Zeolites are a variety of aluminum and silica-containing compounds of volcanic origin, in which negatively charged pores and channels serve to attract and trap positively charged ions. This structure enables zeolites to bind to various types of toxins, including heavy metals, mycotoxins, ammonia, nitrates, and pesticides, to name a few. They have been used for this purpose in veterinary medicine for some time, but there are not yet many clinical studies in humans.
While there are several different types of zeolites, only clinoptilolite (ZC) has no known toxic effects and potential therapeutic applications. It is considered to be biologically neutral. Another zeolite called reignite has been associated with lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
In addition to its effects upon heavy metals, ZC has been used to eliminate of nitrates from water of dairy cattle and pigs, which can otherwise affect glucose and protein metabolism.
It has also been shown to have an affinity for mycotoxins, or the toxins from mold, including aflatoxins, zearalenone, ochratoxin, and the T2 toxin, making it another binder option for mold detoxification.
In addition to its detoxification functions, ZC has been shown to increase function of all antioxidants, as well, including glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase.
This means less overall inflammation and tissue damage.
ZC also seems to strengthen the intestinal wall, suggestive that it could be helpful for leaky gut syndrome. Specifically, it decreases concentrations of zonulin, a marker for intestinal permeability.
In its capacity as a binder, ZC can also bind ammonia produced by particularly H2S SIBO, or protein fermentation from other kinds of SIBO or IBS.
ZC seems to modulate immune responses, calming down inappropriate inflammation, though the mechanism of action by which this occurs is unclear. One theory is that ZC may support a healthy microbiome, thus supporting IgA production, the immunoglobulin produced in the gut. Another theory is that ZC positively interacts with the lymphoid tissue in the gut, where immune responses are mediated.
Concerns: Trace Mineral Depletion?
Given ZC’s binding capacity to positively charged ions, one concern is that it may likewise deplete beneficial positively charged ions as well, such as trace minerals. However, studies do not bear this out. Not only do trace minerals appear to remain undisturbed, but vitamins and macroscopic nutrients in animals also remain untouched, even with long-term supplementation.
Seems strange to me that it would preferentially bind and eliminate toxins while leaving useful nutrients alone, but that’s what the limited data we have says thus far.
The data for zeolite clinoptilolite (ZC) seems almost too good to be true, and more human trials certainly still need to be done. But from the (mostly animal) studies we have, it seems like a good addition for detoxification across the board, as well as antioxidant support, immune modulation, and gut health.