Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a mineral compound that is obtained from the skeletal remains of unicellular algae-like plants called Diatoms.

Diatoms have been around in lakes and oceans for millions of years. DE is mined and processed in different ways for different uses. It is commonly grounded up into a powder which is composed mainly of silica (90%) and many minerals such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, potassium, titanium, copper among others. When magnified,  Diatomaceous Earth looks like tiny cylinders with multiple pores which give it a sponge like property that allow it to absorb particles. When humans ingest this powder, they ingest millions of these cylinders which contain a strong negative charge and the capability to attract different particles that may be found in the digestive tube.

Diatomaceous Earth is used in many different ways outside of human consumption. For example, it’s used as a filler for many types of plastic and rubber, absorber for liquids, swimming pool filter, insecticide, thermal insulator, growing medium in hydroponic gardens, and even in cat litters.

Human grade Diatomaceous Earth is the only form that is safe and approved for human use. In humans, Human grade DE is completely non toxic. It can be lethal in insects due to its physical composition that damages the insects exoskeleton. The cylinders get “trapped” in the insects joints which results in destruction and death.

Human Uses and Research 

There are thousands of testimonials online from people who take DE and claim they have experienced positive results. The most common claims are listed below.

  • Diatomaceous Earth works in our digestive track by absorbing different pathological microorganisms and substances that may exist such as bacteria, virus, fungi, and drug residues.
  • It can promote regular bowel movements and a “clean” and “healthy” colon. This claim is based on the physical composition of DE and its capability to scrape our intestinal walls.
  • DE can lower cholesterol and destroy body fat.
  • Stronger hair and nails.
  • Helps heal sore joints and ligaments.
  • Less symptoms during menopause.

Eur. J. Med. Res. 1998 Apr 8;3(4):211-5.

Diatomaceous earth lowers blood cholesterol concentrations.

In this study 19 healthy individuals with mild hypercholesterolemia were studied during a 12 week period. Serum lipid levels were measured before the study and every two weeks. The lipids measured included cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Results showed that Diatomaceous Earth intake was associated with a significant reduction of serum cholesterol compared to baseline (285.8 +/- 37.5 mg/dl = 7.40 +/- 0.97 mM) vs (248.1 mg/dl = 6.43 mM, -13.2% from baseline; p<0.001) at week 6.

Conclusions state that Diatomaceous Earth is capable of reducing blood cholesterol and positively influencing lipid metabolism in humans.

J. Nut. Health Aging 2007 Mar-Apr;11(2):94-7.

The chemistry of silica and its potential health benefits.

Compelling data suggest that silica is essential for health although no RDI has been established. Deficiency induces deformities in skull and peripheral bones, poorly formed joints, reduced contents of cartilage, collagen, and disruption of mineral balance in the femur and vertebrae. Very little toxicity reports exist regarding water silica consumption.

Conclusions

Due to a lack of information on this product it is very hard for me to recommend this supplement for anything other than mild forms of hypercholesterolemia. If you are already taking DE and have noticed positive effects, then you can continue taking DE since there are no known toxic effects associated with this product, even when taken for long periods of time.

Although silica is believed to be associated with many positive benefits in the human body, there is very little scientific evidence to support these claims. Most of the claims are based exclusively on human testimonials which state they have experienced positive results while taking Diatomaceous Earth.  Due to its physical properties, Diatomaceous Earth is considered to be an effective therapy for many gastrointestinal infections and toxicities. Once again, there is no scientific evidence to back these claims. As far as its use as a cholesterol lowering supplement, there is significant scientific evidence that showed very positive results. In a controlled clinical trial that took place in Austria, there was almost a 40 point reduction in serum cholesterol levels in individuals with mild hypercholesterolemia during a 4 week period.

We consume small amounts of silica through the food we eat which we use for different body functions. Silica deficiency can be associated with skull and peripheral bone deformity, poorly formed joints, reduced contents of cartilage, collagen, and disruption of mineral balance in the femur and vertebrae. Although these deficiencies have been reported, it is extremely rare for a person to suffer any deformity if he/she has normal eating habits.

In conclusion, Diatomaceous Earth (food grade) is a safe product that lacks scientific evidence to support its claims as a gastrointestinal agent that can detoxify and remove bacteria or other microorganisms. Nonetheless, there are thousands of claims from people who take DE that state they “feel better” from taking it. Due to its low cost and low toxicity it can be considered a reasonable option for those who have irregular bowel movements or other discomforts without an organic disease that requires medical treatment. Further clinical trials are necessary in order to better understand how this supplement works and if indeed it does work.

Thumbs up for hypercholesterolemia.

Thumbs down for gastrointestinal infections or detoxification primarily because there is insufficient evidence the validate these claims.

Questions and Answers

Is Diatomaceous Earth a safe product?

Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is considered to be safe. There are no known cases of significant toxicity or other serious side effects when used as indicated. Inhalation of the DE powder is not advised.

How do I take Diatomaceous Earth?

Since there is no real evidence of its benefit as a supplement other than for hypercholesterolemia, there isn’t really a recommended daily dose. When used for hypercholesterolemia the dose administered was 250mg taken 3 times per day. A good idea would be to take 1 to 2 tablespoons with water once a day. If no side effects appear, you can take 1 tablespoon with water 3 times a day.

Can Diatomaceous Earth be taken by children or during pregnancy?

There are no studies that have shown Diatomaceous Earth to be safe or effective in children or during pregnancy, therefore I would not recommend this supplement for children or women during pregnancy.