Activated Charcoal: Detox Tool or Fitness Fraud?

Jan 16, 2018 by

It seems as though every fitness media outlet has latched onto the newest trend: activated charcoal. The black powder is said to have medicinal purposes as a powerful detoxification agent, and is treated in a way that is safe for human consumption. Before being a fitness fad, it was commonly used in emergency rooms to treat mild poisonings. Basically, activated charcoal is supposed to flush out all toxins and chemicals from your body, giving you a clean slate to begin a healthier lifestyle.

All of this sounds good, but how effective is activated charcoal at removing these so-called “stored toxins”? According to Livestrong, there is no evidence to show that the human body has stores toxins to begin with, or that charcoal can somehow extract them from your body. If you’re trying to use activated charcoal to lose weight, regular consumption of charcoal can lead to more damage than good. Similar to other detox diets out there, the charcoal detox requires participation in fasting for a few days. The weight you may lose during this time is due more to the calorie restrictions during the fasting phase than to the charcoal consumed.

Moreover, the regular consumption of activated charcoal can lead to constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and in some severe cases, bowel obstruction. With consistent and repeated doses, complications such as abscesses and charcoal deposits can develop in the abdominal wall. Dr. Kamal Patel, a medical professional in Tampa, Florida, has been doing extensive research on the affects of activated charcoal on the body. For those taking daily prescription medications, the interactions between charcoal and the medications could render the medication ineffective. This is particularly dangerous if the medications taken ensure proper bodily function or livelihood.

One of the most popular promotions of activated charcoal, besides consuming it for detox, is using it for teeth whitening. Instructions for it’s use for teeth whitening is to wet your toothbrush, dip it into loose activated charcoal powder, begin brushing it on your teeth, leave it on your teeth for three minutes, then rinse. It’s recommended to use activated charcoal to whiten teeth around two to three times a week in order to begin seeing results.  Activated charcoal is also said to be a cure for bad breath.

Unfortunately, dental professionals are wary on recommending activated charcoal for teeth whitening. They recommend only using it around once every other week, if at all. They also warn that since it is such an abrasive powder, it can wear down the enamel on the teeth, causing bigger dental problems down the road. Enamel is the protective layer on your teeth that help prevent cavities or rot, and once it’s gone, it’s very hard to restore. This is certainly a bigger problem than having yellow teeth.

So the next time you’re looking for a healthy way to detox, we recommend sticking to fruits, vegetables, and a large glass of water!

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