Diatomaceous earth is a form of powder created from the residue of fossilized algae found in bodies of water. Because the cells of these algae were rich in a component called silica, the dried silt created from these fossils is likewise quite high in silica.
Let’s explore what diatomaceous earth is and the benefits it offers.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth (DI) is a natural sand that you can collect from the ground. There are minute skeletons of algae, known as diatoms, preserved in the sediments for millions of years (1).
It is also utilized in industries. With the use of this equipment, impurities are removed from the water before it is consumed. It is used as a filler or to prevent lumps from developing in various products, including food, medicines, paints and plastics, and pet litter (1).
These deposits are found all over the planet. The ancient Greeks utilized them to make bricks and blocks for building. As time went on, it gained widespread acceptance in Europe for many industrial applications (2).
Food grade diatomaceous earth, which is safe to eat, and filter grade diatomaceous earth, inedible but has several industrial applications, are the two primary varieties of it.
Silica, a chemical component, makes up the majority of diatoms in diatomaceous earth. Silica may be found in everything from sand and rocks to plants and people, making it an essential component of nature. Diatomaceous earth, on the other hand, is a rich source of silica (3).
Several trace minerals, including iron oxide, are reported to be present in commercially available it, including silica, which makes about 80–90 percent of the material (rust) (4).
How Does It Work?
Approximately 80% to 90% of it is composed of silica. By drying them out or dehydrating them, it is believed to kill insects. In addition, the powder enables liquids to pass through while catching any undesired materials (5).
Abrasive diatomaceous earth keeps insects and other pests at bay by damaging their exoskeletons. At least a few different methods.
The waxy covering of insect exoskeletons clings to it, causing microscopic wounds and limiting the insects’ breathing capacity. By absorbing water and other fluids, it prevents insects from keeping hydrated. If the bug is big enough to consume a particle, it might cause internal harm (6).
Using this material, an insect pest may be poisoned and killed within hours or days. You may still have an infestation even if just a few of the bugs in your house or company are impacted by this treatment.
It is used in industries to clean up spills, provide insulation for workers, and cleansing items. Moreover, it is utilized as a part of many chemical testing. It is also employed as a pesticide.
Food-Grade and Filter-Grade Varieties
It is used in the garden must be of the “Food Grade” kind, as opposed to the diatomaceous earth that has long been used in swimming pool filters. Swimming pool filter diatomaceous earth undergoes a distinct procedure that alters its composition to have a greater concentration of free silica (7).
Because its dust may irritate your nose and mouth if inhaled. When using food-grade diatomaceous earth, you must protect your respiratory system by using a dust mask. While the dust settles, there is no threat to you or your pets.
Crystalline and amorphous silica are the two most common types of silica (non-crystalline).
Under a microscope, the crystallized shape resembles glass. It’s useful in a wide range of industries because of its qualities (8).
Crystalline silica concentrations in it differ between the two primary forms.
The agriculture and food sectors employ this kind as a pesticide and an anti-caking agent since it includes 0.5–2% crystalline silica. The EPA, USDA, and FDA have all given their blessing to its usage.
As much as 60% of the filter grade’s silica content is crystalline silica, also known as non-food grade silica. However, it has several industrial applications, including water purification and dynamite manufacture, despite being very hazardous to animals (9).
Does Diatomaceous Earth Have Health Benefits?
As a nutritional supplement, food-grade diatomaceous earth has lately gained popularity.
The following health advantages are said to be associated with it:
- It helps detoxify the digestive system.
- Digestive health should be a top priority.
- It reduces cholesterol and heart disease
- Supplements to the body’s mineral intake.
- It boosts the health of your bones.
- Maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails.
As a supplement, it is helpful for treating excessive cholesterol levels, alleviating constipation, and enhancing other aspects of one’s health. It may be used to exfoliate dead skin cells from the skin or clean teeth when applied topically.
Most of these claims are based on theoretical and anecdotal evidence since there hasn’t been much high-quality human research on it as a supplement. Studies have not supported the claims of supplement producers that diatomaceous earth offers a wide range of health advantages. But there are some benefits you can find in the literature;
Effects on Bone Health
Non-oxidized silica (silicon) is a mineral that your body stores. Its precise function is unknown, although it seems to be critical for bone health and the structural integrity of nails, hair, and skin (12).
Some say that diatomaceous earth may help raise your silicon levels because of its silica concentration. Silica that does not combine with fluids, such as this sort, does not absorb well or at all.
According to some studies, silica may emit little but significant amounts of silicon that your body can absorb, although this has not been verified and is improbable. As a result, it is very unlikely that ingesting diatomaceous earth would positively affect bone health (13).
The human body contains tiny quantities of silica, which some feel aids in properly aging bones and joints. Some argue that D.E. strengthens bones and joints since it is made from nearly completely of silica, which is needed for cartilage development. The future of silicon and bone health research seems bright, but there is still much to learn.
Some people believe that diatomaceous earth’s silica may boost your body’s silicon levels and strengthen your bones, but there is not enough scientific proof to prove this. (14).
Effects on Toxins
One of the diatomaceous earth’s most prominent health claims is that it aids in detoxification by purifying the digestive system.
According to this assertion, diatomaceous earth can remove heavy metals from water, so it is so popular as an industrial-grade filter (15).
A lack of data suggests that this method can be used for digestion or that it has any meaningful influence on the digestive tract. There is no evidence to support the assumption that toxins exist in people’s bodies.
Toxins may be neutralized and eliminated by your body. The prevalent assumption that diatomaceous earth helps the digestive tract remove toxins is unfounded (16).
Diatomaceous Earth May Lower Cholesterol Levels
Diatomaceous earth has only been studied as a dietary supplement in one human trial, undertaken in 19 persons with a history of elevated cholesterol.
For eight weeks, the participants took the supplement three times a day. It was found that total cholesterol reduced by 13.2%, “bad” LDL and triglycerides decreased, and “good” HDL cholesterol rose (17).
It is hard to prove that diatomaceous earth lowered cholesterol in this research since there was no control group.
Diatomaceous earth has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in a short study. More investigation is required to improve the study’s design (18).
Others believe that supplementing with D.E. helps reduce inflammation in the body. Despite this, some study has found that the opposite is true.
Studies in 2015 indicated increased inflammation and cases of lung illness among diatomaceous earth workers who breathed in high levels of silica (19).
Safety of Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe to eat and drink. It does not reach your circulation after passing through your digestive system undamaged (20).
Avoid inhaling diatomaceous earth. Inhaling silica may irritate your lungs as dust might, but it’s considerably more dangerous. Inflammation and scarring of the lungs may result from inhaling crystalline silica, known as silicosis. In 2013, this disease, which mostly affects coal miners, claimed the lives of 46,000 people (21).
There’s a misconception that food-grade diatomaceous earth, which contains less than 2% crystalline silica, is safe. Long-term inhalation, on the other hand, may harm your lungs. It is okay to eat the food-grade diatomaceous earth, but don’t inhale it! Lung inflammation and scarring are possible side effects (22).
The Bottomline: Diatomaceous Earth Health Benefits
The health benefits of diatomaceous earth are widely advertised. Diatomaceous earth is not one of those supplements that have been shown to improve health. Changing your food and way of life is the greatest way to become healthier.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.