Activated Charcoal: Healing or Harming?

Superfood powders have been on the carousel for a few years now and whilst some are justified and are rich in certain nutrients, the 5g that you’re taking them in aren’t going to make a massive difference to your health. Yes it’s true sometimes they impact the flavour and they make healthy eating more exciting (which I’m all for). Actually, I am a fan of superfoods to be fair but mainly for the latter reasons. However, have you ever wondered if any of these new found foods can actually be doing more harm than good? Let me explain. 

You may or may not be familiar with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is charcoal which has been heated at high temperatures to ‘activate it’. We often hear activated charcoal being associated with words such as ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’ but what do these words really mean? Are they a clever tactic to get you to buy into the latest trend that’s hit the shelves? And can they actually be doing us any harm? 

These terms suggest that activated charcoal removes unwanted items from the body so we feel ‘revitalised’ and ‘fresh’. However, our bodies are highly complex machines and they (much like modern day ovens) have the ability to ‘clean’ or ‘detox’ themselves. In fact this is one of the primary roles of the liver and the kidneys - to remove unwanted chemicals from the body. Now whilst these days we are all much more exposed to more pollutatants and external chemicals than we’d like, they continue to do the best job they can. Activated charcoal may remove some of the bacteria and chemicals from our gut however, unfortunately it can’t distinguish the good from the bad (unlike the highly technical and clever machine aka the body). Therefore this means that all the good bacteria which we have built up in our gut (which is hugely vital for healthy digestion, brain functioning, weight management, gut health ... The list is endless - one for another day) is being removed via this ‘detoxification’ process aka charcoal. Therefore we are left completely empty as we have parted from the very necessary nutrients which we require. 

I also wish to inform you that the charcoal doesn’t only bind to gut bacteria, it binds to the vital nutrients which we try so hard to obtain. These nutrients are then removed with the charcoal and we’re missing out once again. 

Of course in nutrition there is always the flipside and whilst some research suggests that charcoal may be beneficial in reducing flatulence, the benefits of this don’t out weigh the risk of deficiencies (when nutrients are removed) or poor gut health. 

Therefore sometimes it is essential to actually question what these ‘superfoods’ are doing to us and I would be even more careful of anything which promises to ‘detoxify’ you! I hope I have managed to convince you that not only are you wasting your time with activated charcoal you’re equally causing damage to your health and your wallet. This ‘super’ food is definitely not worthy of its super status!