Silica is a mineral that is often overlooked and yet silica forms the foundation of life. All forms of life, insects, animals, plants and humans, require silica to provide structure and strength in order to stand upright. Silica is also required for supple skin and adds lustre and shine to hair.
Silica is the second most abundant element on Earth, second only to oxygen. Silica is literally silicon dioxide found in sand and soil. Although abundant, it is estimated that deficiencies of silica are widespread. So how can the human body be deficient in silica when it is so abundant on Earth? The answer is very simple. Like calcium, iron and other minerals, inorganic silica needs to be taken up by plants and converted into an organic form that the body can absorb and use easily.
How do we obtain silica?
Silica-rich foods include oats, cucumbers, rice, wheat, onions, flaxseeds and avocados though this list is not extensive. What remains clear is that the silica content within these foods has diminished over the years, so much so that there is a major consensus that we may be deficient in silica. The reason for this lies in food processing as well as the way we cook these foods. When plants absorb silica from soil, it does not saturate every part of the plant. It tends to deposit in the parts that often get removed. An example of this is in grains where silica is mainly found in the outer part, which gets removed prior to grinding the grain into flour. This process leaves the grain devoid of many minerals aside from silica.
This is aside from the fact that as we age, we inevitably lose our ability to absorb most nutrients from the foods we ingest. It is for this reason that silica supplements may be useful to add to your supplement regimen.
The Main Health Benefits of Silica
There are many benefits associated with silica. This mineral is what holds our bodies together – without silica we would simply fall apart!
Collagen within our skin accounts for some 75% of the dermal layer and it is this layer that is responsible for the elasticity and resilience of skin. Collagen is made up of silica which allows skin to hold together. For moisture retention, skin comprises of collagen, elastin, polysaccharides and other compounds. All of these have large amounts of silica and without silica skin will lose its elasticity. Additionally silica slows down the skin’s ageing process particularly with sagging skin, which makes one look more prematurely aged.
If you suffer from general weak bones, creaky bones when you bend them or have a history of osteoporosis, silica may be of great benefit. Whilst the majority of us have heard of calcium and vitamin D3 as being of importance to strengthen bones, silica is an absolutely crucial mineral if you wish to strengthen your joints and bones. Calcium still remains a large part of the Western diet and we obtain calcium from leafy vegetables and dairy products and yet osteoporosis still remains a problem. It seems that more is involved in preventing and treating osteoporosis than simply taking a calcium supplement.
Silica works in two ways:
It works to enhance the remineralisation of the bone tissue helping to ensure calcium and other minerals are deposited onto the bone. Bone tissue is composed of silica which gives it the strength required for every day function.
This mineral also works to balance the ratio of calcium and magnesium within the body. This mineral balance is important because achieving it may promote hormonal balance. It is precisely hormonal imbalances that may lead to osteopenia, borderline osteoporosis, leading to brittle bone disease, also known as osteoporosis.
It is interesting to note that bone actually has more silica in it than calcium.
Silica is also known to help hair and nail growth. Although the precise mechanism by which this mineral helps hair growth is not fully understood, it is thought that deficiencies of silica within the body, and hence within these structures, is directly related to their health. One theory is that silica binds with several nutrients in the body taking them to the scalp and nail bed.
Silica is also of benefit in high blood pressure, arthritic pain and for strengthening gums and teeth.
Different types of silica supplements
Silica in supplements is obtained usually from horsetail grass, also known as shave grass, as well as bamboo and diatomaceous earth. Generally touted as the highest source of silica, horsetail is not a source that I recommend. Firstly, it is not the richest source of silica. Bamboo extract contains several more times of silica than horsetail.
Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic micro-organisms called diatoms. These skeletons are made up of silica. Over a long period of time, these diatoms accumulate in the sediment of rivers, lakes and streams and silica is mined from these areas. Silica reacts with the oxygen and water to form silicon dioxide. There are two forms of silicon dioxide, amorphous and crystalline. The amorphous form is largely found in diatomaceous earth but this may contain traces of crystalline silicon dioxide – a much smaller particle found in some pesticides. It is for this reason that I tend to prefer bamboo extracts unless you can rely on a manufacturer’s word on food grade diatomaceous earth.
The body does not utilise silica in the form of silicon dioxide from the soil. What occurs is this silicon dioxide reacts with water in the soil to form small amounts of Orthosilicic Acid (OA) which is then able to be taken up by plants and humans when we ingest these plants.
Silica Drops by Life-Flo contains 6mg of silica as Orthosilicic Acid together with vitamin D3 for bone health, biotin for hair and nails, zinc for its multiple benefits and boron, a trace mineral that is known to enhance bone health.
Silica is one of the most important components of collagen, the chemical responsible for the look and feel of our skin, hair and nails. Collagen, and therefore silica, helps regenerate skin, hair and nails by repairing connective tissue. But more than this, silica is imperative if you wish to protect your bones and joints, the cardiovascular system and other structures of skin.