Making the rounds in the health industry is a dietary supplement known as activated charcoal (or activated carbon). It’s been gaining popularity as a powdered food additive that’s added to things like pizza doughs, yogurts, tonic beverages and much more. While providing these foods with a rarely seen black coloring, most people find that it has no taste at all.
Those in favor of activated carbon praise it as a universal cleanser, capable of detoxifying impurities and poisons from the human body, eliminating gassy bowels, and smoothing out your skin.
It’s true that this supplement possesses some unique and helpful qualities, but that alone is not sufficient to pass it off as a validated health product. Here are a few facts to consider before consuming activated charcoal.
How it works
First of all, activated carbon is a processed form of carbon that is very porous. This means it’s covered in millions of tiny pores that can absorb surrounding materials. In other words, it has the ability to soak up and trap compounds it comes into contact. For this reason, it is quite useful in commercial and industrial grade purification systems.
Air particles, heavy metals, bacteria, sewage filtrates, and even medicinal compounds can be extracted through a system which utilizes activated charcoal. While this is wonderful for machinery, it can be dangerous for the human consumption.
The problem with activated charcoal
To use a play-on-words, the problem with consuming activated charcoal is that as a filter is – it has no filter. It doesn’t know the differenced between good compounds and harmful compounds. Instead, everything gets trapped and cleared.
Calcium, iron, vitamin C, and thiamin are just a few examples of micronutrients that activated carbon removes. Unfortunately, this is not good for your body. In addition to nutrients, prescribed medicines may also be absorbed and not perform their proper function. In fact, your body already has a naturally efficient filtering system known as your liver and kidneys.
Thinking about it further, most of the food prepared for your consumption is not going poison you. For example, processed foods are prepared in sanitary environments. Also, safe food practices require restaurants to wash off your fruits and vegetables as well as thoroughly cook your foods. In doing this, this greatly reduces your risk of developing foodborne illnesses. Therefore, a detox supplement like activated charcoal is not necessary and may actually be harmful.
More research needed…
No studies have been produced showing activated carbon reduces gaseous symptoms. Furthermore, some individuals may react to activated charcoal with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Last, even if you feel you’ve experienced benefits from consuming activated charcoal, we simply don’t know what a safe dosage looks like. If you’re looking to reduce unpleasant GI simples or simply eat healthier, meet with your registered dietitian to develop a plan that works for you!