Activated charcoal and stomach bugs: We’ve all felt those dreaded symptoms: sweaty, nauseous, multiple trips running to the bathroom. Stomach bugs come on swiftly and suddenly, and depending on the reason, they can be incredibly contagious. You may feel helpless, but there is hope beyond the usual recommendations of hydration and rest.
Activated charcoal, a traditional remedy that’s been used in many cultures for hundreds of years, has found its way into the wellness market in drinks and gummies for its detoxification benefits. But it may just be the solution to have ready when stomach bugs arrive in your home.
Activated Charcoal and Stomach Bugs: What is activated charcoal?
Not to be confused with the charcoal from your barbeque, activated charcoal has been used as a remedy for many reasons beyond gastrointestinal issues, including skincare and even hangovers. It’s also commonly used in Western medicine, especially to treat ingestion of poison or overdose. Its history dates back to the early 1800s when it was reported that a French chemist drank arsenic trioxide, which should have killed him but didn’t because he drank it with activated charcoal.
What makes activated charcoal unique is its ability to bind with toxins like heavy metals or poisons so the body can get rid of them. It helps keep your body from absorbing the toxin in the gut, limiting how much moves into the bloodstream.
Interestingly, one study also found that an activated charcoal product helped protect the gut microbiome during treatment with antibiotics.
Activated charcoal is made from a variety of carbon-rich materials (for example, bamboo, coconut shells, wood) that are burned and processed at a high temperature. It’s activated by the high temperature and special chemicals that enhance the porosity and surface area, increasing its ability to absorb compounds.
How is activated charcoal commonly used?
Uses of activated charcoal include:
- Treatment after poisoning. As mentioned, in the emergency room, charcoal is used as a medication. These large doses (much larger than you would take at home) reduce the absorption of whatever was ingested and help remove the substance before it causes harm to your body. It should be noted that any cases of accidental overdose or poisoning should be managed by a medical professional and not at home.|
- Deodorant. Many companies use activated charcoal as an ingredient in more natural deodorant products. Charcoal can also bind to odor-causing bacteria or toxins in the armpits.
- Toothpaste and oral care products. The same powerful binding properties that make activated charcoal helpful for removing toxins from the body also help remove them from your teeth. The theory is that these products can help remove unwanted bacteria from your mouth and helps to whiten teeth in the process.
- Water filters. Again, activated charcoal works as a water purifier, binding to chemicals and toxins to keep them out of the water.
How does activated charcoal help with stomach bugs?
In the same way that activated charcoal binds with toxins or poisons, it can also bind to bacteria in the stomach, helping relieve your miserable symptoms. Taking it as soon as someone comes down with symptoms can help stop the symptoms or even keep you from getting sick if you are the caregiver.
While more research on humans is needed, one study found that taking activated charcoal with fluids helped improved diarrhea. A review article also found that activated charcoal is a low side-effect option for diarrhea from a variety of conditions.
Researchers have even found that activated charcoal can bind to potentially pathogenic bacteria like E. Coli. It also may help reduce feelings of gas and bloating.
How to take activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is found in:
However, activated charcoal likely makes the most sense to take in response to a condition like the stomach flu and not as an everyday supplement. Its ability to bind is so strong that it can also bind to other things like medications, supplements, or even beneficial minerals in your diet. If you are taking any medications, you should always check with your health care practitioner before taking any product with activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal for your natural health toolbox
As a relatively low side-effect option, activated charcoal is a smart choice to have ready to go before the stomach flu hits your home. As with any supplement, check with your doctor before taking it, especially if you are on any medications.
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