What is activated charcoal?

Activated carbon, or activated carbon, is a product of plant origin that is obtained from thecarbonization of coconut shells or carbon-rich materials, such as wood or peat, at extremely high temperatures.

From this carbonization a powdered product is obtained, black similar to graphite, with a high degree of porosity and absorption. Chemically, activated carbon bases its mechanism of action on the fact that its high porositycontains a negative electrical charge, attracting the positive charge of some toxins and gases.

Important: You should not confuse normal charcoal with activated charcoal, since the second is the result of subjecting normal charcoal to high temperatures with water vapor, in order to oxidize it.

On the other hand, the denomination of activated carbon arises from the process of carbonization at high temperatures in combination of oxygen or carbon dioxide, burning the carbon present in the material andactivating its absorbent properties. (1)

What is activated charcoal for?

Activated charcoal due to itsadvantageous molecular structure, can provide you with many benefits for your health, among which we can describe the following:

1. Improves digestive discomfort

As described above, activated charcoal has the property of trapping molecules of toxic substances that canimpair or damage the stomach and intestinal functionof our body.

When we accidentally consume a substance, either through food or the consumption of drugs thatcause toxic effects, usually the body, as a defense mechanism, causes diarrhea in order to try to expel these pollutants.

In this sense, the use of activated charcoalcan help detoxify the digestive tractof these potentially absorbable contaminants and can sometimes help replace gastric lavage(2). These toxinsattach to activated charcoaland are excreted through feces.

Important: The use of activated charcoal for cases of detoxification of substances ingested orally, should be recommended and supervised by a doctor.

2. Promotes kidney function

Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys cannot filter toxic wastethat transits through the blood, causing damage and inflammation in the kidneys.

In this sense, the use of activated charcoal as detoxification therapy at the gastrointestinal level, prevents toxic substances and pollutants from passing into the bodythrough the intestines, making kidney functions work normally.

You should know: The administration of activated charcoal to the body, is not yet clear about its specific dosage, so it must be prescribed and supervised by a specialist doctor.

3. Helps treat acute poisonings

Acute poisoning occurs when clinical symptoms appear after recent exposure to a potentially polluting substance through, for example, the consumption of food, medications or direct exposure to any other toxic substance. (3)

To highlight: Treatment with activated charcoalcan reduce the harmful effects of this poisoning, as long as these substances are potentially absorbable by activated charcoal.

4. Whiten teeth

Although there is no scientific support for this point, the literature states that activated charcoalis effective for theteeth whitening process thanks to its abrasive property.

However, the same literature states that the overuse of this product and because of its abrasive power, can destroy tooth enamel, leaving teeth unprotected against the bacterial flora that inhabits the oral cavity, leading to the appearance of caries and gum disease. (4)

5. Promotes skin health

This product fights skin pollutantscausing the appearance of free radicals, preventing wrinkles. In addition, its exfoliating effectremoves the remains of dead skin and also cleanses it of impurities, toxins and dirt residues.

Note: Activated charcoalcannot be absorbed through the skin, so its use is safe.

6. Purifies water and air

Theadsorbent property of activated carbon allows water to be purified, because it traps the molecules of contaminants such aspesticides, chemicals and even mold. In relation to the air, it allows the elimination of oil vapors, flavors, odors and other negative substances in it.

To highlight: For cases of decontamination of elements such as water and air, activated carbon is used granular in contents of cartridges or closed filters.

How should activated charcoal be taken?

We are going to make some recommendations on the intake of activated charcoal, according to the treatment to which it is intended:

  • In cases of acute poisoning, in population between 1 and 12 years of ageconsume 1 to 2 gr per kg of body weight every 2 to 6 hours, until observing the disappearance of symptoms. In adolescent and adult population,from 15 to 30 grams every 2 to 6 hoursuntil the improvement of symptoms.
  • In cases of decontamination of the digestive tract, 20 to 50 grams every 6 hours for1 to 2 days. The success of the dosagewill depend on several factorsincluding the length of time in which activated charcoal is administered and the characteristics of the toxicant. (5)

Important: It is recommended that the dosage of this productbe supervised by a doctorto avoid possible overdose.

On the other hand, nowadays it is very fashionable that this product iscombined with other foodssuch as ice cream, smoothies, cakes among others for abetter assimilation in the stomach in detoxification therapies.

What are the risks of activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal can have an impact onsome undesirable effects, which we mention below:

1. Constipation

One of the triggers of constipationis lack of hydrationor lack of water in the digestive process.

If you plan to detoxify with activated charcoal, you need to consume more than 4 liters of water per day, as this product also traps water molecules, decreasing the availability of this liquid for intestinal functions.

2. Decreases nutrient absorption

The mechanism of action of activated carbon is not selective, that is, it traps the molecules that are related to it,whether or not they are contaminants. According to this, activated carbon alsotraps molecules of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals with antioxidant action offood, reducing its availability to the body.

To emphasize: The administration of this productshould not be done for a long time or in excessive doses, to avoid diseases due to nutrient deficiency during consumption.

3. Reduces the effect of medications

Under the same mechanism as above, activated charcoaltraps the molecules of those drugs that are related to it, reducing the therapeutic effectiveness of some drugs.

You should know: If you are consuming medications to treat any pathology, you should consult with your doctorbefore starting a detoxification therapy with activated charcoal.

Key Findings

  • Activated carbonis a product of plant originthat arises from heat treatment at high temperatures.
  • Its main characteristic is that it is an element withgreat molecular absorption capacity.
  • Activated charcoal is used to performdetoxification therapiesand in the treatmentof acute poisoning.
  • Its administration and dosage should besupervised by a physician.

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