SilicaHorse and liquid silicon, how does it work?

Silica in SilicaHorse, what does it do to your horse?

Many of the main complaints in horses are related to hooves and joints. This is usually due to a shortage of silicon (e.g., hoofwall seperation, rupture in the horn wall) or a consequence of an inflammation caused by bacteria / fungi (e.g., shrush, white line desease). The following is related to the effect of SilicaHorse (silicon) and SilicaHorse Anti-rotstraal (anti-thrush and bacteria). Later, for the more interested reader, more detailed attention is paid to the mineral silicon and the effect of silicon on the body of humans and animals.

Silicon and hooves

The hooves of a horse grow about 0.9 cm a month. With an average length of 9 – 11 cm, the growth of a hoof takes about 1 year. Hooves consist of the protein keratin. Keratin absorbs all nutrients and holds moisture and fat in the hoof. It ensures the resilience and firmness of the hoof.  A malfunction of keratin synthesis reduces the growth rate and hooves have a tendency of splitting. Silicon gives protection to the structure forming protein keratin.

Silicon and joints/bones

Wear of joints is caused by a degeneration of the articular cartilage. The balance between the build-up and breakdown of the cartilage is disturbed. This is due to a combination of joint damage and normal wear and tear. Sometimes the cartilage wear is so strong that the bone is also affected. The older a person or animal becomes, the greater the risk of joint wear. The elasticity of the cartilage is essential because it protects the bones from the light shocks caused by movements and facilitates the movements of one bone (end) over the other. The onset of osteoarthritis can be attributed to aging, recurrent injury and inadequate nutrition.

To renew the cartilage continually, there is one element of essential importance: silicon. The older the person and / or animal becomes, the more difficult it becomes to absorb silicon in the body and on top of that, in modern nutrition there is very little absorbable silicon. Silicon is essential for the production of collagen fibers that also form the cartilage. A shortage of silicon also means a shortage of collagen and that is precisely the glue that must keep the molecules of our cartilage together.

The build up of more connective tissue (more collagen) causes that ligaments, membranes and tendons become stronger as well as the bones, due to greater bone density. Furthermore, the connective tissue protein is essential for bone flexibility.

SilicaHorse is supplied in 500 ml bottles. The dosage is 1.5 ml per 100 kilograms horse weight. A bottle will normally do for a 2 months treatment and leads to visible results within that period.

Hooves and bacteria/fungi

Bacteria and fungi are only notice when the hooves stink. At thrush, the bacteria first touch the middle radius and the radial grooves on the side. In the White Line Disease, it is a combination of fungi and bacteria that penetrate into the white line through a rupture or other damage. Because of its strong antibacterial activity, SilicaHorse Anti-rotstraal is a highly adequate remedy for both disorders. Anti-rotstraal is environmentally and animal friendly and has results within one week.

Silicon more in detail

The first part of this essay is about the mineral silicon in general. Later it describes more the effect on horses and especially the effects on joints.

The Silicon mineral

Silicon (chemical symbol: Si; English term: silicon) is the second most abundant element on earth. The earth’s crust consists of 27.7% of silicon. This is considerably more than carbon, which forms only part of 0.0018% of the crust. The most common silicon compound is SiO2 (silicon dioxide or
silica). The salts of silicic acid are silicates. Silicates hydrolyze in a aqueous environment to oligomeric forms of silicic acid.

Only the small molecular forms of silica are biologically absorbable. This applies for plants, animals and humans. Especially the mono-,di- and tri (oligomeric) silicic acid is biologically easily digestible. In the remainder of the information below, silicon refers to oligomeric silicic acid.

Plankton as example

A compelling example of the importance of silicon to the plant kingdom is providing by plankton. For example, 40% of the phytoplankton is oligomer silicic acid dependent. The parasite requires an active silicon metabolism to remain alive. And without silicon, a big part of the phytoplankton, which provide food within the ocean, would be lost.

Also, phytoplankton accounts for 40% of the oxygen production on the earth, so it must be concluded that without silicon anyway no life on earth can possible exists.

Silicon in humans and animals 

The first signs of a shortage of silicon are usually found in the skin, hair (read fur in horses) and nails (read hooves of horses). Skin and hair lose their strength and elasticity and nails become brittle and crumbly. These symptoms often occur at an elderly age, because the silicon concentration in the blood decreases as years are increasing. The replacement of silicon by supplementing negate this effect and hair, skin and nails will improve visibly.

A more serious phenomenon is that also, in particular, as the result of a silicon deficiency, aging is also accompanied with osteoarthritis..

Osteoarthritis and joints

Joint deterioration is caused by a degeneration of the articular cartilage. The balance between the build-up and degradation of the cartilage is disrupted.

This is a result of a combination of joint damage and normal wear. Sometimes the cartilage wear is so strong that even the bone is affected. The older a person or animal is, the greater the risk the joints are wearing.

Rigid and stiff

Older people and animals are often rigid and stiff in the joints, especially when they get up in the morning. One of the causes is that the soft cartilage that locates at the end of the bone, is affected

Cartilage is the soft elastic layer in the joints that is visible by eating chicken. It is a rubber-like, slightly translucent substance.

The body is always changing. Musculoskeletal and joint function determine to a large extent the freedom of movement. Problems with musculoskeletal may severely limit this function.

The elasticity

The elasticity of the cartilage is essential to protect bones against light shocks due to  and caused by movements and it facilitates the movement of two bone ends.

Articular cartilage is an unique tissue in the body, because it does not contain blood vessels and nerves. As a result of that, the supply of nutrients is often insufficient.

When cartilage is placed under a microscope than it resembles a sponge. If the joint is at rest, the cartilage is filled with liquid. If it gets a shock or it is under  pressure, the fluid then disappears from the cartilage, as if a sponge, filled with water, is squeezed.

In a healthy process, when the pressure decreases, the liquid flows back into the cartilage, however if this is not occurring, there could be at a chronic overload, producing strong free radicals. These free radicals oxidize large cartilage molecules in the synovial fluid, thereby decreasing the sponge-effect; the liquid disappears little by little.

The spongy tissue is dry and brittle and loses its elasticity. The recurrent shocks and frictions affecting the cartilage becoming more dry and over time disappear. The bone ends are no longer protected and the bone itself is affected and starts to deform.

Pain

The result is pain, which causes that fewer physical activity may be carried out and physical activity is just necessary to keep the joints supple.

This results in a downward spiral of degeneration (aging and wear).

There may be other symptoms such as inflammation, deformations, etc.

The mainstream medical approach is to prescribe various pain medications and/or anti-inflammatory drugs, and also as a result of all kinds of side effects of these drugs, creating a kind of “roller coaster” of drugs. Good for the pharmacy but not good for humans and /or animals.

The current medical view is that osteoarthritis is irreversible (not curable) and that all one can do is to delay its development.

The misconception of osteoarthritis being irreversible!

The main component of cartilage is water. The remainder consists of the connective tissue collagen fiber (adhesive) and glycoproteins (sugar proteins) which are primarily composed of polysaccharides (multiple sugars).

These are large molecules that are composed of sugars and proteins, forming the tissue in which the liquid circulates

Cartilage is formed by the chondrocytes (cartilage cells) to ensure that sufficient cartilage is available and that the cartilage is purified from the old collagen and glycoproteins.

The onset of osteoarthritis

can be attributed to aging, recurring injury and nutrition.

For renewing the cartilage, one element is constantly essential: silicon!

The older a human and/or animal is, the more difficult it becomes to get silicon into the body. If this is combined with the modern diet with low absorbable silicon, the problem is there!

As result of aging, a specific acid is produced less and less. This acid is responsible for the body absorption level of silicon. This also results ultimately  in a shortage of silicon.

Creation of collagen fibers

Silicon is essential for the creation of collagen fibers which form the cartilage. Thus, a shortage of silicon, means also a shortage of collagen and that is precisely the glue substance that keeps together the molecules of our cartilage.

Silicon stimulates the production of new bone cells and slows down the bone disintegration.
Moreover, silicon gives a boost to the calcium and vitamin D metabolism.

This also means that fractures heal better and faster.

The build-up of more connective tissue (more collagen) has the effect that components of the system that enables humans to move, become stronger, and also the bones become stronger (larger bone density) . Also the connective tissue protein is essential for the flexibility of the bone.

Skin, hair and nails

The effect of silicon has a positive effect on nails. Needless to say, what nails are for humans, hooves are for horses. Hooves consist of the building protein keratin. Keratin absorbs all nutrients and holds moisture and fat in the hoof. It ensures the resilience and firmness of the hoof. In the event of a disorder of keratin synthesis, it decreases the growth rate and exhibits maturity, stripes and hooves tend to end up in hoof wall separation. Silicon protects structural proteins such as elastin (in the blood vessels), collagen (in the skin and in joints) and keratin (in the hooves). Silicon is one of the most present minerals in the hooves. Thin brittle hooves are often a symptom of silicon deficiency. Some symptoms of a lack of silicon are weak hooves (which immediately result in various disorders). Hoof problems often indicate a shortage of silicon.

Bone loss

Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the amount of bone tissue and in generally also
the consistency of it, is reduced in such a manner that already a small load result in skeletal deformation. One of the key factors that determines whether someone will have osteoporotic fractures at a higher age, is the maximum bone mass that was formed between the twentieth and thirtieth year.

After reaching the bone mass peak, bone mass remains stable for several years, but after a period of time, bone loss will occur. The majority of the measures to prevent osteoporosis, should therefore take place in the first thirty years of a life (for horses, the first seven years).

Apart from genetic (inherited) factors, bone mass is also determined by physical activity and nutrition. Besides calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, boron, manganese, zinc, copper and silicon play a significant role. Adequate calcium in the diet is also very important.

For the absorption of calcium, silicon plays a major role. Silicon functions so to speak as a transport medium in the body, therefore the calcium is better absorbed and permeated throughout the body. A similar effect, we see in the administration of a silicon-containing foliar fertilizer in, for example, in apple cultivation. The effect is that more calcium gets into the apple, with all related positive consequences.

The relationship between oligomeric silicic acid and other minerals

Silicon has interactions with various other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium,
boron, phosphate, zinc and copper. Nearly all related data are derived from animal studies.

Emmerick et al (1990) demonstrated that the supplementation of additional silicon resulted in
an increase in copper and copper-related effects.

Najda et al (1992) noticed in respect of copper similar results.
Also, they noticed a higher iron concentration by the supplementation of extra silicon, while zinc concentration dropped. A year later, they found that the supplementation of additional meta silicate resulted in a decrease of the magnesium concentration  and a higher silicon level in the serum.

In an article Calcomme et al (1997) show that the supplementation of biologically absorbable (stabilized) silicic acid results in a moderate increase of phosphorus (P) and magnesium (Mg). More important is the calcium increase, which was proportional to the increased silicon concentration in the serum.

Seaborn and Nielsen demonstrated in rats, that a deficient silicon diet resulted in a decrease in bone minerals, including calcium, copper, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.

McCrady (2003) demonstrated in rats that silicon supplementation  does increase the calcium-, phosphorus-, and magnesium  concentration in the vertebrae and the skull.

Silicon and Alzheimer’s

A high silicon supplementation can reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Although silicon is not known that it has a direct effect on the functioning of the brains, it appears that silicon binds aluminum and is responsible for aluminum  leaving the body by urinating. Aluminum is a highly toxic metal that plays a role in development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Silicon prevents the accumulation of aluminum.

Interesting to this aspect was the participation of more than 7,500 French women (75 years and older) in a study, where at the beginning of the study, the amount of silicon which was consumed via  drinking water, was measured for each participant. Women who consumed less silicon-containing water, were found to perform worse in the context of their cognitive function, compared to women taking drinking water with a higher silicon concentration.

A subgroup of the population was followed for a period of seven years. Thereby it was proven that the intake of the amount of silicon was determining  the risk degree of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

Safety issues

In years 2005 up to 2009, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed the safety, toxicity and permissible quantities of silicon at human applications. From this study, it was clear that silicon in the form of silicates and silicic acid can be fully assessed as safe. Silicon also appeared not to be included in any doping list for humans. It is safe to assume that this is also applicable for horses.

Silicon and Equine Bone Health

Prevention and treatment of skeletal injuries in performance horses is an on-going struggle for horse owners and trainers. Lameness tends to be one of the primary causes for horses’ athletic performance either declining or never reaching their potential. Reducing the injury rate of horses is not only a major animal welfare issue; but also it represents a substantial economic concern. With these points in mind, it is understandable for horse owners and trainers to be continually searching for ways to keep their horses sound.

The implementation of proper training techniques is an important way to reduce injuries, which, of course, is much more complicated than one may think. Contrary to popular belief, for example, there are many advantages to training young horses that are still skeletally immature. While the young horse is growing, the skeletal tissue has the greatest capacity to strengthen. Though not commonly recognized as such, bone is a very dynamic tissue that constantly changes to accommodate forces placed upon it. When one increases the load upon bone, it remodels itself to become stronger particularly if it is given sufficient time to respond to the forces without being overloaded. In contrast, when load is reduced on bone, it responds by becoming weaker. These facts point out the inherent problems with stalling of young horses without giving them sufficient exercise.

Young horses

The question arises as to the proper intensity and amount of training to give horses so that their bones are strengthened without being damaged. Through scientific studies, we are gradually finding answers to determine how much exercise is needed to optimize skeletal strength, but our understanding of these aspects of equine physiology will require on-going research.

Proper training

Since there are many questions remaining as to what are effective injury reducing training programs, owners and trainers have been adopting other ways to deal with the problems of equine lameness. The fields of equine physiology and nutrition are providing solutions through creation of scientifically formulated diets for the purposes of not only providing required sustenance, but also for their prophylactic benefits generally through manipulated bone health. Bioavailable silicon, for example, is a scientifically discovered essential nutrient that studies indicate has promising benefits when added to the equine diet.

Silicon in the environment

Silicon is the second most common element of the Earth crust, which is found throughout the environment; it is, for instance, a major constituent of sand (Carlisle, 1972). Silicon dioxide (SiO2) in the quartz crystals of sand cannot be absorbed by the horse (it is not bioavailable), which renders it useless as a nutritional aid.

Plants

Plants, however, use silicon to provide rigidity and structure to some of their cell walls, from which horses are able to obtain small amounts in their normal diet of forage and grain. It should be noted, however, that processing of commercial horse feeds appears to reduce silicon’s availability from these sources.

Despite its ubiquitous nature, surprisingly little is known about the nutritional importance of silicon in the diet of mammalian species. That being said, the American Institute of Nutrition recently reformulated their published formulas of purified diets for experimental rodents, and made the decision to include silicon as a required nutrient (Reeves, 1997). This change was brought about as a result of research demonstrating that it can interact with other nutrients for apparent beneficial effects (Nielsen, 1991).

Silicon in bone and connective tissue

Most people think of bone as being made primarily from the minerals calcium and phosphorus. Much more, of course, goes into bone than just these two minerals. To begin with, bone is constantly undergoing changes as it removes old or damaged components and replaces them with new healthy elements. Silicon plays a role in the development of new bone, and it is involved with the calcification process. Interestingly, in the early stages of calcification, silicon and calcium content are low but both increase as mineralization progresses (Carlisle, 1970). As bone becomes fully mature, however, silicon content decreases while calcium remains high.

The exact role has to be determined,

Though its exact role has yet to be determined, silicon would appear to be exceptionally critical in the young, growing animal when the skeleton is undergoing rapid development. Support for the theory that silicon is involved in an early stage of bone formation is founded upon studies in which chicks had defective bone growth after being fed a silicon-deficient diet (Carlisle, 1980a).

While being involved in the mineralization process of bone, silicon also appears to play a major role in the formation of the collagen matrix of bone and cartilage (Carlisle, 1982). This matrix is necessary to prevent these tissues from becoming brittle and susceptible to damage. When silicon is deficient in the diet, the formation of the matrix appears to be limited; potentially resulting in even greater problems than if it is deficient in the mineralization process. In tissue cultures of bone and cartilage, bone growth induced by silicon appears to be mainly due to an increase in collagen content. The formation of glycosaminoglycans, the major polymeric molecule of the bone matrix, has also been shown to require silicon. Again, when chicks were fed a silicon-deficient diet, collagen content in the frontal bones was reduced (Carlisle, 1980b). Additionally, the amount of articular cartilage was reduced compared to chicks that were supplemented with silicon (Carlisle, 1980b). At the molecular level, silicon has been shown to be involved with mucopolysaccharide synthesis in the formation of articular cartilage and connective tissue, and to be an integral component of the mucopolysaccaride-protein complex and collagen of connective tissues (Carlisle, 1974).

Complementary silicon and horse owners

Though the National Research Council (1989) has not specified a specific requirement for silicon in horses, benefits have been demonstrated by feeding a bioavailable silicon source. As part of a large, double blinded FDA-controlled study, dramatic decreases in injury rates were reported in race-trained Quarter Horses fed a supplemental silicon source.The control group of horses not receiving supplemental silicon had more horses experience injuries and had to be removed from training than horses that were able to complete the study. All of the three treatment groups, those receiving the silicon source at a low, medium and high dosages, had more horses complete the study without injury than were injured. Furthermore, horses supplemented with the medium and high doses of silicon were able to train and race nearly twice the distance  before experiencing an injury than did the control group. Interestingly, the medium treatment group even had faster race times than did the control group at the middle race distance. It is unlikely that the addition of sodium zeolite A made these horses faster, but rather, it is probably that the faster horses of the medium treatment (supplemented) group were better able to withstand the rigors of racing, remain on the study, and increase the average speed of the whole group. By contrast, it is likely the faster horses (the ones placing more load upon their skeleton) in the control group were injured and removed from the study leaving only the slower horses.

More studies

More studies were needed to try and determine what was causing the decreased injury rates. At Michigan State University, recent studies demonstrated an increase in the concentration of a marker of bone formation in broodmares during the first 45 days after supplementation began when the mares foaled (Lang et al., 2001b). There was also a decrease in the concentrations of a marker of bone resorption by day 45 in yearlings after the beginning of supplementation (Lang et al., 2001a). At least in the mature animal, bone formation and resorption tend to be equal. Hence, the amount of bone present tends to remain relatively constant. If either bone formation increases or bone resorption decreases, researchers typically assume the result to be positive in regards to bone health.

Benefits of silicon to humans have also been shown. Increased femoral density in osteoporotic women receiving absorbable silicon for four months has been reported (Eisinger and Clairet, 1993). The National Osteoporosis Society recently funded a large randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial to determine if orthosilicic acid is a treatment for osteoporosis after a pilot study demonstrated silicon supplementation of osteoporotic postmenopausal women increased spinal bone mineral density by 3% (National Osteoporosis Society Web-site, 2001). The exact mechanism for enhanced bone metabolism, however, still needs to be determined.

Sodium Zeolite A as a Silicon Source                                                      

 (Sodium Zeolite is not the source for the cristobaliet of SilicaHorse)Silicon is a normal part of the equine diet as it can be found in the grain and forage that horses consume. In the environment, however, silicon is naturally found as silica (SiO2). If silica is hydrated,  oligomeric silicic acid) is formed. These silicon acids are well absorbable, opposite to the silicon which is present in nature.

How big is the difference in practice?

How big of a difference can this make? A recent study looked at two groups of calves that were fed a standard milk formula, but one group received supplemental oligomeric silicic acid. At seven weeks, the calves’ daily silicon intake from food for the control was 360 mg and the other group received only 17.5 mg from oligomeric silicic acid. However, by the end of the study, the silicon concentrations in the blood of the calves treated with oligomeric silicic acid were 70 percent higher than the control, indicating a much better absorption rate. Interestingly, skin collagen was also bigger in the other group, providing more support to the premise that silicon is necessary for collagen synthesis.

Once silicon derivatives are converted to silicic acid in the body, silicon can be absorbed through the small intestine. Sodium zeolite A is a sodium aluminium silicate that breaks down in the stomach into oligo silicic acid. While other zeolites tend to polymerize, resulting in each silicon atom adjoined to at least one other silicon atom, SZA is a silicate where each silicon atom adjoins to aluminium atoms.

Too much of aluminium

The accompanying aluminium is alleged to lower the pH, which is necessary to keep it in the form of oligomeric silicic acid and prevent it from polymerizing (this applies also for the process of producing SilicaHorse). If the silicon polymerizes, it can no longer be absorbed. Though there are concerns over excess dietary aluminium, (this applies not for SilicaHorse, because sodium zeolite is not the source for SilicaHorse) the horses on the racing study were started on SZA at six months of age and maintained on it through the completion of racing as two-year-olds with only beneficial results being noted as the result of supplementation.

Summary

Will feeding of silicon eliminate all injuries during a training program? Obviously the answer is no. Although the research that has been done thus far has clearly demonstrated a large decrease in the number of horses injured while being fed this substance, we will continue to investigate the role that silicon plays in the health of bone and cartilage. At this time, we can conclude however  that although proper training and good nutrition are still needed, supplementing horses with bioavailable silicon appears to be a promising method in the prevention of injuries to equine athletes.

Source: Department of Animal Science, Michagan State University

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