There are various ‘non-food’ ingredients which have been around for ages, but which are just recently being studied for their effects on the health and overall functioning of the body.
Such ingredients are now being recognised as beneficial and are making their way into the markets as health supplements or in other cosmetic forms.
One such undermined product is Bentonite clay.
What is bentonite clay?Bentonite is an absorbent, fine and soft clay. One of the first places where this clay was found is thought to be near Rock River, Wyoming. It forms from the weathered volcanic ash, generally in the presence of water.
Bentonite clay has been used since ages, either internally or externally, for aesthetic purposes as well as in the treatment of certain conditions.
How does it work?Scientists say that bentonite clay acts by adsorption and absorption. Adsorption means attracting various particles like dirt, oil, etc. Absorption means binding up various molecules such as water.
Bentonite clay has a high ion-exchange capacity. What it means is that, the clay, which has negative ions, can attract positive ions. Such positive ions are generally minerals like magnesium, sodium and potassium.
Bentonite also contains aluminium and silica-which have various health benefits.
Benefits of Bentonite clayOwing to the above mentioned action mechanisms, bentonite clay is believed to have various health benefits. Although most studies have been conducted on animals, the same beneficial effect may be applicable to humans as well.
1. Removes toxins from the bodyBentonite clay has been shown to act as a detoxifying agent and has been greatly studied for this benefit.
Various studies conducted on animals do suggest its potential in eliminating toxins from the body.
A study conducted on rats showed that ingestion of bentonite for 2 weeks before a mycotoxin toxicity, increased the fecal excretion of the toxin, while simultaneously decreasing its concentration in the muscles.
Bentonite has also shown to have an absorbing capacity for aflatoxins.
A study conducted in pigs showed that addition of bentonite clay to aflatoxin-contaminated corn helped to partially restore the liver function.
Also, when bentonite was added to the aflatoxin contaminated diet fed to rabbits, the clay helped to improve the reproductive function in both, male and female rabbits.
2. Provides sun protectionA study was conducted to test the UV absorption property of various mineral based sunscreen lotions. It was found that the ones containing a specific proportion of bentonite and zeolite minerals, had the highest UV light absorbing capacity.
Thus, such mineral based lotions can be used as natural sunscreens.
3. Has various skin benefitsBentonite clay can be useful in treating oily skin and its related issues such as acne. The adsorbing action of the clay can help to remove dirt, excess oil and other impurities from the skin surface.
This can reduce the incidence of pimples and the risk of skin infections.
Its ion-exchange property can also be useful in various detox masks.
4. Treats poison ivy allergyPoison ivy is a native American plant and causes an allergic reaction in almost all people who are exposed to it.
The plant contains an oily substance called urushiol which causes the allergic reaction-contact dermatitis, which is characterised by itchy bumps and blisters.
Research suggests that a 5% bentonite lotion is effective in preventing or reducing the contact dermatitis produced by poison ivy.
5. Treats diaper rash
In the United States, approximately 7%-35% children in the age group of 9-12 months experience diaper rash.
A study conducted to test the efficacy of bentonite in treating diaper rash showed that in children treated with bentonite, the recovery of 93% of the lesions started within the first 6 hours and 90% of the infants were completely cured within 3 days.
Another similar study showed comparable results.
6. Useful in IBSIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterised by bloating, stomach cramps, and constipation and/or diarrhea.
Evidence suggests that administering 3 g bentonite thrice a day for 8 weeks in patients suffering from IBS, it had an impact on the symptoms. It had beneficial effect on modulating the bowel habits in those whose IBS caused constipation.
7. Helps treat diarrheaDiarrhea can be caused by different reasons such as virus infection, food allergy, food poisoning, etc. A study has shown that oral administration of bentonite was useful in treating 97% of the cases with different reasons of diarrhea.
This effect can be due to the water absorbing properties of the clay.
8. May help in weight lossBentonite supplement may help in aiding weight loss. The mechanism of action may be that the adsorption properties of the clay may help in binding excess lipids and toxins and then excreting it from the body.
9. Helps in lowering cholesterolBentonite is a clay that consisting mostly of montmorillonite.
Dietary lipid adsorbent- montmorillonite (DLA-M) was extracted from Xinjiang montmorillonite clay and has shown to have a surprising role in preventing hyperlipidemia. The DLA-M molecules have a lipid-adsorbing property, which increase the excretion of lipids through the bowel movements.
10. May have anti-bacterial propertiesMontmorillonite-a component found in bentonite has shown to absorb E.coli. The clay was mixed with water containing live bacteria and incubated for 24 hours at body temperature. After 24 hours, a broad spectrum of the bacteria were killed.
These antibacterial properties may be useful in developing new agents for destroying antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
11. Helps in the elimination of heavy metalsToxicity due to heavy metals is a major threat and has many risks associated with it. The toxic effects affect the overall health and well being of the body.
Heavy metals are positively charged ions. The negatively charged clay has a strong ion-exchange capacity, which attracts these positive ions and helps to eliminate them from the body.
12. May be useful as a ‘natural’ toothpasteWith more and more people opting for eco friendly alternatives for almost everything from eating to cleaning, toothpastes are no exception. Various natural ingredients such as charcoal, baking soda, clay, etc. have been thought to be beneficial for oral care.
Some dentists say that bentonite clay may be beneficial since it is coarse enough to remove plaque, but not so much that it affects the enamel. It may also increase the pH of the mouth, which makes it difficult for the bacteria to grow.
However, these ingredients have not been approved by the American Dental Association and the claims need to be backed by several human clinical studies to prove their safety and efficacy before getting the approval.
The FDA does not regulate health and cosmetic products, therefore the quality and safety of bentonite clay and its products may be unmonitored.
Since clay is a natural products, it may have various contaminants such as microorganisms, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.
Topical lotions and other products from reputed brands and companies may be safe for application and will generally not cause any side effects. However, if you want to consume bentonite powder or capsules, check with your medical practitioner first, especially if you are pregnant or have a sensitive gut.
Also, be sure to drink plenty of water with oral bentonite supplements, to avoid constipation and help flush it out of the system.