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If you’re not familiar with activated charcoal, you may be asking yourself “what is activated charcoal?”. Activated charcoal is similar to regular charcoal you use to cook with in your grill except that it is specifically made for medicinal purposes, thus it undergoes a slightly different manufacturing process. Activated charcoal typically comes from natural, carbonaceous source materials such as coconut husks, wood, or vegetable matter such as peat. Medicinal charcoal is heated at very high temperatures in order to “activate” it. This process creates a widely developed internal pore structure, thus, increases its surface area so it is able to better adsorb toxins.

How does activated charcoal for food poisoning work?

Activated charcoal works by adsorbing toxins, meaning it binds molecules to itself.  The toxins bind onto the surface area of the charcoal and are prevented from being absorbed into the body. Since it works by adsorption, it’s best to take it in liquid form by mixing activated charcoal, loose or from an opened capsule, with water. Drinking activated charcoal is the optimal way of removing toxins quickly. Since there is no capsule or tablet to digest, it can start working as soon as it comes into contact with the contents of the stomach. The toxins bind onto the charcoal and stay that way until the charcoal exits the body via a bowel movement or emesis.

What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning occurs when an individual ingests food that has spoiled or been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or toxins. Every year, nearly 48 million people, or 1 out of 6 Americans, will experience food poisoning. This preventable public health issue hospitalizes 128,000 people a year. Although, it’s rarely lethal, foodborne illnesses are still responsible for 3,000 yearly deaths. According to a new report form the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, data overwhelmingly pointed to tainted meats as the pathogen-contaminated foods most likely to make you sick. These meats include: poultry, pork, and deli meats.

Food poisoning symptoms
There are many pathogens responsible for food poisoning infection. They vary greatly as do their respective symptoms. Symptoms can develop in as little as 1 hour or take up to 28 days to appear. Common food poisoning symptoms include:

Abdominal pain and cramps

More serious food poisoning symptoms that may require medical attention include:

Frequent vomiting
Bloody vomit
Blood in stool
Inability to keep liquids down
Diarrhea for more than 72 hours
Extreme pain or severe abdominal cramping
Oral temperature higher than 101.5 F (38.6 C)
Dehydration (dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness, little to no urination, severe weakness)
Blurry vision
Muscle weakness
Tingling in the arms
Other neurological symptoms

Activated charcoal for food poisoning
Activated charcoal is used in hospitals to treat individuals who have overdosed. Activated charcoal’s ability to quickly bind to toxins makes it safe, fast acting, and widely used as a safe and natural remedy for food poisoning as well as drug overdose. It will bind to all toxins produced by the infection and prevent them from being absorbed by the body. Once the charcoal reaches the large intestine, it is eliminated naturally along with all other intestinal waste.

How quickly does activated charcoal work?
In one human study, adult volunteers were given 24 81-mg aspirin tablets followed 1 hour later by 60 grams of activated charcoal in magnesium sulfate. The charcoal reduced drug absorption by 43.6%. In another study of 64 human volunteers, activated charcoal was given no later than 5 min after drug ingestion. Charcoal reduced drug absorption by 88.4%. This same study also showed that charcoal is even effective after 2 and 4 hours of drug ingestion, reducing drug absorption 24.4% and 27.4% respectively.

Is activated charcoal safe for everyone?
Yes. Activated charcoal is safe for use by everyone from children to adults. There have been no reports of birth defects or other problems in humans when using activated charcoal. Additionally, it is safe for mothers who are nursing.

Activated charcoal can be used to treat food poisoning in:

Pregnant women
Breastfeeding women
Older people

Activated charcoal side effects
Activated charcoal side effects are extremely mild, therefore, it is safe for everyone to use. In some cases the following side effects may occur.

-black stools
-temporarily stained tongue

In case of vomiting, it’s necessary to take another large dose of activated charcoal. Sometimes the quickest way for the body to eliminate toxins is by emesis. This is a normal occurrence and should not be cause for concern. Make sure to take another dose within 15 minutes after vomiting has subsided and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Additionally, if you have been instructed to take ipecac syrup to induce emesis, wait about 30 minutes, or until the vomiting has subsided, before taking the charcoal.

How to take activated charcoal
Activated charcoal comes in capsules, tablets, prepared liquids, and powder form. It’s best to use the powder from capsules, opened, and mixed in plain water. Activated charcoal is also sold in loose powder but users report handling it is very messy and it stains cloth surfaces. For this reason, we recommend using the capsules form. Simply take however many capsules you need, open them directly over a glass of water, and discard the capsule shell. Do not mix activated charcoal with chocolate syrup, ice cream, or sherbet— this may prevent it from working properly. Activated charcoal may lessen or cancel the efficacy of other medications so should therefore not be taken with any other medications. Wait at least 2 hours before taking any other medications. Lastly, be sure to drink plenty of water in order to prevent dehydration.activated-charcoal-capsules

Activated charcoal dosage information
Below are the general recommended dosages for activated charcoal. If a secondary or tertiary dosage is necessary, use half of the recommend dosage.

For adults:
Adults and teens- take 25-100 grams of activated charcoal mixed in 8oz of water. If using capsules, take 6-8 260mg capsules.

For children:
Children ages 1-12 years old- take 25-50 grams of powdered activated charcoal mixed with 4-6 ounces of water. (Activated charcoal has a neutral taste but the color may be off-putting to some kids. Mix in a small amount of apple, grape, or orange juice to facilitate drinking it.)

Children up to 1 year of age- take 10-25 grams of activated charcoal mixed with 4 ounces of water.

Avoid charcoal mixed with sorbitol. Sorbitol is a laxative. If a laxative is necessary use one separately and opt for a safe, natural, and gentle one such as prunes, especially when treating children and the elderly.

Read more about safe and natural food poisoning remedies click here.

Updated 6/4/2018

Sources for this article include:

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