Four reasons to skip an activated charcoal ‘detox’

On her Goop website, Gwyneth Paltrow claimed that charcoal lemonade was one of the “best juice cleansers“. That was in 2014. Today, charcoal products — from croissants to capsules — are everywhere. Even high street coffee chains have taken to selling charcoal “shots”.

Some vendors of these products claim that activated charcoal can boost your energy, brighten your skin and reduce gust and bloating. The main assert, though, is that these products can detoxify your body.

It’s easy to see where the claim that activated charcoal can detoxify the body comes from: it is used in emergency medicine to reduce the toxic loading when someone has ate poison or overdosed on drug. Charcoal binds to poison in the gastrointestinal tract and stops it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. The toxins are then passed out of the body in the stool.

Activated charcoal will bind with all kinds of things including some of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your food. Charcoal is sometimes added to fruit or vegetable juice and sold as a “shot”. Unfortunately, the vitamins in the fruit and veg probably won’t be absorbed because of the charcoal. You’d be better off merely having the juice. Activated charcoal can bind with some medications, including some antidepressants and anti-inflammatory medications, causing them to be less effective. This could have serious health outcomes for some people, but it’s not explained on bottles or packaging where activated charcoal is being sold. Activated charcoal will only bind with whatever particles are in your stomach or bowels at the time that you take it. It runs by coming into physical contact with your intestinal contents. If you’re trying to use it to detox from the alcohol and kebab you had the night before, it won’t do anything at all because they have been absorbed into your bloodstream already. Activated charcoal slows down your bowel and is known to cause nausea and constipation( and black stools ).

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