Activated Charcoal Risks and Rewards: What It Can and Cannot Do for Your Health

There are a number of people who turn to activated charcoal as a way of helping to remove toxins in their body and other purposes, but it needs to be properly understood that this old time substance does have certain limitations, which is why it would help to know what it can and can’t do for you.

There are risks and rewards associated with the use of activated charcoal, so here are some of the points that you might want to consider about a product that claims health benefits such as removing toxins like alcohol from your body.

When you might use activated charcoal

One of the principal reasons why someone might resort to taking activated charcoal is when they are trying to contend with a case of poisoning or an overdose, although it is also used to treat stomach pains and some other related issues.

In some cases of accidental poisoning or a drug overdose, activated charcoal might help to provide some comfort from the itching sensation that can be a side-effect of receiving dialysis treatment.

You might also find that activated charcoal is promoted as a product that could help with such diverse solutions as teeth whitening and skin care.

There is some anecdotal evidence available that seems to suggest that when you activated charcoal in powder form, it can be brushed onto your teeth in order to help with the removal of stains and increase the level of whiteness.

Some claims suggest that activated charcoal might help minimize tooth decay and cavities, as a result of making your mouth less acidic, although there is no real proof yet available to properly verify these claims.

You will also be able to find activated charcoal being marketed as a skin care product, due to its ability to clear your body of toxins and subsequently improve the health and appearance of your skin.

You should be aware that a good number of medical professionals do not agree with these claims and do not support the use of activated charcoal as a skin care product.

How it works

The way activated charcoal works is to bind toxins together in such a way that it becomes too large for your body to absorb. It is also has the ability to prevent your liver from processing or breaking down certain toxins.

The use of activated charcoal is hardly something new and you can trace its use right back to the ancient Egyptians.

Whilst we have had plenty of time to understand how it works, there is still plenty of disagreement around as to what you should and shouldn’t consider using it for.

When to avoid activated charcoal

What is known at this point, is that there are definitely some scenarios where you should avoid taking activated charcoal.

If you have low levels of fluid in your body and are dehydrated, taking activated charcoal under these circumstances could be dangerous to your health and should be avoided. The same warning applies if you suffering from severe bleeding, or you have holes or evidence of tears in your digestive tract.

Other known medical conditions or situations where activated charcoal should be avoided include, if you have any problems with your digestive system that prevents you from processing your food efficiently and if you have recently undergone some sort of surgical procedure.

If you have a kidney or liver disease, you should consult your doctor before taking activated charcoal. You may want to take some medical advice if you are unsure in any way about the suitability of taking activated charcoal, and if you use it to treat diarrhea for example, stop taking it if there is no improvement within a 48-hour period.

Major side effects

If you have already taken activated charcoal and are experiencing some side effects, it should be noted that some of these side effects can be serious and warrant you seeking urgent medical attention.

If you experience a blockage in your intestines or stomach area or are suffering from fecal impaction, which is when hard dry lumps of stool become stuck in your gut, these are two examples of major side effects which warrant urgent action and medical attention.

If you experience problems taking in the right level of oxygen after taking activated charcoal or feel unwell in any way, it is always advisable not to ignore what could turn out to be some serious side effects.

There are definitely some good and bad points associated with activated charcoal, so make sure you get as much information as you can about the product you are considering using.

Elise Rogers is a nurse who is currently on extended maternity leave. To save her sanity, Elise has taken to writing health articles. She likes feeling useful by sharing her knowledge online whilst she’s currently stuck at home waiting for the baby to arrive.