Why Consuming Colloidal Silver is Risky to Gut Health
Colloidal silver is a product that is easily and cheaply obtained at many healthfood stores. Some people make it at home. It consists of tiny silver particles suspended in liquid for use either externally or internally.
The remarkable antibiotic nature of silver has been known for centuries. In the early 1900′s, the founder of Searle Pharmaceuticals, Alfred Searle, wrote in his book The Use of Colloids in Health and Disease:
“Applying colloidal silver to human subjects has been done in a large number of cases with astonishingly successful results…it has the advantage of being rapidly fatal to microbes without toxic action on its host. It is quite stable. It protects rabbits from ten times the lethal dose of tetanus or diphtheria toxin.”
In the 1970′s, Dr. Robert O. Becker at Syracuse Medical University began to intensively research colloidal silver. He discovered that silver not only kills bacteria, but it actually killed bacteria that were resistant to all known antibiotics with no undesirable side effects.
Moreover, unlike prescription antibiotics, pathogens do not become resistant or immune to silver over time. It even has the ability to eradicate antibiotic resistant microbes like MRSA. This is because colloidal silver doesn’t poison the microbes like antibiotics do, but rather smothers them by adhering to their cell walls and inhibiting their enzyme production.
Why I Don’t Consume Colloidal Silver
Despite its stellar reputation as a natural antibiotic, I never swallow colloidal silver and don’t allow my children to ingest it either. I only use colloidal silver for externally based infections such as swimmers ear. Others I know use it to gargle with as a strep throat home remedy.
My reasons are fairly simple.
First of all, silver is a heavy metal that accumulates in the body over time, the same as lead, cadmium and aluminum. Why would anyone knowingly consume heavy metals?
It never made any sense to me which is why I have always avoided consuming any silver solution including silver nitrates, ionic silvers, colloidal silvers, silver chlorides, and silver proteins. The claim that colloidal silver is the only safe silver solution has never been at all convincing to me.
Dr. Kaayla Daniel PhD writes in her marvelous piece Mad as a Hatter: How to Avoid Toxic Metals and Clear Them from the Body:
Although the mental and physical problems from metal toxicity have escalated in recent years, our very language tacitly acknowledges the historic toxicity of certain metals: “Mad as a hatter” from the Civil- War-era’s crazed use of mercury sizing in hat manufacture, “gold fever” from the murderous greed of early prospectors, “lead poisoning” as black humor for “getting shot,” and, more recently, “get-the-lead-out” exhortations from trainers who would have us exercise long and hard in order to sweat out toxins and melt excess fat.
Certainly, occasional use of colloidal silver internally probably does no harm. This would including gargling with it to resolve strep throat without antibiotics. But, why risk it when there are plenty of natural antibiotics such as garlic, turmeric, cayenne, manuka honey, and oregano oil (oreganol) that are highly effective and present no metal toxicity issues?
The Biggest Reason I Never Swallow Colloidal Silver
While the fact that silver is a heavy metal with accumulation in the body that is difficult to undo (and yes, it can permanently turn your skin blue if you get too much which happens with some forms of silver solution) is reason enough in my book to keep the colloidal silver for external use only, the biggest reason of all is to protect the gut microbiome.
You see, colloidal silver works not by poisoning microbes like antibiotics do, but by smothering them by adhering to their cell walls and inhibiting their enzyme production.
While colloidal silver’s unique method of killing bacteria is highly effective and does not lessen over time as microbes do not become resistant to it, it is not selective in the bacteria it kills.
In other words, colloidal silver can decimate beneficial bacteria in the gut just the same as pathogenic strains. Isn’t this exactly why conventional antibiotics are so problematic?
Reducing the population in the gut of beneficial bacteria is serious business no matter what the cause – natural or drug based.
Dr. Martin Blaser MD of New York University’s Langone Medical Center who writes in the August 2011 edition of Nature, warns against harming the beneficial microbes in the gut:
“Early evidence from my lab and others hints that, sometimes, our friendly flora never fully recover. These long-term changes to the beneficial bacteria within people’s bodies may even increase our susceptibility to infections and disease.”
False Marketing Claims about Colloidal Silver
While some colloidal silver manufacturers claim that their product does not harm beneficial microbes, Steve Barwick, author of The Ultimate Manual on Colloidal Silver sets the record straight about this false advertising regarding colloidal silver:
But the truth is, colloidal silver does indeed act as a broad spectrum natural antibiotic. As such, if enough mineral silver reaches the intestinal tract it most certainly can kill off the friendly (i.e., beneficial) bacteria that thrive there.
Colloidal silver simply has no way of knowing a beneficial microbe from an infectious microbe. If the microbe is sensitive to silver, then silver will kill it whether it is a beneficial microbe or an infectious one (source)
Proponents of small amounts of colloidal silver taken internally say it won’t harm delicate gut balance, but I choose to not take any chances given that many food based natural antibiotics are available that work just as well or even better than colloidal silver for resolution of internal infections. This article details the best natural antibiotics to choose from instead of colloidal silver if you need to use internally.
Why risk it where your delicate gut microbiome is concerned? Colloidal silver is a broad spectrum antibiotic. Just because it wasn’t obtained via prescription or manufactured by Big Pharma makes it no less a risk to your delicate intestinal health.
Colloidal Silver Contraindicated on the GAPS Diet
Due to its ability to upset the delicate gut balance and harm beneficial gut flora, colloidal silver is contraindicated on the GAPS Protocol for gut healing developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD.
Certified GAPS Diet Practitioners trained by Dr. Campbell-McBride recommend avoiding the ingestion of colloidal silver. This is necessary while attempting to rebuild the gut environment with beneficial microbes and healing/sealing the gut wall to put autoimmune disease in remission. L. D. Moore, a practicing GAPS Diet Practitioner, had this to say,
As a certified GAPS practitioner protecting the gut is the highest priority. I am SO careful at what my clients ingest that may destroy that delicate balance I put colloidal silver in the no ingest bucket.
Do you take colloidal silver internally? Why or why not? Wouldn’t it be better to use plant based natural antibiotics that have no risk in comparison, don’t build up in the body, and are equally effective? I’m interested to hear your reasons on this as my research tells me to just say no.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Since 2002, Sarah has been a Health and Nutrition Educator dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah received a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, her work has been covered by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.