It’s not surprising that we don’t hear much if at all about health practices that are effective and cheap. Eating sulphur rich vegetables just don’t get the attention to detox yourself and are not as flashy as 500 $ detox program involving magic pills and carrot juice. No one gets to make money off Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli or Onion. Besides, part of us believes in magic pills or one simple trick that will burn all the fat.
My knowledge about Activated Charcoal at times makes me feel like I have a secret, a tool in my tool box which gives me an unfair advantage. Shout out to BulletProof executive Dave Asprey – I first learnt about it on BulletProof Radio.
A word on detoxification first….
Detoxification according to functional medicine is one of the 7 fundamental systems. It’s a truly essential job – getting rid of both endogenous (that is produced within our bodies) toxins as well as exogenous (external via food or environment) toxins. You could eat a very nutrient dense diet but if your cells aren’t getting cleared of the toxins or you are getting inundated with exogenous toxins, you are going to feel the terrible effects sooner or later.
Let me illustrate this with 2 examples.
You are eating the best possible lean meat proteins in the form of let’s say salmon and tuna and you feel really great about making these healthy choices. Unbeknownst to you, you are also getting a trace dose of mercury and other heavy metals. Now it’s the dose which makes the poison and so these trace amounts don’t make any difference in 1 or 2 or even 5 years. However, if your body is not detoxing as well as it can, these minute amounts will add up over time and you end up with heavy metal toxicity.
Or imagine you eat out and drink and soon after you don’t feel too great. A little bit of brain fog. It’s happened to me several times after I have eaten out. Eating out is fun but a bit of compromise in terms of quality.
Liver is the seat of detoxification in the body and in charge of detoxifying our bodies from internal as well as external toxins. While I feel less concerned about a healthy liver clearing cellular toxins – because liver has dealt with these for millions of years and perhaps understands them much better. It’s the external toxins coming into the body via eating food outside that can make liver’s job harder. And every hero can use a sidekick.
Enters our sidekick: Activated Charcoal. World’s oldest and most reliable detox.
Now before you get the idea that I have lost my marbles and eating charcoal would kill us, let me allay your fears.
0) If nothing else, stuff given to infants has to be absolutely safe?
Gripe water is given to infants and young children if they experience stomach indigestion.
Have a look at Colic Calm Gripe Water and it’s first ingredient is Activated Charcoal.
So it’s considered a food supplement.
1) Charcoal is not digested or absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract.
2) There is a 10,000 years of history of charcoal use in Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine as well western medicine to soak up poisons and improve intestinal health through a process called ADSORPTION. (That’s not a typo. Adsorption means to bind and not absorb.)
3) In fact, Activated Charcoal (A.C.) is commonly used in hospital emergency rooms. Why? Because charcoal is an age-old remedy for counteracting poison. If you ingest poison as fertilizer or bad alcohol or a large dose of medicine by mistake, then a large dose of A.C. will help your body flush out the poison faster.
4) What do you think is present in water filters and purifiers?
So what is ACTIVATED CHARCOAL (A.C.) really?
A carbon source like wood or coconut shells is burnt and the black charred carbon that is left behind is charcoal. These tiny charcoal particles have a large surface area. This charcoal is then activated with oxidizing gases like steam or air at high temperatures and so it becomes negatively charged. This further increases its surface area or adsorption capacity. Consider this, just 2 g of A.C. has surface area of a football field! It has a very strong negative charge and a lot of toxins in the body or those we eat are positively charged. So it ends up attracting all these toxins and taking it out of the body.
If you look at a bottle of A.C. it will say somewhere that it is a “digestion aid”.
This brings up an important question – Can A.C. bind to the nutrients in our food?
First there is very little evidence that A.C. binds to organic nutrients in our food. More importantly, when you eat out and suspect less than ideal food, nutrient density becomes a lot less important. I am less concerned about losing some nutrients or proteins to A.C. and more interested in getting rid of anti-nutrients or toxins.
More important question though is – Can A.C. charcoal interfere with medication?
Yes, it definitely can. The recommendation is not to mix your medicines and A.C. and talk to your doctor about it. There is very little evidence that A.C. can block uptake of synthetic vitamins\minerals. However, this can be alleviated to a large extent by timing when you take A.C. Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t take your vitamin\minerals and A.C. together. A general guideline is to take A.C. in-between meals or one and half hours after the meal.
Another clever use of A.C. is for dental hygiene. If it can bind to toxins in the gut, it can bind to toxins in the mouth. Check out Katie’s experience on wellnessmama.com.
You can really go for any decent brand. But If you are in a bit of mood to splurge and want to get the best A.C., look no further than Upgraded Charcoal, the charcoal is obtained from coconut shells only.