Why Diatomaceous Earth Instead of Clays
by Jon Sasmor RCPC (Mineral Guide, MinBalance LLC)
Updated January 21, 2022
Diatomaceous earth may help:
- provide beneficial silica,
- clear parasites, and
- remove excess metals.
Diatomaceous earth contains iron, aluminum, and other metals; however, these likely aren't absorbed in the body.
Diatomaceous earth seems safer that clays. It has more silica and less aluminum content than common clays such as azomite and zeolite.
Use diatomaceous earth cautiously in phase 3 of the Root Cause Protocol or in later phases of your other mineral balancing program.
What are Diatoms?
Here's the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article about diatoms:
Diatoms (diá-tom-os 'cut in half', from diá, 'through' or 'apart', and the root of tém-n-ō, 'I cut') are a major group of algae, specifically microalgae, found in the oceans, waterways and soils of the world. Living diatoms make up a significant portion of the Earth's biomass: they generate about 20 to 50 percent of the oxygen produced on the planet each year, take in over 6.7 billion metric tons of silicon each year from the waters in which they live, and constitute nearly half of the organic material found in the oceans. The shells of dead diatoms can reach as much as a half-mile (800 m) deep on the ocean floor, and the entire Amazon basin is fertilized annually by 27 million tons of diatom shell dust transported by transatlantic winds from the African Sahara, much of it from the Bodélé Depression, which was once made up of a system of fresh-water lakes.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth (DE) or diatomite is the ancient fossilized remains of silica-loving algae called diatoms.
Diatomaceous earth as a health product is known for its high content of beneficial silica.
Composition of Diatomaceous Earth
I requested mineral composition from two manufacturers of diatomaceous earth. One provided an analysis; the other hasn't yet responded.
The chart below compares the one manufacturer's diatomaceous earth analysis with a published international average of diatomaceous earth samples, and also some data about certain edible clays for comparison. I've redacted the name of the manufacturer because this is a very incomplete survey, and the data is being used only for ballpark comparisons.
|Component||Diatomaceous Earth, Brand A (%)||Diatomaceous Earth, Range from 20 International Samples (%)||Azomite Clay (%)||Zeolite Clay (%)|
|Personal communication, January 17, 2022||Ikusika et al., 2019||Azomite Mineral Products, Inc., n.d.||Ida-Ore Zeolite, 2021|
|Silicon Dioxide (SiO2)||80.0||62.8-90.1||65.85||71.5|
|Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3)||7.86||0.62-17.50||11.43||12.3|
|Iron (III) Oxide (Fe2O3)||2.44||0.20-11.4||1.37||2.1|
|Titanium Dioxide (TiO2)||0.40||0.05-0.70||0.20||0.27|
DE: Safer than Clays
Aluminum and silica are found together in Nature, due to their interchangeability in crystal structures and life forms. There is an amazing plethora of aluminosilicate minerals! (Amethyst Galleries, Inc., 2014.)
As shown in the table above, diatomaceous earth seems to have a higher ratio of beneficial silica to harmful aluminum, compared with clays that are commonly ingested for health reasons.
The SiO2/Al2O3 ratio is 10.2 in diatomaceous earth, compared with 5.76 in azomite and 5.81 in zeolite.
For this reason, diatomaceous earth seems safer to ingest than clays. DE is one of the richest sources of silica by percentage, which is why it acts as a magnet for aluminum and may help remove harmful aluminum from the body.
What Remains Unknown About DE
A teaspoon of diatomaceous earth weighs around one gram (St. Gabriel Organics, 2015).
Therefore, using the percentages from the diatomaceous earth product above, diatomaceous earth contains around:
- 17 milligrams of elemental iron [calculated as 0.0244 * 1000 mg * ((2*55.845)/(2*55.845+3*15.999))]
- 42 milligrams of elemental aluminum [calculated as 0.0786 * 1000 mg * ((2*26.9815385)/(2*26.9815385+3*15.999))]
Seventeen milligrams is a lot of iron, when we need to absorb only one to two milligrams per day.
However, are the iron, aluminum, and other metals from diatomaceous earth absorbed? Or, in fact, does the diatomaceous earth bind metals so well that it keeps its own metals and also acts to remove excess iron, aluminum, and other toxic metals from the body?
Anecdotal evidence suggests benefits from eating small amounts of diatomaceous earth, away from meals. This anecdotal evidence suggests the DE is indeed helping remove metal excesses, rather than adding more iron or aluminum. One colleague told me her aluminum levels on hair tissue mineral analysis finally went down when she started taking diatomaceous earth.
At this time, I'm not yet aware of research about how diatomaceous earth consumption affects long-term mineral patterns, nor about rate of absorption/removal of iron and aluminum from consuming diatomaceous earth. If anyone knows of such research, please contact me.
Therefore, I call Diatomaceous Earth a "wildcard":
- DE could add some of its own metal content to your body, if absorbed. This seems unlikely to me, but possible.
- DE offers potential benefits of adding silica, disabling parasites in the gut, and removing excess metals.
It also isn't known whether diatomaceous earth (and also clays) might bind and remove the important Sidekick Electrolytes, which include strontium, lithium, and rubidium.
Perspectives on Diatomaceous Earth
Dr. Larry Wilson states:
Some people are promoting this product as a remedy for toxic metals and perhaps for other purposes. However, we find it too toxic and not good enough for the removal of most toxic metals. Please avoid diatomaceous earth.
Morley Robbins' Root Cause Protocol includes low-dosage diatomaceous earth in Phase 3 (the most advanced phase).
Morley emphasizes two benefits of diatomaceous earth:
- DE delivers a wonderful silica source.
- DE removes parasites from the digestive tract by dehydrating them.
(M. Robbins, personal communication, January 18, 2022).
The Root Cause Protocol Handbook, version 10.0, mentions additional benefits:
Benefits of DE include serving as a parasite desiccant and digestive tract cleanser, simulating collagen to provide support for bone, joint and connective tissue, helping to bond to metals such as aluminum, and serving as a catalyst for the activity of copper. Each of these benefits lowers oxidative stress and reduces the demands on ceruloplasmin, ultimately allowing copper to improve iron transport and recycling. See Handbook FAQs for more about DE.
*Diatomaceous earth is for those who are well-established on the RCP. Since it can serve to bind minerals, the user should have a solid mineral foundation before using. There may be mild detoxification symptoms when starting.
(RCP Institute, LLC, 2021, p. 29).
Tips for Using Diatomaceous Earth
- Wait until phase 3 of the Root Cause Protocol or a later phase of your other mineral balancing program to try diatomaceous earth. Get the basics in place first.
- If you've already started or have been getting previous good results with diatomaceous earth, you can continue with DE even in an earlier phase.
- Replace clays such as bentonite, azomite, zeolite, and montmorillonite with diatomaceous earth whenever possible.
- Take diatomaceous earth with water, away from food.
- Use the smallest amount that works. Start with 1/8 tsp. a day or even less. Increase gradually, making no more than one change per week. Don't exceed 1 tsp. per day; and stick with a lower dose than 1 tsp. if it works well.
- Continue to monitor your mineral balance regularly while taking diatomaceous earth. Hair mineral testing and blood tests may provide a tip-off if the DE were to be causing absorption of excess metals or detox moving too rapidly. Ideally monitor minerals every 3-6 months while taking DE.
The short answer about diatomaceous earth: it has a good bit of iron and aluminum, but higher proportion of silica than the clays. So I'd prefer the DE to the clay.
I don't know whether the net effect is absorption or removal of iron and aluminum.
Some people seem to get good results from DE.
I'd say to stop the clay. Use DE cautiously instead.
Start with 1/8 tsp or less. 1 tsp is the maximum dosage per day per the Root Cause Protocol, but try to use lower dosage if it works.
Azomite® Mineral Products, Inc. (n.d.). AZOMITE® ore – Certificate of analysis. https://www.azomiteinternational.com/resources/coa.pdf
Diatom. (2022, January 21). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Diatom&oldid=1065558093
Ida-Ore Zeolite. (2021). Specifications: Elemental breakdown. https://ida-ore.com/what-is-zeolite/specifications/
Ikusika, O. O., Mpendulo, C. T., Zindove, T. J., & Okoh, A. I. (2019). Fossil shell flour in livestock production: A review. Animals, 9(3), 70. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030070
RCP Institute, LLC. (2021, October 4). RCP handbook, Version 10.0. https://therootcauseprotocol.com/handbook-download/
St. Gabriel Organics. (2015). UrthPet diatomaceous earth powder: technical data sheet. https://stgabrielorganics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Technical-Data-Sheet-UrthPet-DE-4Dec2014.pdf
Wilson, L.D. (2018, June). Diatomaceous earth. The Development Science And Nutritional Balancing Website. https://www.drlwilson.com/ARTICLES/DIATOMACEOUS%20EARTH.htm