What activated charcoal actually does to your body

Activated charcoal is having a moment in food, beauty, and supplement industries right now. But how does it work? And is it even good for you? Following is a transcript of the video.

Instagram is blowing up with black-looking food and beauty products. Thanks to this stuff. It’s called activated charcoal, or activated carbon.

No, it’s not what you use to BBQ ribs. It’s what health-trend fanatics are using to detox, brighten skin, and whiten their teeth. But just because you can wash with it, eat it, and brush your teeth with it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

The global market for activated charcoal is projected to reach $US6.2 billion by 2022. An impressive feat, considering it comes from the same stuff as your grilling charcoal: burnt wood.

The difference is that activated charcoal is burned at higher temperatures, so it breaks down into a fine powder. Which gives it a larger surface area than a chunk of charcoal on the grill. And that’s exactly what you want when you’re trying to remove toxins from your body.

How it works has to do with the microscopic structure of the charcoal itself. Inside each particle are millions of pores that act like a tiny trap. Swallow some, for example, and the outsides will bind to other substances in your gut. Which is helpful if you’ve just overdosed on drugs since it can prevent them from entering your system. And in fact, this is exactly what hospitals will use to treat certain cases of poisoning before resorting to pumping the stomach.

But drugs aren’t the only thing charcoal binds to. It can also soak up minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. So when you drink charcoal-laced lemonade with a healthy meal, you’re absorbing fewer nutrients than you otherwise would. To make matters worse, it can prevent medications, like antidepressants and contraceptive pills, from reaching your system.

The key to activated charcoal – whether it’s saving a life or depriving you of nutrition – is timing. It only works if there’s something for it to absorb in the first place. So, taking charcoal pills for a hangover the next morning isn’t going to help. Because that alcohol is long gone from your stomach by then. But ingesting charcoal for any other reason than treating a severe case of poisoning isn’t a good idea. It’s indigestible. So after you eat it, your body passes it along and eventually out the other end. But along the way, it can have side effects like constipation and nausea.

Not to mention, there’s no evidence to support the claims from charcoal enthusiasts that it will prevent bloating, boost energy, brighten skin, or whiten teeth.

So, if you don’t like the idea of eating black … anything … then don’t! Your body is probably better off, anyway.

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