Women are constantly berated with the latest trend that will “transform” us into young, healthy, radiant supermodels with perfect skin, perfect teeth, and flowing hair. First, it was Ayd’s candies in the 1970s, then it was the South Beach diet in 2003, a few years ago it was the juice cleanse, and today it is activated charcoal. It claims to absorb odors, whiten your teeth, detoxify skin, minimize bloating, lower cholesterol levels and help you lose weight. Well, not so fast. Many doctors have begun to warn us that maybe this magical black powder isn’t so magical after all. In fact, there are a ton of risks involved with the use of activated charcoal.
It can counteract your medication
Studies reveal that activated charcoal can block the absorption of other medication in the body, making it less effective or completely ineffective. Medication that has been known to interact with activated charcoal include acetaminophens, digoxin, theophylline, tricyclic antidepressants, cancer drugs Arava (leflunomide) and Avbagio (teriflunomide), aspirin, and electrolytes. Do not consume activated charcoal if you are taking any of these medications, and be sure to consult with a health professional before consumption.
It can cause digestive issues
Many people who consume activated charcoal report having some very uncomfortable side effects of indigestion. Activated charcoal binds with other contents of the stomach, forming clumps of foreign objects and causing vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. For this reason, activated charcoal can also have more serious risks including obstruction in the stomach, gut, and intestines. It has also been found to color your stool an unsightly tone of black, which can be disturbing but is not harmful in itself.
It can damage your enamel
The most popular use for activated charcoal is for its transformational teeth whitening benefits. One scroll down social media and you can watch hoards of people brush their teeth with black toothpaste all in the name of whiter, healthier teeth. However, dentists are concerned that its harsh abrasiveness is not discussed. Because of this, brushing your teeth with charcoal can do serious damage to your enamel, causing deterioration that can lead to cavities, sensitivity and discoloration. This is particularly dangerous because unlike your hair or skin, the enamel on your teeth cannot heal itself, and the damage is permanent.
It can cause respiratory issues
Many people choose to mix charcoal powder with a liquid and drink it to reap its benefits. However, this can lead to extremely harmful respiratory problems. For many of us, it is very common for a beverage to “go down the wrong tube.” However, if you are drinking a charcoal beverage, this common annoyance may turn deadly. Upon entrance in the lungs, activated charcoal can lead to precancerous tumors and formations that contain anthracosis, which is the first stage of black lung disease.
As for its alleged health and beauty benefits, there is no substantial research that proves that activated charcoal truly does help lower cholesterol or help you lose weight naturally. Its most benign use is in the hospital, where because of its absorbency it can be used to treat patients who are suffering from a poisoning.