Pros and cons of activated charcoal detox

Pros and cons of activated charcoal detox

Activated charcoal is usually used in case of acute poisoning and oral overdoses. Although looks like toxic activated charcoal is usually safe.(1) In many countries people use tablets or capsules of activated carbon as an over-the-counter drug for cases like diarrhea, oral indigestion.(2) Although it can help in some cases but there are also pros and cons of use of activated charcoal as detox.  

How activate charcoal is made?

Activate charcoal is not the same substance found in burnt wood or foods or similar other. Rather it is a bye product carbon-rich material such as wood, peat or coconut shells. Making activated charcoal involves heating such materials to increase its surface area. This ‘activation’ process strips the charcoal of previously absorbed molecules and frees up bonding sites again.(3)

How activated charcoal helps in detoxification?

Activated charcoal helps to detoxify the gastrointestinal tract from acute poisoning. Activated charcoal binds with poisons or toxins in the gastrointestinal tract with direct contact. And prevents absorption of such toxins in intestine. And thus it helps to excrete them in feces.(4)

In animal with chronic kidney disease study found oral activated charcoal preparation had reduced intestinal inflammation and damage.(5)

Pros and cons of activated charcoal detox

A contributing factor in increase in intestinal gas production includes small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO. (6) In study active charcoal improved visualization of abdominal organs in patients whose scans are frequently unsatisfactory due to excessive intestinal gas.(7)That indicates that activated charcoal may reduce intestinal gas.

Read about 6 causes of acid reflux and heartburn and natural remedies

Activated charcoal may also help in diarrhea. The main precursors of diarrhea include as drugs and bacterial infection. In study activated charcoal also may prevent absorption of such bacteria and drugs that can cause diarrhea into the body by trapping them.(8)

Cons of activated charcoal detoxification

Activated charcoal can detoxify poisons or toxins from gastrointestinal tract only. But it can’t eliminate toxins that are already absorbed into the system.

Activated charcoal can’t differentiate friend or enemy. And that’s why it not only binds with toxins also binds with nutrients and prevents from absorption.(9) Therefore long term use can lead to nutrition deficiency.

Bottom Line:

Although some people take as over the counter, activated charcoal is a medical detoxification for acute poisoning. So better you should use activated charcoal under medical guidance rather than over the counter.

Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information 
for educational purpose only, not intended to provide one to one
health consultation or replace practice of a qualified
practitioner. Different people may have different health
condition and may have different reaction to the same food. Hence
it has been advised to consult with health care provider before
application of any of above information.
Source and References:
4.Jason Silberman; Alan Taylor, Activated Charcoal,StatPearls,
November 22, 2018
5.Nosratola D. Vaziri, Jun Yuan, Mahyar Khazaeli, Yuichi Masuda,
Hirohito Ichii, and Shuman Liu, Oral activated charcoal
adsorbent (AST-120) ameliorates CKD-induced intestinal epithelial
barrier disruption, Am J Nephrol. 2013; 37(6): 518–525.
6.Chloé Melchior et al.,Efficacy of antibiotherapy for treating
flatus incontinence associated with small intestinal bacterial
overgrowth: A pilot randomized trial, Plos One, August 1, 2017
7.G. Maconi, E. Bolzacchini, E. Radice, M. Marzocchi, and M.
Badini, Alpha-galactosidase versus active charcoal for improving
sonographic visualization of abdominal organs in patients with
excessive intestinal gas,J Ultrasound. 2012 Dec; 15(4): 232–238
8.Helen Senderovich,Megan J. Vierhout, Is there a role for
charcoal in palliative diarrhea management?, Current Medical
Research and Opinion Journal, Volume 34, 2018 - Issue 7
9.çetin Kadakal, E. SINAN POYRAZOGLU, Nevzat Artik, Sebahattin
Nas,Effect of activated charcoal on water-soluble vitamin content
of apple juice, Journal of Food Quality 27(2):171 - 180 · June
Bikramjit Konwar

Author: Bikramjit Konwar


3 Responses

  1. Informative article on activated charcoal. Due to high surface area, activated charcoal can adsorb almost anything. But as rightly said, it cannot differentiate between good and bad.

  2. After digesting foods like beans, the decomposition process from bacteria in your body creates byproducts like gas or diarrhea. Activated charcoal enters the digestive tract and counteracts this process by binding to byproducts and easing these digestive issues.

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