How the ground you stand on can heal

The Good Life Letter 

13th March 2016

In a fun packed week I’ve been thinking about sand.

Not the most entertaining thought you might be saying to yourself, but bear with me as I don’t think we give base materials enough respect.

Sure, all of us enjoy a quiet stroll along a beach, and we might even be grateful of the chance to keep the kids occupied in a sandpit for a bit or even be looking forward to rebuilding the patio by laying slabs on the stuff... but do you really know what it is capable of?

Well rather than sand itself, the silicon it is composed of.

This element is the second most abundant on the earth (after oxygen) so we come into contact with it every day, yet most of us find it hard to get what we need.

The truth is that silicon is fast becoming yet another mineral we are becoming deficient in.

Increasingly scientists are beginning to understand how poor nutrition and declining levels of activity are destroying our bodies from the inside.

As we live cleaner lives, eat processed food and spend our working days at keyboards rather than coalfaces we just don’t get the earth minerals we need and that is rapidly damaging our bones.

Scary thought isn’t it, but failing bone health will result in over 200,000 hospitalisations this year in the UK alone.

Low bone mass is termed as osteoporosis (or osteopenia in its early stages when the levels of mineral are decreased but the structure of the bone is yet to be affected) and is being dubbed the silent epidemic of the 21st century.

Understanding the factors which affect bone metabolism is thus of primary importance in order to establish preventative measures or treatments for this condition. Nutrition is an important determinant of bone health, but the effects of the individual nutrients and minerals, other than calcium, is little understood.

Mention osteoporosis to your GP, health nurse, pharmacist or type it into Google and you will be showered with information about calcium supplementation and maybe at a push someone will mention magnesium – which is also vital.

It seems like the only answer to this debilitating and even life threatening condition is to force more calcium into your diet, but new thinking is beginning to suggest that this is way too simplistic.

Another more important mineral is starting to look like the key to this condition…

…which brings me back to my day dream of the sandy beach – the key is actually silica or to be more exact the mineral silicon from which it derives.

How you can benefit from this amazing mineral

Getting your share of silicon

Sand is composed largely of silica, an oxidised form of silicon and it is this which scientists have been getting excited about over the past few years.

Rapidly accumulating evidence over the last 10 years strongly suggests that dietary silicon is beneficial to bone and connective tissue health, and although no-one is entirely sure how it acts, major studies in the UK and US have shown huge benefits from supplementation.

So, am I about to suggest that you should be making lunch from sand? A real ‘sand’wich if you will! (Sorry, could never resist a truly awful pun!)

Well no, because that’s not what your body needs and it would also cause your teeth to wear away which is not a desirable outcome.

The problem is that some forms are not available to us for use in our bodies.

Leaving aside the whole issue of creating artificially pneumatic women using silicone implants and the well documented health risks of poor quality materials… if you want to get the benefits of silicon you need to choose your source wisely.

We encounter silicon in plant derived foods such as flour, oatmeal and even beer (hurrah!) but there is little in meat or dairy products, so a good balanced diet is a start.

The problem is that not much of the mineral is available to us when we need it and the body has very poor reserves stored.

Under trial conditions it has been found that silicon in the form of silicic acid is readily available to the body – it has even been officially recognised by the European Food Standards Agency(1).

Silicon has a surprising number of health benefits including:

  • Preventing hair loss; a diet rich in silicon encourages the growth of thick and healthy hair. It also increases the lustre and shine of hair.
  • Promotes healthy bone and ligaments; silicon plays a vital role in assisting calcium for the growth and maintenance of joints and bones. It induces flexibility in the bones by increasing the amount of collagen, which is the protein component of bones.
  • Maintains healthy skin and prevents brittle nails; silicon helps in improving the quality of nails and protecting them against several nail infections, in addition it prevents the skin from becoming flabby and restores the natural glow of the skin and actually improves healing when skin is damaged.
  • Protects the cardiovascular system; silicon has been found to prevent the formation of damaging plaques and helps prevent atherosclerotic damage to the heart and major blood vessels.

Still think sand is overrated? Read more about silicon here

Maybe you should be thinking about sand too?

Yours, as always


Ray

References:

(1) F. Aguilar, U.R. Charrondiere, B. Dusemund, P. Galtier, J. Gilbert, D.M. Gott, S. Grilli, R. Guertler, G.E.N. Kass, J. Koenig, C. Lambré, J-C. Larsen, J-C. Leblanc, A. Mortensen, D. Parent-Massin, I. Pratt, I.M.C.M. Rietjens, I. Stankovic, P. Tobback, T. Verguieva, R.A. Woutersen. (2009) Choline-stabilised orthosilicic acid added for nutritional purposes to food supplements. The EFSA Journal (2009) 948, 1-23

 

 

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