Activated charcoal is believed to be a detoxifier, but how much of this is factual and how much is strategic marketing? Is activated charcoal actually something we should be incorporating in our daily diet regime?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, if a product states “cleansing properties” or “eliminates toxins”, our interests are perked. There are numerous “quick fixes” targeting hopeful dieters, and we all have fallen victim to these marketing ploys at one time or another. Whether they are packaged as juices, supplements, or food, “quick fixes” are never going to fix a problem created by an unhealthy lifestyle.
Activated charcoal is believed detoxify our bodies from impurities and toxins we come into contact with on a daily basis. But, do we even truly understand what a toxin is? These days, terms like “toxins” are thrown around so frequently that they often lose their meaning. We know that toxins are harmful and can enter your body through many different channels. But what else should we know?
Toxins are everywhere and can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed. Certain behaviors like overeating, indulging in processed foods, lack of exercise, poor diet, and excess alcohol prevent your body from working efficiently to remove toxins.
Of course, we are realists and it can be hard to avoid temptation! Because of this, Americans often rely on crash diets to solve bad long term habits. This is where we often go wrong! Juice cleanses, for example, have taken on a life of their own. The cold-pressed juice industry is currently estimated at $100 million! But, as we have reviewed on D2D, your body already has the tools to naturally detoxify.
Activated charcoal is one of the newest quick fixes that claims to target the toxins in your body. Why activated charcoal, you ask? We were wondering the same thing.
Activated charcoal is created for medicinal purposes through a controlled heating process. Performed in a lab, heat, and gas are applied to charcoal to make it increasingly porous. These pores are what allow the charcoal to capture hazardous substances when administered by a medical professional to remove poison, chemicals, or drug overdoses from your body. Typically, when activated charcoal is administered in the hospital, the objective is to get the patient in question to vomit so the charcoal absorbs the chemical with its millions of tiny pores.
However, the idea of using charcoal as a healthy drink to target toxins is not very feasible. Yes, activated charcoal is able to trap substances, but there is no way for the charcoal molecules to differentiate between beneficial substances inside your body and harmful ones! Therefore, when you consume activated charcoal you risk eliminating essential minerals and vitamins from your body.
While activated charcoal is believed to help your skin health, digestive system, and alleviate gas and bloating, the science behind the activated charcoal does not exist.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Dr. Kent Olson, medical director of the San Francisco Poison Control System and clinical professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco discussed the medicinal uses of activated charcoal. “‘The problem with charcoal is that it’s non-specific. It’ll bind to anything…that could include toxins as well as nutrients. Remember that might include vitamins and amino acids and other things you actually need in your diet.’” (Dr. Kent Olson for Time Magazine, 2016)
Recently, companies like Goop, Juice Generation, and Shape Magazine have touted the benefits of activated charcoal. In fact, Juice Generation has even created a new line of activated charcoal juice products that are said to target the toxins in your body. These juices are now the company’s best selling products. According to the label, they are able to take a traditional green juice to the next level. And while the products certainly will not hurt you, they do highlight a common disconnect between seller and consumer.
Unfortunately, these labels do not mention the large lack of research behind this detoxifying phenomenon. In the past 30 years, 159 human studies have been performed pertaining to activated charcoal, almost all of which were for medicinal application. In a 2015 meta-analysis of these studies, Dr. Thomas Pirelli Ph.D., of Harvard University, examines the results of research pertaining to the use of activated charcoal. There were only two reported human studies pertaining to the claim that activated charcoal helps intestinal gas. One study stated that the activated charcoal did improve gas and bloating while the other did not.
Most simply put, extensive research just doesn’t exist. Not to mention, our understanding of activated charcoal’s composition suggests the substance can eliminate equal parts of nutrients to toxins. So, while there may be a teeny tiny chance that activated charcoal might help a severe hangover or temporarily reduce internal gas, it is not something you need to incorporate into your everyday routine.
The Bottom Line:
Activated charcoal is a porous substance most commonly administered by health professionals. This product does not distinguish harmful toxins from beneficial nutrients, so you may be losing valuable nutrients. At D2D, we believe in a well-rounded diet that incorporates enough sleep and exercise to enable your body to naturally detoxify without gimmicky products.