Is It Safe to Do an Activated Charcoal Cleanse?
Chrissy Teigen is jumping on the bandwagon, but here's the real scoop on this trendy ingredient—and why you might want to reconsider before following in her footsteps.
That post–Super Bowl party feeling can be rough, especially if you indulged in typical game-day snacks like seven-layer dip and hot wings. (Yum!) While we're all for balance and indulging in your favorite foods, sometimes that comes with bloating and other unpleasant side effects. (Here, find out if cheat days are really worth it.) When Chrissy Teigen tweeted that she was doing a "sober and healthy week" after eating one too many hot dogs, we were like, "We feel you, girl."
Then she tweeted this photo of herself with an activated charcoal beverage, saying she was told it would "clean her hot dog body from the inside."
While a sober week (or an entire month if you feel so inclined) with no alcohol is a cool idea if you're trying to do your own mini cleanse, we're not so sure about this activated charcoal cleanse. As many of Teigen's followers pointed out, the human body is pretty excellent at cleansing itself.
Some fans even pointed out that activated charcoal is used in emergency rooms for people who have food poisoning, making this idea of drinking it in large quantities sound a little questionable.
It's true that drinking too much activated charcoal can cause vomiting, so it's definitely not advisable to go overboard. And it's usually made from coconut shells, wood, or peat, which doesn't exactly sound healthy.
So, if it's totally unnecessary, why are people drinking it? "The purported benefit of activated charcoal as a detoxifier is a shining example of how knowing just a little bit of information-and not the whole story-can be dangerous," said Dr. Mike Roussell.
Okay, so here's why it doesn't work. One of the reasons it's used for poison control is because it's not absorbed into the body when you ingest it. Instead, it binds to whatever you've recently eaten or drunk before it makes it to your small intestine, which is where it would be absorbed into your body. "Thus the idea that activated charcoal ingestion will cleanse your body from the toxins inside doesn't make physiological sense, as it only will bind things in your stomach and small intestine," he explained further. What's more, the stuff can actually keep you from absorbing the nutrients in your food since it doesn't discriminate between the bad stuff and the good stuff.
There you have it. Activated charcoal is pretty much ineffective for any detox-like purposes. Although there doesn't appear to be any major harm in drinking it every now and then (say in a fun cocktail), it's probably not the best idea to follow Teigen's lead and do a full-on cleanse.