The increasing environmental pollution and use of different kinds of preservatives, colorants, and other food additives have exposed individuals of all ages to a plethora of chemicals and elements, many of which leave harmful effects of the physical and mental health of the exposed individual. As a result, a need for a detoxifying agent exists.
Detoxifying agents usually work by adhering to the molecules of the heavy metals and other toxic elements present in the human body and excrete them out, without disrupting the normal physiology. However, many of these detoxifying agents have their own side effects, which may limit their use to more serious cases in which an urgent need for detoxification exists. The examples for such situations may include overdose of a prescription or non-prescription drug, incidental or intentional exposure to harmful chemicals, exposure to pesticides, etc.
Silica or diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic substance that’s known to influence the human health positively in several ways. The substance is known to delay age-related memory loss and bone degeneration, as well as improve the skin elasticity. The detoxifying role of silica is a comparatively under-researched area, and there’s a need for more systematic, well-designed research studies and trials that can provide us an insight into the potential role of silica as a detoxifying agent.
In this article, we are summarizing the evidence available so far regarding the role of silica in removing heavy metals from the body and preventing their possible adverse effects.
Detox, Cleanse, Rejuvenate — Scientific Evidence on Detoxifying Benefits of Silica
Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust. While food contains minimal amount of this element, consumption of water containing high concentrations of aluminum can expose an individual to the risk of aluminum toxicity. Aluminum toxicity can be a potentially life-threatening condition with chronic symptoms of impaired kidney function, bone pain, muscle weakness, changes in mental status, premature osteoporosis, and multiple non-healing fractures.
The medical world hails silica as an antidote in case of aluminum toxicity. Several research studies conclude that its use can help eliminate the heavy metal from the body and minimize the adverse effects caused by high concentrations of aluminum.
A research study conducted by the American Society of Clinical Nutrition concluded that oligomeric silica molecules have a high affinity for aluminum, which can help reduce aluminum absorption from the gut and minimize the amount of aluminum entering the blood stream, thereby, minimizing the risk for toxicity.
The study was conducted in two phases and it utilized two forms of silica, monomeric and oligomeric. In the first phase, three volunteers took part. Each of them ingested aluminum alone, aluminum with oligomeric silica, and aluminum with monomeric silica, not to be confused with the natural benefits of forskolin. In the second phase, five volunteers took part with each of them ingesting both oligomeric and monomeric silica. The results concluded that oligomeric silica was more effective in reducing the concentration of aluminum than monomeric silica.
Apart from aluminum, various other heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium can also cause serious adverse effects when ingested in high amounts. A research published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces suggested that silica can play a role in the detoxification of the three heavy metals. The researchers who conducted this study developed a nonporous silica material as a possible oral detoxifying agent for lead, cadmium, and mercury. The detoxifying effect of the newly developed compound was evaluated on both in-vitro and in-vivo animal models. In both conditions, the silica molecules showed great potential as a new oral drug for heavy metal poisoning.
In addition to heavy metals toxicity, intentional or incidental exposure to different drugs is also one of the major applications of detoxifying agents. In order to study the role of silica in such conditions, American Chemical Society, in collaboration with different universities, developed oil-filled silica nanocapsules and used them as a detoxifying agent for different lipophilic drugs. An in-vitro analysis was performed to determine the ability of oil-filled silica nanocapsules in the removal of two lipophilic drugs, quinoline and bupivacaine. The results showed rapid removal of both the drugs, concluding the silica could possibly be used in detoxification therapy for different drugs.
Ingestion of pesticides and insecticides is one of the commonest sources of poisoning. The substances contain organophosphate compounds which cause a number of complications, including neurologic impairment. Researchers are investigation the potential application of silica in this particular condition as its non-toxic and can be administered in large amounts in order to adsorb the organophosphate compounds and minimize the damage caused by their ingestion.
A research study published in the nanotechnology journal “Small” reports that mesoporous silica nanoparticles can detoxify organophosphorus compounds into non-toxic dimethylphosphate. Because of their low-cost and non-toxic nature, mesoporous silica nanoparticles hold great potential in detoxification of organophosphorous compounds. However, in order to develop strong conclusive evidence, more research studies are required on the similar subject.
While a number of research studies have been conducted in order to determine the detoxifying effects of silica, almost each of them has utilized different preparation. Therefore, consensus needs to be established on which form of silica is the most efficacious as a detoxifying agent. Also, the oral preparations of silica that are currently available have limited bioavailability, which may potentially reduce the benefit obtained from it. Therefore, researchers need to develop newer preparations that exhibit a uniform absorption pattern and can offer greater benefits in minimal dose. Exploring the use of silica in drug detoxification as an alternative to dialysis can be useful as well, as oral preparations are more cost-effective and offer greater convenience to the patient.