What Are Activated Charcoal Pills—And Are They Actually Good For You?
8 months ago, 18 Jan 20:16
Charcoal was one of the stars of skincare since last year when black masks, body bars, cleansers, and scrubs hit the beauty scene. Beauty companies praised it for cleaning and refreshing oily and acne-prone skin, and social media couldn't get enough of its chic potential. At this point, we're used to this black stuff getting rid of our impurities on the outside. But now, activated charcoal pills and powders are claiming to be the new trendy way to clean out (that's right) our insides. Not only are people purchasing OTC charcoal pills and taking them like a multivitamin with their morning joe, some hipper-than-thou coffee shops, bars, and even pizzerias are putting the powdered form into everything from chai tea, cocktails, and lemonade, to donuts and pizza. So if you've noticed a surge of black food on your IG feed, you have activated charcoal powder to thank. (Get the latest health, weight loss, fitness, and sex intel delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our "Daily Dose" newsletter.) But we’re not talking about the stuff used to fire up your BBQ. While all charcoal is, in essence, just burnt organic matter, activated charcoal has been exposed to much higher temperatures, explains registered dietitian Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. That process gives the charcoal a very porous surface that acts as a magnet, binding with everything it can get its claws on, Delbridge explains. And because activated charcoal isn’t absorbed by your digestive tract, it (and all the gook it picks up as it moves through your intestines) passes right through, he explains. Eating activated charcoal isn’t altogether new. “Activated charcoal powder has been used in an emergency rooms to treat some types of oral poisoning and drug overdoses for years because of its ability to trap toxins and chemicals, which prevents them from being absorbed into the GI tract or bloodstream” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, R.D., C.S.S.D. But health enthusiasts theorize that if activated charcoal can soak up dangerous substances in ERs across the world, it should also be consumed routinely (albeit in much smaller doses), as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we’re exposed to, like pollution and chemicals in food packaging, explains Sass. “The latest claim that they can cleanse you of ‘so-called toxins’ is why activated charcoal pills and tablets are currently everywhere,” says Delbridge, adding some people also claim them to be the ultimate hangover cure. “Because activated charcoal is not routinely used preventatively, there has been no real hard scientific research to support the detox claims,” Sass says. And Delbridge is skeptical that any research will ever point in its favor for at-home detoxing use. That's because activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body, instead it stays in the digestive track, which means it can only absorb things in your stomach and small intestine, he says. But according to a study published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, ...
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