It all started when a colleague came back from a vacay in Bali with a parasite. As resident health editor, I began researching for a drug-free way to kill the bug. Not because I don't believe in antibiotics, but because she'd already taken a course without any luck. In my research I discovered food-grade diatomaceous earth—also called fossil flour—a silica-rich powder purported to have dozens of health benefits. I'd never heard of before. Apparently eating it on the reg would not only obliterate parasites, but also gently exfoliate the digestive tract and boost hair, skin and nails.
Obviously, I purchased a bag immediately. Now incredibly interested in what it could do for me, I put my beauty editor hat on. According to the dozens of reviews I'd read online, I could expect my hair to get thicker and stronger in no time at all. I couldn't get on board fast enough.
THE PACKAGE ARRIVES
The moment I peeled open my new bag of Supercharged Food's Heal Your Gut Powder ($18) was the very same I realised I'd just committed to eating actual dirt in a quest for better hair. (The glamorous beauty editor life!) To be fair, the powder looked more like a refined clay (the kind they paint on your face in beautiful French spas) than brown muck, but it's fair to say I was having reservations. Was I really going to drink this? Would it even really, actually dissolve? I have an aversion to gritty textures, so I knew there was a chance it was going to come back up.
Still, longer hair! I would try, at least.
The package recommended a full tablespoon but I started with a teaspoon. I'd read advice online that suggested starting small in case I had a "die-off reaction" (more on that below). Also important, I took it on an empty stomach on waking, mixed into a tall glass of water spiked with apple cider vinegar. Apparently, taking diatomaceous earth with food can make some people sick, so I played it safe. To me, it tasted like nothing. I am bad with weird flavours, but it was non-offensive. It made the water slightly milky, in a mouthfeel kind of way, but it still tasted like straight-up tap water and ACV.
So far, so good.
THE DIE-OFF REACTION
Opinions are mixed on whether the phenomenon of die-off symptoms (aka the Jarisch–Herxheimer Reaction) is a real thing, but I can tell you this, I am 347 per cent certain it is. A die-off reaction is thought to be the result of a temporary toxic overload caused by the death of pathogens in your body, and by all descriptions, it sucks. Diatomaceous earth is believed to kill parasites by dehydrating them, so it only makes sense that ingesting it on the reg would bring on these symptoms. Since I had never considered the notion that I may have parasite, I wasn't worried.
Silly, because there was significant evidence I did, in fact, have a parasite. Like, for instance, the way in which I was struck down with food poisoning every other month. It happened so often I could have written it into my out of office message. ("Hi! So sorry but I'm away and vomiting again. Please forward all queries to my non-sick colleagues. Thanks!")
I never thought I would write this on the internet but, holy Inner Health Plus, my "die-off" symptoms were no joke. Remember that time you ate street food in Thailand? It was like that. Maybe worse. The only silver lining was knowing I was murdering the hypothetical parasitic jerks taking up residence in my gut. The "die-off" started about three days in, but after another two, it was over. Like childbirth (or so I hear), I forgot the pain as soon as it was over. It's believed diatomaceous earth also acts as a parasite preventative, so I kept taking it.
It was about two weeks in that I began to notice some amazing benefits.
THE BEAUTY BENEFITS
First off, let's get the health stuff out of the way. I don't want to get too graphic here, but I will say I found diatomaceous earth's gut-exfoliating effects to be impressive. Sounds gross, sure, but having declined at least ten PR invitations to trial colonics over the years, I am delighted to have found something that seems to help in that department without requiring me to pump water into my rear. My digestion is better, and for that reason alone I can't fathom a time I'll want to stop taking it.
Now, onto the beauty benefits! I wanted longer, stronger hair, and I got it. My hairdresser of four years recently told me, "Your hair is the thickest I have ever seen it!" He wasn't lying. (I hadn't paid him yet.) My nails were suddenly ridge-free which—swear on my life—is something I can't ever remember experiencing. I'm a convert. Evangelical. Just ask my FB friends!
While I can't be 100 per cent sure I did have a parasite prior to taking diatomaceous earth (or magic dirt, as I now refer to it), it doesn't much matter. (And, considering how many people globally are estimated to carry them, it was pretty likely.) If I can take a spoonful of the tasteless talc-like powder every morning to make myself an inhospitable host, I will. Plus, as I've said, I did it mainly for the beauty benefits. With such a high silica content (80 to 90 per cent), plus magnesium, zinc and calicum, my hair, skin and nails have never looked better.
If you're keen to give it a go yourself, make sure you buy a food-grade powder. Lesser grades are used to clean pools and kill bed bugs, and aren't approved for internal use. The Supercharged Food brand is extremely pure, and has 192 glowing reviews on Nourished Life to recommend it.