What does activated charcoal do?

The activated carbon it is an effective and relatively nonspecific adsorbent for organic compounds. It is true that each type of activated carbon shows preference for some of these compounds over others; He catches those for whom he has the greatest affinity first, but ends up catching the majority.

This is why the activated carbon It is the most universal antidote against acute (severe) poisonings by organic compounds, such as those caused by drugs that are ingested in excessive amounts, drugs of abuse, ornamental plants, fungi, pesticides, rodenticides, hydrocarbons, among others.

Treatment with activated carbon It consists of administering it orally to the intoxicated person, as a very fine powder in aqueous suspension. The recommended dose is 0.25 g of charcoal per kilogram of body weight every hour. For example, if the patient weighs 70 kg, a suitable dose of charcoal is 35 g every hour. This weight of charcoal corresponds to a volume of around 70 ml, which is not small, if we consider that a sufficient quantity of water must be added to form an ingestible dispersion.

How does activated charcoal work in the body?

As it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, charcoal retains the organic compounds it encounters. It also causes intestinal dialysis with which it performs a blood purification: the organic compounds contained in the blood, whether toxic or not, pass through the cell walls of the intestine and reach the carbon that circulates there.

Woman drinking water with activated charcoal

In addition, the activated carbon it also prevents the reabsorption of active metabolites that reach the duodenum through the bile that comes from the liver. All compounds trapped by the activated carbon are excreted with it.

After dealing with activated carbon To an intoxicated person, his blood tests show a decrease in levels of urea, creatinine, triglycerides, cholesterol and other organic compounds. This has led many to wonder if the activated carbon could be used as a method to lose weight.

Since fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are organic compounds, the activated carbon catches them. However, charcoal does not distinguish between compounds that are and those that are not toxic; between those who are ingested in excess and those who do not; between those that will lead to weight gain and those that will not. Then, while the activated carbon it would cause weight loss, it would cause malnutrition, which is serious.

In addition to the problem of malnutrition, the amount of activated carbon that should be ingested to lose weight in a notorious way is very high: a gram of carbon traps on average half a gram of organic compounds. So, for every 50 g of food eaten in excess, 100 g of activated carbon. Amounts like this cause constipation and intestinal irritation, so they need to be supplemented with a saline cathartic (laxative) that, if that were not enough, also causes dehydration.

Another undesirable effect of ingesting activated carbon is that it carries part of the intestinal microbiota (or flora).

All these negative effects of administering activated carbon to a person are not a major problem when it comes to acute poisoning, which is truly accidental and sporadic. But they would become a real problem if you frequently ingested charcoal in sufficient amounts to lose weight.

Pharmacies and health food stores offer capsules or tablets of 400 mg of activated carbon. Between two and three capsules or tablets are indicated for cases of indigestion or flatulence and work well. In this case, the amount of charcoal is small and does not cause the negative effects of higher doses. However, in these quantities, the activated carbon it does not have a major effect on weight loss.

Of all this, although the activated carbon It is a magnificent remedy against acute intoxication, against flatulence and indigestion, for no reason is it a recommended method to lose weight.

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