What is silica and what does it do?
Silica is a natural compound, found all around us in nature. Silica makes up over a quarter of the planet’s crust and can be found in most rocks, clays and sands.
Silicon dioxide (SiO2), also known as silica, is a natural compound made of two of the earth’s most abundant materials: silicon (Si) and oxygen (O2).
Silicon dioxide is most often recognized in the form of quartz. It’s found naturally in water, plants, animals, and the earth. The earth’s crust is 59 percent silica. It makes up more than 95 percent of known rocks on the planet. When you sit on a beach, it’s silicon dioxide in the form of sand that gets between your toes.
It’s even found naturally in the tissues of the human body. Though it’s unclear what role it plays, it’s thought to be an essential nutrient our bodies need.
In short, it’s everywhere – but how exactly can it help your health?
Although it’s now known to be an important trace element, historically silica’s actually been considered more harmful than helpful to our health – for example, it’s known that when inhaled in its crystalline form, over time, silica can cause serious lung disease.
But silica comes in many forms.
There is a lot of evidence that its water-soluble form, which is found in certain plants, rocks and in many other forms is highly beneficial to health.
Food sources of silica include:
Silica is available in liquid form as tablets and caplets.
Benefits of silica
More research is needed to fully understand silica’s role in our body, but it’s thought to have the following effects:
It can support bone formation and maintenance
Although calcium and vitamin D get most of the attention when it comes to bone health, a 2013 study in International Journal of Endocrinology reported that silica can increase bone mineral density and strength. The researchers think silica is needed to trigger the deposit of bone crystals; a procedure known as bone mineralization.
It may help make collagen
A 2016 study by Sao Paulo University, Brazil reported that silica helps form the building blocks of collagen, an important protein found in your skin, blood, cartilage, muscles, and ligaments.
Collagen is needed to keep skin springy and elastic and provide crucial protection and structure to your organs and joints. In one study of women with sun-damaged skin, those who took 10mg of silica daily for 20 weeks had decreased skin roughness and wrinkling, and stronger, less brittle hair and nails.
It may also help your heart and immune system
Silica may help protect your heart health by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, while lowering cholesterol, according to a 2018 report by the University of Memphis. The mineral can also support the immune response and help to control inflammation in the body.
How much silica is safe to take?
The upper safe limit has been reported as 700–1,750 mg a day. As silica is water-soluble, excess is simply passed out by the body in your urine, meaning it’s unlikely to cause side effects if you take too much.
Silica should be avoided by the following people:
pregnant women – it has not been proved safe for them
people with kidney disease – they may accumulate silica in their bloodstream
What are the side-effects of taking silica?
Silica is considered safe for healthy people.
However, before you take silica, always check with your doctor if you have a long-term condition or are on any medication.
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