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Is Activated Charcoal Safe Or Bad For You?

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Read time: 3 min.

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Just because you can eat it, wash with it or even brush your teeth with it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should consume or use activated charcoal. The global market for activated charcoal is projected to hit 6.2 billion USD by 2022, and this craze possibly started from health enthusiasts on Instagram.

Watch: What Activated Charcoal Actually Does To Your Body | The Human Body by Science Insider

Search up the hashtag and you can expect to see well over 250K posts on it.

What People Claim About Activated Charcoal

It is actually the same ingredient to start the grill/barbeque – burnt wood (only difference: burnt at a much higher temperature to create the fine powdery texture). Yet, many health trend fanatics claim activated charcoal to be capable of detox, brighten skin and whiten teeth. Seems dodgy right? We think so too since the raw material is, like what we said, a block of charcoal under your grill. Sorry, but until there is evidence to support the health claims, Guidesify will not be promoting the casual use of it in food, drinks, cosmetics etc.��

What It Really Does

When consumed, activated charcoal will begin to bind with other substances in your gut. This is especially useful if the user has overdosed on drugs since it can prevent them from entering the system in the first place.

It is also prescribed as a form of medicine when someone is down with food poisoning. This is why you see hospitals using activated charcoal to treat certain types of poisoning before pumping the stomach as the last resort.

Of course, when we refer to “substances”, nutrients are not excluded from the list of things activated charcoal can bind with. It can also soak up helpful things like minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Thus, the next time you drink a charcoal laced lemonade with a healthy meal, you will actually be absorbing fewer nutrients than you otherwise would. To make matters worse, it can also prevent medications like anti-depressants and contraceptive pills from reaching your system, rendering ineffective.

Fun fact: If you are thinking of using activated charcoal to treat alcohol poisoning, forget about it. Alcohol is absorbed rapidly from the gut. In fact, it binds really poorly with alcohol as found in this study.

How does Activated Charcoal Work?

To simplify its mechanism, activated charcoal is manufactured into very fine powder to increase its surface area. The microscopic structure of charcoal also comes into play, where each particle has millions of pores, acting like mini-traps.

Its porous texture has a negative electrical charge, which causes it to attract positively charged molecules, such as toxins and gases. This helps it trap toxins and chemicals in the gut. Lastly, since it cannot be digested and absorbed by our bodies, it will carry the toxins bound to its surface out of the body in faeces. 



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