Indicated in cases of functional digestive disorders, activated charcoal can be presented in different forms. In what situations can it be recommended? What precautions should be taken ? Where to find it? Explanations from Corinne Chicheportiche-Ayache, nutritionist doctor in Paris.
Present in a large number of preparations, activated or vegetable charcoal has interesting properties and can be indicated to relieve certain digestive disorders (bloating, abdominal pain, etc.). It can be in the form of tablets, capsules, powder or oral solution.
What is activated carbon?
A natural compound, activated charcoal (we also speak of activated charcoal or vegetable charcoal) can be considered as a food supplement. Made from organic plant material rich in carbon (wood, bark of non-resinous trees such as poplar, willow, birch or ash, twigs, coconut shells, etc.), the charcoal manufacturing process is takes place in two stages.
“A first phase consists of carbonizing the constituents at high temperature. Then, secondly, the physical and/or chemical activation phase will increase the adsorption capacity1 coal thanks to the elimination of tars”, underlines Corinne Chicheportiche-Ayache, nutritionist doctor. Like a chelator, the adsorbent properties of charcoal promote the elimination of toxic substances (heavy metals, drugs, pesticides, etc.).
The health properties of activated charcoal
Used since the dawn of time and throughout the world, activated charcoal has two main indications in the medical field. “It is mainly recommended for the relief of bloating and functional digestive disorders.explains the nutritionist.
Furthermore, it is also recommended in the event of ingestion of toxic substances. This is particularly the case after drug intoxication during a suicide attempt, for example. “Its action is effective if it is prescribed quickly enough and if the patient’s condition allows the administration of the product. adds Corinne Chicheportiche-Ayache.
Integrated into medicinal or cosmetic preparations (toothpastes for whitening teeth, skin masks, etc.), activated carbon is also recognized for its tap water filtration qualities. This is why it is recommended to place a stick of charcoal in a carafe of water. Its filtering capacity is such that it is found in all kinds of filters: filter for cars, masks, hoods, etc.
The use of activated charcoal against digestive disorders (gas, etc.)
Used in addition to other therapeutic strategies (anti-spasmodic medications, probiotics, appropriate hygiene and diet rules), activated charcoal, in capsule or powder form, can represent an interesting alternative in the management of digestive disorders, provided that you respect some usual precautions. “Faced with patients who are very bothered by the presence of gas, I sometimes prescribe it over a few days. However, it is not a product to be consumed over a long period of time.” advises Corinne Chicheportiche-Ayache.
Its effectiveness depends on several parameters, including the preponderance of symptoms. “If the patient has associated constipation and continues to consume fermenticidal foods, a course of activated charcoal will not be the treatment that will be sufficient to resolve the problem. Management must always be multi-factorial,” continues the specialist. Generally, the benefits appear after 48 hours to 72 hours. As with any medication, the placebo effect can also play a role.
Contraindications of activated charcoal
As a precaution, it is contraindicated in children as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. In addition, activated charcoal should be consumed away from meals (two to three hours before or after) and any medication. “Indeed, its strong adsorption power can reduce the effectiveness of other treatments., continues the nutritionist. Well tolerated, charcoal will be eliminated naturally and cause the appearance of black stools.
Activated charcoal and cholesterol: unproven effectiveness
Other properties, such as an action on cholesterol or triglycerides, are also attributed to activated charcoal. However, from a medical point of view, activated charcoal is not considered an indicated treatment for this condition. “A benefit is theoretically possible but dyslipidemia is a medical problem serious enough to be managed with other treatments”summarizes Corinne Chicheportiche-Ayache.
Prices and different galenics of activated carbon
Activated carbon can be presented in different dosage forms (tablets, capsules, powder or liquid form). Depending on its dosage form and the point of sale, the price of the product varies from 5 to 20 euros on average. It is sold without a prescription in pharmacies and organic stores. Do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice, particularly regarding dosage.