Silica: Understanding this important mineral.
Minerals such as such as magnesium, potassium and iron are the catalysts for all the vitamins and other nutrients your body uses for developing and maintaining good health. Our bodies can’t produce these minerals, so we have to obtain them from the foods we eat. In addition, we now know that New Zealand soils are often deficient in iodine, selenium and zinc due to intensive farming techniques.
Of all the minerals we need to stay healthy, silica is perhaps the least known and the least understood. It plays an important role in strengthening our skin tissue and bone as well as providing a number of other benefits. It is the seventh most prevalent element in human tissue, after calcium, which it works with to maintain healthy bones. Although silica is one of the most abundant substances in the body, as we age we retain less and less, and our intake tends to decrease with age, so it’s important that we maintain good levels through our diet and supplement if required.
Silica helps with collagen formation, joint function, strong bones, teeth and gums, gastrointestinal issues and is great for hair, skin and nails. Modern diets are lacking in silica due the refinement of the grains we eat and the filtering of the water we drink. The body needs to compensate for the lack of minerals by taking it from the healthy reserves in our bone and muscle, thus leaving our system deficient and vulnerable to problems that can get worse as we age. When we are young, silica levels in our body are high and our bones and joints are flexible, but as we get older, these levels decline and this can lead to muscle degradation, soreness, lack of mobility, injuries, and longer healing times when injuries do happen.
The many benefits of Silica.
Healthy Skin: One of the primary functions of silica is to maintain healthy skin tissue by boosting the production of proteins such as collagen, elastin and keratin. Collagen is the tissue which holds our cells together and is the major component of everything from our bones to our skin. It is the most plentiful protein, making up 75-80% of the skin. Elastin, along with collagen, is responsible for giving structure to the skin and can help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and make the skin feel supple. Keratin strengthens hair follicles, nails, and the surface layer of the skin.
Hair, skin, nails: Silica has been shown to support hair growth, healthy skin, and strong nails. It also strengthens teeth and gums. Many toothpastes include silica as an ingredient, and it can help with inflamed and bleeding gums.
Immune system support: As the skin is the largest organ in the body, it is the first line of defence against naturally occurring bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Strong, healthy skin can help guard against infection. Silica can also assist in the fast healing of burns and other wounds, as it stimulates rapid re-growth of damaged tissue. You can apply it topically to the affected area and feel relief within seconds.
Joint support: Silica assists joint function by the strengthening of connective tissues, ligaments and muscles. This in turn can also improve overall flexibility. It may also reduce swelling of joints caused by injury which can help speed up the recovery process.
Bone formation: Silica promotes bone formation, as it manages calcium usage and storage throughout the body. It enhances calcium absorption, and these two minerals work together to help strengthen your bones. It is impossible to form bone without both calcium and silica. It is thought that supplementation of silica, rather than calcium is what’s needed for maintaining strong bones and enhance longevity.
Digestive Health: Gut health is top of mind these days, and silica helps to maintain the tissues that are found along the digestive tract. Most disorders of the stomach involve a degradation of the lining in the gastrointestinal tract, and silica is an essential element involved in rebuilding and maintaining these tissues.
Aluminium detoxification: Silica has shown to be a good eliminator of aluminium. Aluminium is a proven neurotoxin, and has been implicated as a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Silica naturally reacts with aluminium, thereby forming aluminosilicate. This reaction between silica and aluminium can occur within the body, and is believed to be an important mechanism for aluminium detoxification. Aluminosilicates are nontoxic and are eliminated by the kidneys via the urine. This may help inhibit your body’s absorption of aluminium, meaning that it is able to help decrease the amount of aluminium build-up that is found in the brain’s tissues.
It is common these days for deficiencies to occur. We are simply not getting enough of this mineral in our diets to the depletion in our soils, as well as the availability of processed foods and the refinement of grains. The husks of grains are where we have historically obtained our dietary intake of silica. But with invention of the combine harvester, husks were automatically removed to create more refined flour and grains. Bread once contained many minerals, but the prevalence of white bread and white flour has seen these minerals disappear and manufacturers try to add the minerals back in with additives. These additives are often a poor substitute.
These days, we often drink filtered or purified water, which take out potentially harmful chemicals but also strip the essential minerals that we need too. Unless we are able to replenish and replace these minerals, our body will continue to take them from our reserves that are stored in our bones and muscle, making us deficient and vulnerable to weakened tissue, sore joints and skin issues.
How to get more Silica in your diet
Silica doesn’t occur naturally in a lot of foods, but is found in husks of whole grains, natural oats, barley, wheat, corn, beetroot, asparagus, alfalfa sprouts and potato skins. It is also present in lettuce, cucumbers, avocados, strawberries and onions. The less refined and the less processed the foods are the better.
Like a lot of other minerals, as we age, the human body retains less and less silica, so there may be a need to supplement. While silica is essential for good health, and we are now aware of the benefits, no RDI has yet been established. A daily, therapeutic dose of 375mg is recommended, and taking it in liquid form is best for optimal absorption and bioavailability.
Silica Liquid Mineral$27.90
Lemmo, E.Q. 1998 Silica. Keats Publishing
Kaufmann, I 1992 Silica: The Amazing Gel. Canada: Alive
Ralph K. Iler. 1979 The Chemistry of Silica. John Wiley and Sons