Silica – Supports Your Bones, Joints, Nails and More

Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

One of the most abundant minerals on earth is surprisingly lacking in our diet. That mineral is silica which is used throughout many industries for products and buildings. Silica also plays a vital role for your body’s structural needs. Natural forms of this mineral are also found in a variety of foods, especially plants. The richest source of silica comes from the common bamboo plant, a grass found in the tropics of Asia, America, and Africa.

Whether you have a bamboo floor, a piece of furniture, or even a fishing pole made of bamboo, you might not be aware of the various health benefits bamboo provides. Common bamboo extract (Bambusa vulgaris) has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Historically, the leaves and shoots have been used to help digestive concerns with nausea, loss of appetite, clearing phlegm, and even hiccups or emesis.

Other parts of the bamboo plant provide additional support due to its natural silica content. The stem of the common bamboo is comprised of an astounding 70 percent natural silica, which is more than any other plant source.

Silica and Silicon vs Silicone

Silicon is a mineral naturally found in the Earth and various plants like bamboo stem. It is the second most abundant element earth’s crust. Silica is a general term for compounds containing silicon and oxygen atoms. Many forms exist of silicon and silica. Silicon is widely used in the construction industry, for industrial use, and in technology to make electronic circuits. Natural plant-based silica does not conduct electricity. Plant-based silica is water soluble and is more biologically available.

Silica and silicon should not be confused with silicone. Silicone is synthetic rubber-like compound used with medical implants, contact lenses, dentistry, catheters, bandages, shampoos, and shaving cream, and construction materials, etc.

Silica – Important for Your Bones and Soft Tissue Matrix

Silica is found in several tissues, like your bones, with smaller amounts found in tendons, the aorta, liver, kidneys, cartilage, skin and nails. Inadequate intake of silica has been linked with deformities in bones, poorly formed joints, diminished cartilage, and collagen. Mineral content of bones is also disrupted with lack of silica, leading to adverse bone density changes. Much of the research on silica pertains to bone health and its positive effect on bone density. It has some remarkable benefits.

Silica is used to help the formation of your bone matrix or the intracellular substance of bones. It helps engage and stimulate osteoblasts, which are bone building cells, and the enzyme alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme related with bone formation. Presence of silica and activation of osteoblasts is critical for bone development, calcification, and bone density, as silica accelerates the rate of bone formation. Research shows improved bone mineral density with the intake of highly bioavailable natural silica.

Silica influences the formation of connective tissue and bone as it helps support collagen, glycosaminoglycans, and mucopolysaccharides used in building the matrix of these tissues. These compounds bind onto water, proteins, and ions that result in strong, resilient, rigid tissues.

Silica and Tendons

Studies demonstrate silica’s benefit helping tendon repair. It aids in strengthening collagen structure of the tendons. Tissues samples show better organization and structure of the tendons in animals treated with silica compared to those lacking silica.

Silica and Skin, Hair and Nails

Silica aids in tissue elasticity and synthesis of collagen, thereby helping skin and wrinkling. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated silica’s effect on sun-damaged skin, as well as brittle hair, and nails in women. After 20 weeks of supplementation with a highly absorbable form of silica, the women who received the silica had softer, supple skin along with an improvement in hair and nail strength and texture.

Silica and Brain Health – Hmmm?

Silica also affects the absorption and function of minerals like copper and magnesium along with an ability to inhibit aluminum. This action against aluminum has taken silica research to another dimension. A small number of studies have focused on silica’s impact on brain health. Preliminary evidence suggests silica may help buffer against the neurotoxic effects of aluminum in the brain and aid with an aging brain.

Silica and Diet

There are other sources of natural silica, but they provide less than bamboo stem. Small amounts of natural silica may be found in cereals (oat, millet, barley and unrefined rice), carotene rich (red, orange) vegetables, along with green beans, and spinach, dairy products, mineral water, and beer (hops, barley). The Western diet provides an estimated 19-31 milligrams of silica per day. An intake level of at least 25 mg per day is considered essential for the maintenance of healthy bones. Higher amounts of silica may be warranted for individuals in need of bone and musculoskeletal support.

As scientists continue to explore the benefits of silica and its many different forms, silica clearly is a necessary nutrient for the internal scaffolding of bones and other soft tissues. We recently updated the Strengthener Plus formula to include bamboo extract as a great source of natural silica. Most of the time, calcium, vitamin k2, vitamin D, magnesium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen peptides are considered the top priority for structural support. Silica works independent of these nutrients, yet is an important part of the team for building healthy structures. Make sure to remember to include silica for your body’s needs.