When You Eat Activated Charcoal, This Is What Happens To Your Body

The idea of "detoxing" has picked up major steam in the past several years, and while different people use different diets, products, and routines to accomplish their goals of having a healthier, "cleaner" body, one product some may use is activated charcoal. This ingredient is found in everything from toothpastes to facial masks to oral supplements, and it's claim to fame is that it is said to it bind to toxins, essentially "pulling them" out of your pores, out of your mouth, or out of your body (depending on the product you are using).

But is it actually effective when taken internally, and what are its real effects on your body as a whole? As it turns out, there is something to the claims that activated charcoal "binds to toxins" (via WebMD), but not all toxins, and not always in the way you might expect or imagine. Before consuming activated charcoal internally, there are a few things you should know.      

What activated charcoal can and cannot do for your body

Activated charcoal has been used for a long time in hospitals and emergency settings to help people who have accidentally poisoned themselves (via WebMD). For instance, if a child inadvertently swallows medication or chemicals, having them drink charcoal helps by binding the toxin to the charcoal and then passing it harmlessly out of the body. Depending on the type of toxin, however, this isn't always effective. For instance, activated charcoal will not help with poisoning that resulted from alcohol, cyanide, lithium, or iron tablets.

However, there is very little evidence that it actually helps with non-emergency "detoxing" or as a supplement to treat ailments of any kind (via eater). Some take it to help with gas, to lower cholesterol, or even to prevent a hangover, but studies regarding gas and cholesterol have shown inconsistent results, and since it doesn't help with alcohol poisoning, there is really no reason to believe it would prevent a hangover (via WebMD). While consuming it in small amounts does not usually pose a serious threat, it can cause stomach upset, and it can also prevent the absorption of medications like acetaminophen, digoxin, theophylline, and tricyclic antidepressants.     

In serious cases, it can also cause blockages of the gastrointestinal system, which can be dangerous. So before you take activated charcoal as part of a regimen, it is important to check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you.