When I heard the words “carbon smoothie,” I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows and immediately fulfill my need to know more. So down the research rabbit hole I went, exploring the recent uptick in interest around carbon, a.k.a. charcoal, and its detoxifying properties.
You may be familiar with the use of activated charcoal in emergency situations: It’s commonly used in hospitals to extract poison ingested by a patient (drugs, alcohol, chemicals, you name it). When in the gut, activated charcoal serves as a magnet that absorbs substances and moves it out. However, the charcoal is indiscriminate, meaning it will absorb not only toxins but the “good” stuff, too.
Still, that’s not stopping experimental health fanatics from giving it a go. Charcaol-chugging fans claim the substance improves the following:
• Intestinal distress
• Teeth whitening
• Skin clarity
• Insect stings (applied externally)
Charcoal is now popping up in health food stores in the form of capsules to take on the go, powders to throw in smoothies, and even in fresh-pressed juices. Believers sing its praises for a multitude of things, from relieving the severe bloat that Imodium never could, to using leftover powder to create homemade eyeliner and mascara.
With all that is promised by its advocates, adding charcoal to the body’s built-in detoxification system sounds like an exciting, cleansing prospect. Still, when too much is ingested the pendulum can swing the opposite way, stripping essential nutrients and worsening already painful conditions — like constipation.
All in all, the jury is still out, and there’s a bit of a tug-o-war of opinions between the holistic camp and the Western medicine camp. I plan to start small and then consult my doctor before any major additions of charcoal into my diet. And as always, I will keep you posted!
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