Zeolites are microscopic, porous minerals that cluster to form larger aggregates with small individual cavities, making them naturally occurring adsorbent substances. The most common type of natural zeolite, clinoptilolite, provides an effective example of zeolites’ main effects relevant to human health: ion exchange and surface adsorption.
An “adsorbent” like clinoptilolite is a substance that is capable of trapping certain substances to its surface or within its pores. This is in comparison to an “absorbent,” which traps substances by allowing them to permeate its structure uniformly. For example, a piece of notebook paper adsorbs liquid, while a paper towel absorbs liquid.
Zeolites like clinoptilolite have been applied in animal nutrition for over ten years as an ingredient added to animal feed to reduce the bioavailability of dietary acquired toxins.1-3 Humans also encounter toxins every day in their homes and their local environments. The therapeutic connection between clinoptilolite and human health thus also offers an effective approach to reduce toxic burden on the human digestive system.
What is Clinoptilolite?
Clinoptilolite is found in sedimentary rock of prehistoric volcanic origin. Clinoptilolite has a unique honeycomb structure that lends to its distinctive ability to support toxin removal in the human body. This mineral breaks into irregular fragments, and its unique chemical structure creates the opportunity for the general attachment and removal of certain substances from a solution. Thus, clinoptilolite can be leveraged as an important ingredient for the removal of toxins in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Clinoptilolite is stable in an acidic environment, making it suitable for the journey through the GI tract for toxin removal. This mineral’s ability to bind and remove toxins in the gut essentially revolves around size: larger molecules interact externally while smaller molecules can interact internally, becoming trapped in the pores of clinoptilolite’s honeycomb structure by ion exchange or charged binding. The pores and small particle size create a large surface area for interactions between clinoptilolite and other compounds.
How Does Clinoptilolite Impact GI Function?
Clinoptilolite’s adsorbent properties make it useful for supporting the elimination of mycotoxins, exotoxins, ammonia, cholesterol and bile, and harmful heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, silver, cesium, and mercury. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microscopic fungi, and they are associated with negative health outcomes in humans.4
Clinoptilolite is also linked to supporting the rapid elimination of and protection from toxic effects of dietary acquired materials after exposure to heavy metals.3, 5-12 This mineral may promote healthy, regular bowel movements, support the GI lining under stress conditions, counteract GI barrier damage, and enhance mucosal barrier protection and repair functions.13-20
The role of minerals as therapeutically beneficial micronutrients is not a foreign concept, but the ability of zeolites like clinoptilolite to support toxin removal in the body is an additional, favorable aspect of the role of minerals in human health. Clinoptilolite can be a greatly effective ingredient for toxin removal, helping the body’s natural detoxification process remove toxins and keep the body in homeostasis.