Mentor: Dr. Don Barber
With the advent of Western medicine, scientists have started to question the validity of alternative and natural healing methods. More specifically, the ingestion of clays has been a disputed self-prescribed means to prevent morning sickness for pregnant women and treat digestive issues in parts of the United States, Central America, Africa, and Asia. While some argue that eating clay is a beneficial way to cleanse the digestive tract as well as to provide a good source of calcium, others fear that it actually leaches vital nutrients, like iron for instance, out of the digestive system. The goal of this research is to examine commonly ingested clays and study their interaction with digestive fluids. The samples will not only be found in mainstream American markets, but also in stores within various immigrant communities on the East Coast. The clays will undergo XRD analysis to determine their mineral content. Surface area, pH, and EH tests will be performed to understand the basic nature of the clays. Total digestions and bulk chemical analyses will also be conducted, along with gastric fluid extractions and dissolution kinetic experiments with simulated digestive fluids. Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of how these clays function in the digestive tract and to draw parallels and distinctions between the types of clays consumers are able to buy in the United States.