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Activated Charcoal: Setting the Facts Straight About the Charcoal Trend

With each year, certain health products surge in popularity, and activated charcoal is one of the top hits in 2017. It has even started to be incorporated into food items around the world including Ikea hot dogs in Japan, Ice cream in Toronto, and cold-pressed charcoal juices in the UK, to name a few.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that activated charcoal is not charcoal used in your barbecue! Barbecue charcoal is packed with toxins and chemicals, and should never be consumed. Activated charcoal is available as a supplement within a health food store that has be manufactured from coconut shells and ideally does not have added sorbitol which can cause diarrhea.
How does Activated Charcoal work?

The charcoal is considered “activated” due to its electromagnetic charge, which will stimulate a binding-reaction to drugs, chemicals, supplements, and even bacteria of the opposite charge. Due to the substance being bound to the charcoal, absorption into the body is diminished.

This “new detox ingredient” has actually been used since the 1800’s, within emergency rooms to stop certain cases of acute poisonings or overdoses! This speaks to the fact that activated charcoal can be dangerous if used inappropriately and should be used in certain contexts under the supervision of a naturopathic and/or medical professional.

Natural is not necessarily safe.

One of the main concerns is the high likelihood of drug interaction when taken together – since the charcoal may bind to the drug decreasing the dose received by the body. There have been several drugs proven in research to interact with activated charcoal; however, if you do not see a certain medication on this list, I would still remain cautious.

Interactions may also depend on the amount of activated charcoal consumed, but I would always ensure a time buffer of 2 hours before and after medication avoid interaction possibility. This would include common prescriptions such as the birth control pill, iron supplements and anti-histamines – until further research can solidify safety.

Activated charcoal can also bind compounds from your food!

When charcoal is being incorporated into “black ninja hot dogs” as seen in Japan, this may be a positive benefit since it will help to bind the nitrates; however, unfortunately this does not counteract the carcinogenic effects of hot dogs (for those looking for an excuse to justify hotdogs!). On the other hand, adding activated charcoal to a healthy juice, for instance, may prevent the absorption of the beneficial vitamins and mineral content.

On a more positive note, despite the important considerations you need to make when using activated charcoal, it does in fact have several health benefits. I would recommend you seek professional guidance in order to ensure accurate timing, duration and dosing to achieve your health goals without any side effects.

Some of these health benefits include: oral health, gas & bloating discomfort, “hangover help”, ameliorates detoxification withdrawal symptoms, and topically to aid in acne treatment. I commonly use activated charcoal in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment plan to address the root causes of my patient’s ailments.
If you have any questions further about activated charcoal or how naturopathic medicine can help improve your health, please do not hesitate to contact me! I would love to meet you.

Kindly,

Dr. Kate.