravings for food items that are not food-related. Some people may eat paper due to rituals or beliefs.

Pica Disorder

Pica disorder is a mental disorder characterized by chronic and persistent cravings for foods that are not healthy. Although pica can manifest in any age group, it’s more prevalent among pregnant women and children. People with PICA might crave food items that aren’t food-related, such as chalk, paper, dirt, clay, and ice.

The causes behind PICA aren’t fully understood; however, it’s believed that the condition is linked to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances within the body. People with PICA may need paper to get a supply of fiber. This may aid in easing constipation. Others may use paper to satisfy their craving for oral fixation or to reduce anxiety and stress.

Cultural and Religious Practices

Eating paper is also part of certain religious and cultural practices. For instance, certain indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America consume edible paper made from the bark of certain trees as a type of traditional medicine. The paper is believed to possess medicinal properties and is commonly utilized to treat digestive and other health issues.

In certain religious traditions, paper is consumed in ritualistic offerings or rituals. For instance, in some Buddhist and Hindu practices, tiny pieces of paper are consumed as part of religious offerings or to show respect to a particular god.

Coping MechanismsCoping Mechanisms

Certain people may use paper consumption as a sort of way to cope. Paper consumption can give the illusion of control and calm in times of anxiety or stress. It also serves as an escape from thoughts of negative feelings.

However, using paper to cope is risky and could cause serious health issues. It is essential to seek professional help if you are struggling with anxiety, stress, or any other mental health issue.

Sensory Stimulation

In addition, some people consume paper as a method of stimulation. Consuming paper can give it a unique texture and flavor that some people enjoy. This behavior is more prevalent in people with sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorders.

While it is essential to know why people might consume paper, it is not an appropriate or safe practice. Consuming paper can cause various health issues, including digestive tract blockages, nutritional deficiencies, exposure to chemicals, and even choking. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help when you are struggling with PICA or other compulsions.

Types of Paper That Can Be Eaten

It is crucial to know that eating paper isn’t advised or secure, and people should avoid eating any kind of paper. Some kinds of paper are believed to be safer than others.

Rice Paper

Rice paper is a form of paper constructed from water and rice flour. It is widely used in Asian food and is typically wrapped around spring rolls and other dishes. Rice paper is considered safe to consume because it is made from natural ingredients and is free of harmful chemicals.

Rice paper is a great source of fiber and carbohydrates and is low in fat and calories. However, it is important to remember that you should consume rice in moderate amounts since excessive consumption could cause digestive issues.

Wafer Paper

Wafer paper is a kind of paper made from potato starch, water, and vegetable oils. It is widely used in confectionery and baking to embellish cakes, desserts, and other foods. It is safe to consume because it is made of food-grade materials and is free of harmful chemicals and toxic substances.

Paper made from wafers is low in fat and calories and a great carb source. However, it is important to remember that wafer papers should be consumed only in small amounts since excessive consumption could cause digestive problems.

Fruit Leather

Fruit leather is a form of paper made of pureed fruit that has been dried and flattened. It is widely consumed for healthy snacks and is typically available in supermarkets and health food stores. It is healthy to consume because it is made of natural ingredients and is free of harmful chemicals.

Fruit leather is a great source of minerals and vitamins; it is also low in calories and fat. However, it is crucial to remember that fruit leather must be consumed in moderation since excessive consumption can cause digestive issues.

While certain kinds of paper are considered safer to consume than others, it is important to remember that eating paper isn’t an appropriate or safe practice. Consuming any kind of paper can cause serious health issues, including obstructions in the digestive system, nutrient deficiencies, chemical exposure, and even choking.

Therefore, it is recommended that people avoid eating any type of paper. Additionally, they should seek professional assistance if they suffer from chronic pain or other compulsions.

The History of Eating PaperThe History of Eating Paper

The consumption of paper has been documented throughout the history of the world, with references to eating paper dating back to ancient China, Egypt, and Greece.

Ancient Times

In the past, in China, paper was believed to be a high-end item and to possess healing properties. It was frequently employed as a traditional Chinese treatment for digestive issues and was believed to provide cooling to the body. The pa was also utilized in religious ceremonies and was often consumed or burned as a ritual offering to gods.

In the past, in Egypt, paper was made of papyrus and was employed for various uses, such as writing, art, and mummification. It was also used as a fiber source and was believed to possess medicinal properties. In Greece, paper was composed of parchment and papyrus and was used for writing and record-keeping. It was also used to treat ailments and was believed to help digestion and improve overall health.

Medieval Times

Paper consumption was still widespread in the Middle Ages, especially among the elite classes. In Europe, paper was made from animal skins and used as a luxurious product. It was also used for its fiber content and was believed to possess medicinal properties.

In Japan, the type of paper referred to as “washi” was used for various reasons, including writing, art, and even food. It was widely consumed to provide fiber and was thought to help digestion.

Modern Times

Eating paper has recently diminished, but it remains in certain societies and cultures. Certain individuals might be prone to consuming paper as a result of pica, a condition that is characterized by a constant craving for food items that are not food-related. Pica is often caused by nutrient deficiencies, psychological issues, or developmental disorders and could lead to serious health issues if not treated.

In certain cultures, the consumption of paper is still a common practice. For instance, in Mexico, a paper known as “papel picado” is commonly consumed during the Day of the Dead celebrations. Papel picado is a kind of tissue paper cut into patterns and is typically consumed alongside other traditional food items and offerings.



Is it safe to eat paper?

No, it is not safe to eat paper. Paper is not a food item and is not intended for human consumption. Eating paper can lead to digestive issues and potential harm to the body.

What happens if you eat paper?

Eating paper can cause digestive issues such as stomach pain, bloating, and constipation. It can also cause damage to the digestive tract and lead to potential blockages or infections.

Why do some people eat paper?

Some people may have a condition known as pica, which is characterized by the consumption of non-food items such as paper. Pica may be caused by nutrient deficiencies, mental health conditions, or developmental disorders.

What are some common types of paper that people may attempt to eat?

Common types of paper that people may attempt to eat include tissue paper, napkins, paper towels, and even cardboard. However, none of these items should be consumed as they are not intended for human consumption.

Can animals eat paper?

While some animals may consume paper in small amounts, it is not recommended as a regular part of their diet. Consuming large amounts of paper can lead to digestive issues and potential harm to the animal.

What are some safe alternatives to eating paper?

If you have the urge to eat paper, it is important to seek medical attention. Some safe alternatives to eating paper may include chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, or consuming crunchy fruits and vegetables such as carrots or celery.