Silica: A Little Known Element Comes of Age

Silica’s importance in overall optimal bodily function has been recognized for quite some time. As early as 1878, Louis Pasteur predicted that silica would be found to be an important therapeutic substance for many diseases and would play a significant role in human health and consequently nutrition.

Silica Research

During the 20th century, progress was made by pioneering researchers and scientists such as Carlisle, Butenandt, Iler, Bergna, Kervran, and Schwartz. Edith Carlisle’s work in the 70’s through the 90’s at the UCLA School of Public Health, perhaps more than any other, demonstrated the necessity of having silica in the body for proper growth and development. As a result of her research, we know that silica is absolutely essential for the body to create and maintain collagen. What was dramatically shown through Carlisle’s research was that when silica is withheld from normal nutrition, gross abnormalities develop and normal growth does not take place. While Carlisle’s work was done with chickens and mice, humans have also been experimenting with silica.

Human experimentation has yielded some amazing results. Where animal research showed the absolute necessity of silica for healthy and normal growth maintenance, human research has demonstrated the effects of silica supplementation on a much broader spectrum of maladies from youth through middle and old age.

The necessity of silica for collagen formation and development is the basis of many of these physiological effects. Collagen is the tough fibrous material that holds us together. Many aging problems are a direct result of the body’s inability to maintain adequate collagen. Think for a moment about the following aging problems: joint deterioration, brittle bones, hardening of the arteries, dry skin, inability to digest food properly, weakened teeth and gums, and atrophying organs. They all are collagen related in one form or another. When we are young, Silica levels in our body are high and our bones and joints are flexible. Our skin is supple and glowing. As we age, Silica levels decline and without adequate tissue levels of Silica, we manifest many of the symptoms of aging such as joint disease, weakened digestion, and wrinkled skin, to name a few.

Nutritional and Therapeutic Applications for Silica

  1. Connective tissue strengthening and support (joint, ligaments and muscles)
  2. Bone strengthening and support through enhanced calcium absorption Within bone, silica is the essential component making up the collagen matrix upon which calcium is deposited. This relationship is so fundamental that it is truly impossible to form bone without both calcium and silica. In fact, researchers are exploring the possibility that supplementation of silica, rather than calcium may be what is needed for maintaining strong bones.
  3. Strengthening of teeth and gums
  4. Cardiovascular support: Silica in adequate quantities creates supple arteries and veins and is effective in removing plaque from artery walls. This has actually been known since 1958 when Loeper and Loeper found arteriosclerotic artery walls showed excessively high levels of calcium and lower than normal levels of in silica.
  5. Stomach and digestive disorders : Most disorders of the stomach and digestive tract involve a degradation of the lining in the G.I. tract. Silica is an essential element involved in rebuilding and maintaining these tissues.
  6. Immune system enhancement: Our skin is our first line of defense against naturally occurring bacteria, virus’s, and other pathogens. Silica promotes and maintains healthy skin tissue.
  7. Wound and burn healing: Silica stimulates the rapid re-growth of damaged skin tissue.
  8. Thinning hair, brittle nails, and dry skin. All of these external parts of our body are collagen based.
  9. Aluminum elimination enhancement: Silica has been shown to be a good eliminator of aluminum. Aluminum has been implicated as a cause of Alzheimer’s. While the above areas may seem quite diverse, in actuality they are directly or indirectly related to proper collagen formation. Given that connective tissue is basically collagen, the inability of the body to rebuild this tissue will result in excessive injuries, general deterioration, or excessively long periods of healing time when injuries occur.

To Supplement or Not To Supplement?

The age-old debate rages on with a definitive swing in favor of supplementation. The American medical establishment is also beginning to embrace the need for supplementation to enhance health and longevity. Why is there a need to supplement with silica if it is the second most prevalent element on earth? The reason is threefold:

  1. As we age, scientific measurements have shown that the human body retains less and less silica.
  2. Silica does not occur in sufficient amounts in a wide variety of foodstuffs. It is primarily found in natural oats, millet, barley, wheat and potatoes. If we eat these foods at all, they are normally refined to a point where all the silica has been removed.
  3. The average American diet does not contain adequate levels of essential nutrients especially Silica.

Studies have shown that the average person ingests between 20 to 60 milligrams of silica daily depending upon their diet. Results from people who have supplemented with silica at 375 mg per day support silica’s effectiveness and reinforce the fact that 20 to 60 milligrams per day is not adequate. According to researchers some form of daily silica supplementation will be very beneficial.

References:
Lemmo, E.Q. 1998 Silica. Keats Publishing
Kaufmann, I 1992 Silica: The Amazing Gel. Canada: Alive

Books
Carlisle, E.M. 1986. Silicon as an essential element in Animal Nutrition. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
The Chemistry of Silica. by Ralph K. Iler. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., June 1979
Bergna, H.E. 1994. The Colloidal Chemistry of Silica. American Chemical Society