By Amanda Monteiro
The world seems to be absolutely infatuated with activated charcoal. You can find it everywhere these days, from ice cream and hamburger buns to lemonade, crackers, and even hot dogs! Because it’s being incorporated into so many foods, it’s being portrayed as safe to consume, but as with any supplement, it’s important to be aware of how your preexisting medical conditions may affect how it reacts in your body. Intestinal bleeding or blockages, holes in the intestines, chronic dehydration, slow digestion, or a recent abdominal surgery are all contraindicated for charcoal.
In July I covered an activated charcoal trend involving face masks, which actually do the opposite of what they claim. From the article:
I spoke to Toni-Anne Leonardo, an aesthetician who studied at Humber College for Cosmetic Management and Esthetics/Spa Management, who said, “Well, every pore has a hair follicle in it. When you use a peel-off mask you are removing that hair, which can cause damage to the pore. This can lead to a dilated pore and cause damage to cells and create hyper pigmentation.
The most beneficial ingredient in black masks is typically activated charcoal. Activated charcoal has made its claim to fame recently with the development of these masks and also its use as a natural teeth whitening alternative. The benefits of this carbon are endless and when you couple its qualities with skin care, it usually has a positive effect. Activated charcoal acts like a magnet to attract and absorb dirt and oil, and so when these are present in your pores and activated charcoal comes in contact with it, they will stick to it and wash away when you rinse.
Here are some ways you can incorporate activated charcoal mindfully into your diet and lifestyle:
Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body, but helps to prevent absorption, allowing it to easily remove toxins without harming the body.
Be aware that while it can remove stains from teeth, it does stain clothes, tiles, counters, etc. It can also cause constipation and block mineral absorption, and should not be mixed with dairy, so take note if you do happen to ingest it.
How to use
Wet your toothbrush and dip it into the charcoal. Put the charcoal covered toothbrush in the mouth (quickly to protect your sink) and brush in small, gentle circles for two minutes. Spit carefully and rinse really well. You can also mix the charcoal with water and swish with it for two minutes.
You can also combine this with oil pulling.
Gas and Bloating
A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that “activated charcoal significantly (p less than 0.05) reduced breath hydrogen levels in both the population groups. Symptoms of bloating and abdominal cramps attributable to gaseousness were also significantly reduced in both groups by activated charcoal.”
How to use
Take 500 milligrams one hour prior to a typical gas-producing meal, with a full glass of water. Follow with an additional glass of water immediately thereafter to help get the charcoal into your system, where it can bind with gas-producing elements.
Treats Hangover Symptoms and Even Alcohol Poisoning
To be clear, activated charcoal is a special form of carbon that doesn’t necessarily absorb as much as it adsorbs, which means it binds to other substances on its surface (adsorption).
When hospitals have to treat a patient for alcohol poisoning and perform gastrointestinal decontamination, it is typically accomplished with activated charcoal, either mixed and taken by mouth or feeding tube in the emergency room. The thing is, alcohol enters the blood 90 seconds after consumption, so it’s usually not as effective when a person is already drunk. One study with dogs demonstrated that charcoal given at the same time as alcohol can reduce the blood alcohol concentration significantly, but didn’t have the same effect with humans.
It treats hangovers effectively because it mitigates the harm caused by other ingredients, like sugar, or the sulfites in wine.
Some would say that the key to our health lies in our gut. The microbiome contains billions of essential bacteria that literally share the human body and help it function. There are more than 1 trillion microbes living in the body, with the largest colonies in the gastrointestinal tract. These microbes are associated with regulation of digestion, protection from disease-causing organisms, and the development of a strong immune response.
Activated charcoal can be used to improve gut health by removing toxins that cause allergic reactions, oxidative damage, and poor immune system function.
How to use
You can try a two-day cleanse by ingesting 10 grams of activated charcoal 90 minutes prior to each meal. Be sure to eat organic fruits and vegetables during this time as well as warm lemon water. If you feel lethargic from constipation, consider trying an enema after the cleanse to make sure you are flushing out those toxins.
We can’t fight time, and aging is a natural part of life, but our modern world is filled with toxins that contribute to a quicker aesthetic and physical decline. We can incorporate activated charcoal into our diet to help combat the environmental toxin exposure that we may face in our homes, our workplaces, and even our food.
How to use
Take two capsules per day after consuming nonorganic or processed foods, as this will promote healthier kidneys, liver function, and digestive tract.
Reduces High Cholesterol
There are quite a few studies showing that activated charcoal helps to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. In one 1986 study published in The Lancet, seven patients with high cholesterol were treated for four weeks with activated charcoal at a dose of 8 g three times a day. Remarkably, their plasma total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol decreased by 25% and 41%, respectively, and their HDL-cholesterol, or “good cholesterol,” increased by 8%.
This was documented again in a Finnish study reported in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 1989. Seven patients were fed 4, 8, 16, or 32 g of activated charcoal per day. At the end, “Serum total and LDL-cholesterol were decreased (maximum 29% and 41%, respectively) and the ratio of HDL/LDL- cholesterol was increased (maximum 121%) by charcoal in a dose dependent manner.”
There are always safer alternatives out there, so it’s important to do your own research when it comes to your health. Be proactive in educating yourself of the dangers associated with anything you use to enhance your health or treat illness. We can be our own best doctor, but we need to be sure that we that we are not only listening to our bodies, but staying safe and informed.