The Surprising Risks of Using Bentonite Clay

Dr. Linda Khoshaba

March 10, 2021

First of all, what is bentonite clay? Is it actually safe to use on a daily basis? What hidden dangers should you be aware of?

All these reasonable questions may occur to you and leave you wondering whether or not to purchase and utilize this natural material.

Nowadays bentonite clay has created a rather controversial reputation for itself - some swear by its beneficial effects, while others try to stay as far away from it as possible. What is the real truth in reality? It’s a pretty complicated question to answer and for this reason, you should decide it for yourself. Let me introduce you to the fundamental facts, supported by research work and consumer experience.

The story behind bentonite clay

Scientifically speaking, bentonite clay springs into existence when volcanic ashes react with sea water and take up its minerals. Its name originates from its greatest source in the world, which is in Fort Benton (USA). It was first discovered in Montmorillon (France) and this is why its main component is named montmorillonite, which is formed by layers of silica and alumina.


This raw material is bound to many other minerals, for instance, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and aluminum. This implies that another denomination for this substance is calcium bentonite clay. Its largest producer and trader is the US, followed by China, India, and Greece.

Throughout history, humans used clay to treat minor illnesses such as food poisoning, aches and pains, infections, mineral deficiencies and additionally for cosmetic purposes too. In some recluse societies (such as native African or Australian cultural tribes) that have not lost touch with nature, clays are still used in these days for preventative care, remedies and for their curative powers.

The diverse usage of clay

Bentonite clay is a natural type of clay with a finely-grained, soft texture. It forms a thick paste when mixed with water. Some people use that mixture for medical or cosmetic benefits, such as treating rashes, cleansing the skin, or as a hair mask.


On the other hand, it is also commonly used internally in order to detoxify the body from accumulated toxins. It has stated that bentonite clay adsorbs materials by sticking to their molecules and ions. As the clay leaves the body, it takes the toxins and other unwanted molecules with it.

Furthermore, it is claimed that bentonite clay treats and has an excellent effect on the following problems: skin infections, pimples, poison ivy allergy, constipation, recurring diarrhoea, diaper rash and high cholesterol levels.

This kind of clay can be modified and converted into synthetic materials. These can be used as improved delivery and slow-release systems of drugs for infections, different types of cancer, mental disorders, glaucoma and sunscreen protection.

What happens if you only use clay on your skin?

If you choose to use the clay on your skin it is exceedingly important to do a patch test on a small, hidden area of your skin before you try it on your face. Clay acts as a sponge on your skin as it absorbs dirt and oil, like sebum (which is the main cause of acne).

Several analyses provide information that bentonite clay may help with conditions like dermatitis (eczema), mild acne, and ulcers. The most popular method to utilize the clay is to apply it to the surface of your skin as a face mask.

At the same time, the studies, which were done by erudite scientists show that the lead in clay absorbs across the skin and is able to enter the bloodstream, which can easily conduct to severe infections and perilous health issues.

In addition, other researches have shown that bentonite is detrimental to immune cells and regrowing endothelial cells when it’s placed on wounds or cuts.

Side effects and cautions

It’s possible to consume too much of this questionable substance without even noticing it. Bentonite clay and its derivates can have high levels of harmful germs and heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury.

It is essential that you contact your doctor before you take bentonite clay or any supplement orally, especially if you’re pregnant or take other medications. We would recommend that you steer clear of bentonite clay products altogether.

Can we absorb lead from clay?

Yes, you can.

In everyday life, lead-based pots, cookware and eating out of clay pots can pose a threat and give a rise to lead poisoning. Studies have demonstrated that amongst children the usage of clay utensils were one of the larger contributors to lead toxicity.

Can Bentonite Clay detox lead?

There have been sources that claim bentonite clay will remove detox lead. This however is in the case of lead ladened water. Basically, bentonite clay will remove lead from water by binding to it but when you eat clay it does the opposite


When you eat clay, your stomach acid pulls most of the lead out of the clay. Then, it goes right into your body.

Bentonite clay is useful when it comes to removing lead, zinc, nickel and cadmium from different substances, like wastewater, because it has the ability to bond with these kinds of heavy metals.

However, in case of eating bentonite, it has more harmful side effects than expedient ones. Inasmuch, when you consume clay, your stomach acid pulls most of the lead out of the bentonite clay and it absorbs straight into your system. Therefore, ingestion of large quantities of lead can directly bring about gastrointestinal troubles with symptoms such as dire vomiting, disturbances of the blood and circulation systems and damage to the whole nervous system.

How much lead is considered safe?

According to scientific review, there is no such thing as a safe threshold in this matter. Moreover, the WHO (World Health Organization) officially declared that “there is no known level of lead exposure considered safe.”

Taken all around, no amount of lead is safe for the human organism. It may sound fearsome as people normally can’t determine how much lead can be found in individual food groups. The best solution is to take precautionary measures and avoid lead to a feasible extent.

How much lead do we actually absorb from bentonite clay?

Researches have shown that one gram of bentonite clay bottles up around 37.5 micrograms of lead. As an average oral dose of bentonite clay is usually 2 tablespoons (which is 0.72 ounces or 20.4 grams), this means that your oral lead dose could be as high as 765 mcg. To understand the unit of measurement, Mcg/g is the same as ppm (parts per million).

Why should you take lead poisoning seriously?

Most physicians don’t recommend eating clay as it could cause a blockage in your intestines and lead to bothersome digestive issues.

Research done by the FDA laboratories evinced that exposure to lead can cause grave damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and immune system too. In children, chronic exposure to lead, even at very low levels, is associated with cognitive impairment, growth delays, reduced IQ, hyperactivity, behavioural difficulties and other serious problems.

In general, high exposure to lead can bring on vague symptoms, for example exhaustion, numbness and tingling, digestive problems and distressing joint pain.

Recent and continuously appearing evidence suggests that it can also be the causer of high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, kidney damage, anxiety, infertility in males and females and mental health problems too.

Health care professionals advise consumers to desist from using this harmful material as soon as possible, because it might cause irreversible effects on their wellbeing and health conditions.

Symptoms of lead toxicity

Lead poisoning can be hard to detect and even people who seem to be healthy can have high blood levels of lead (More about lead poisoning here). If you suspect that you might suffer from lead toxicity then it is advised to get yourself tested to be aware of your condition and accidental hardships.

A blood test called “serum lead” is the best way to check the lead levels in your body. This type of test can be ordered by any healthcare provider and executed by any standard referencing laboratory. It may show that there’s no need to worry, but make sure to request an examination by a creditable physician – better safe than sorry! Any lead levels above 10 µg/dL are considered dangerous.

Lead side affects in children

What are the lead side affect of children?

Here are the side affects of lead posiening in children:

  • Problems in Behavior
  • Lowered IQ
  • Hyperactivity
  • Loss in Hearing
  • Seizures
  • Delays in growth

An alternative possibility is a red blood cell test, which is more accurate than the serum lead test. This one covers a 90-day average and works far more precisely. Frequent check-ups are indispensable, even more if you have suffered from a lead poisoning before.

The main symptoms of lead toxicity for adults include: high blood pressure, difficulties with memory, headache, joint and abdominal pain and anaemia. As in the case of children, the symptoms may involve: learning difficulties, loss of appetite, seizures, constipation and weight loss.

Other unexpected and unanticipated sources of lead

Besides Bentonite Clay and the other sources that we have explored that contain lead, there are some unexpected sources of lead in our everyday life.

Lead usually derives from the tap water and our home’s water system, alongside household dust, lead-based paint, and utensils (cutlery, plates, glasses) that contain lead. Besides these common contingencies, we can be exposed to some flabbergasting lead sources too.

Surprisingly, calcium supplements which are derived from bone tissue have often been found to carry excessive amounts of lead. Also, the inorganic calcium extracted from rocks, such as dolomite calcium, can also possess a high level of lead contamination.

Apart from that, even bone broth and collagen can cause lead poisoning when consumed in large quantities. This may occur as a consequence of the fact that lead builds up in bone tissue and collagen. Livestock (and cows particularly) are prone to lead accumulation. Knowing this, it’s recommended to pay attention to what kind of cookware and utensils you employ on a daily basis. Keep this in mind when consuming gelatine, since in the form it can be found in bone broth it’s able to pull lead out of cookware and thereby raise the risk of lead poisoning.

Beyond that, the meat of wild animals (game meat) can easily be soiled with lead residue. The process of the contamination happens when the animals are shot with lead bullets and those bullets break down into hundreds of minute fragments that afterwards spread over a large area of their meat.

Conclusion

Bentonite clay certainly has its advantages and disadvantages, yet it’s still disputed if its effects are helpful or it should be banned from the healthcare and beauty industry. With all the above listed information at your possession, it is fully up to you if choose to/ not to use this doubtful material. If you do, please contact a medical professional beforehand and discuss the exact application adequate for your needs. Your health and safety should always be your number one priority!

Also, there are plenty of other ingredients you can use instead of clay, for instance clean versions of fibre which contain resistant starches. They do wonders to your immune system and get rid of the objectionable toxins. Additionally, you can mix it with chlorophyll, which is extracted from spinach.

As natural remedies seem to have a deep root (and also future) in maintaining body health, it merits doing more profound research work on bentonite clay and its impacts on bodily functions. In the near future, bentonite clay may turn into a stable and dependable ingredient for both skincare and nutritional supplements. In the meantime, please act cautiously regarding this relevant matter.

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Dr. Linda Khoshaba is the Leading Integrative Health and Hormone Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona. She has extensive experience working in the field as a Hormone Specialist and Natural Endocrinologist.

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Suite A 109
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
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