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Activated Charcoal: The Natural Way to Detox and Slow Down Aging

By: Dave Asprey
December 7, 2018

Activated Charcoal: The Natural Way to Detox and Slow Down Aging

  • Activated charcoal is trending, but its use as a detox and healing remedy goes way back.
  • Charcoal binds to certain poisons, heavy metals, and other toxins and flush them from your body, making it a wonder substance for acute and general detoxification.
  • Activated charcoal is the byproduct of burning a carbon source like wood or (better yet) coconut shells. The substance is “activated” by high temperatures, resulting in a highly adsorbent material with millions of tiny pores that capture, bind, and remove poisons, heavy metals, chemicals, and intestinal gases.
  • The benefits of activated charcoal include general detoxification, digestive health, gas, bloating, heart health, and anti-aging.
  • Take activated charcoal powder or capsules when you eat out at restaurants, drink bad quality coffee, when you travel, when you feel moody or tired, and when you drink alcohol.

Activated charcoal is having a moment. You’ve likely seen activated charcoal “wellness” shots at your local hipster coffee shop, or perhaps you’ve swigged it as a juice. But its use as a detox and healing remedy goes way back — traditional healers have used it for thousands of years, because of its numerous benefits.

Activated charcoal is known for its ability to bind to certain poisons, heavy metals, and other toxins and flush them from your body, making it a wonder substance for acute and general detoxification. It also carries a host of anti-aging and cardiovascular benefits.

One of the main tenets of a Bulletproof lifestyle is avoiding the things that make you weak. This includes energy-sapping processed snacks, sugar, and overexposure to toxic chemicals. But sometimes avoiding crappy food and environmental toxins is easier said than done. Whether you’re forced to eat at a less-than-ideal restaurant or you want to try a deeper detox, activated charcoal is your ally.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is the byproduct of burning a carbon source like wood or (better yet) coconut shells. The substance is “activated” by high temperatures, removing all the oxygen and changing its chemical structure to create much smaller particles with more surface area.[1] The result is ultra-fine charcoal with millions of tiny pores that capture, bind, and remove poisons, heavy metals, chemicals, and intestinal gases.[2]

Just two grams of activated charcoal powder (4 Upgraded Coconut Charcoal capsules) has about the same surface area as a football field. The porous surface has a negative electric charge that attracts positively charged unwanted toxins and gas.

Why use activated charcoal?

Western medicine primarily uses activated charcoal to soak up poisons or other toxins in a hospital setting. It works through a process called “adsorption” (that’s ad, and not ab), which means “to bind to” rather than “to absorb.”

But activated charcoal is so much more than an antidote for drugs and poisons. It’s a global remedy for general detoxification, digestive health, gas, bloating, heart health, and anti-aging. It is a part of my mold toxin detox protocols. In fact, unscrupulous industrial cattle mills intentionally alter spoiled feed with activated charcoal, knowing it will allow them to increase profits without killing the animals.[3]

Benefits of activated charcoal

Ancient physicians used inactivated charcoal for a variety of medical purposes, including treating epilepsy and anthrax. In the early 20th century, medical journals began publishing research revealing activated charcoal as an antidote for poisons and a way to improve intestinal disorders. Current research supports these earlier practices of activated charcoal, and also introduces additional benefits to using it. Here are just a few ways that activated charcoal works.

General detoxification

Toxins from low-quality, processed food, and environmental pollution sap your energy and contribute to brain fog and digestive issues. Chronic exposure to toxins causes cellular damage, allergic reactions, compromised immunity, and rapid aging. Regular use of activated charcoal can remove unwanted toxins from your body, leaving you feeling renewed and more vibrant, often in minutes.

Relieves digestive issues, gas, and bloating

After digesting foods like beans, the decomposition process from bacteria in your body creates byproducts like gas or diarrhea. Activated charcoal enters the digestive tract and counteracts this process by binding to byproducts and easing these digestive issues.[4]

Binds drugs, chemicals, and poisons

Activated charcoal adsorbs most organic chemicals, many inorganic chemicals, drugs, pesticides, mercury, and even lead before they harm your body.[5] If you’re poisoned, go to the emergency room. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t start binding a poison right away. A Bulletproof reader inadvertently took a huge dose of Tylenol (the capsules were in the wrong bottle), which is highly toxic to the liver. He realized his mistake, took a handful of activated charcoal capsules, and went to the emergency room. His liver was undamaged, and he credits biohacking.

Anti-aging

Activated charcoal has powerful anti-aging properties, and studies show it prevents numerous cellular changes associated with aging. In one study, activated charcoal increased the average lifespan of older test animals by roughly 34 percent.[6] Activated charcoal slows the rate at which the brain becomes sensitive to toxins as you age, which makes for better cognitive functioning. It also builds a better defense mechanism by improving the adaptive functioning of essential organs like the liver, kidneys, and adrenals.[7]

Better heart health

Activated charcoal may also lower cholesterol levels.

In one study, patients with high cholesterol who took 8 grams of activated charcoal three times a day showed a 25% reduction in total cholesterol. They also lowered their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 41 percent, and increased their HDL (“good”) cholesterol by 8%.[8] Studies examining microscopic tissues show a daily dose of activated charcoal may prevent abnormal hardening (sclerosis) in heart and coronary blood vessels.[9]

When to use activated charcoal

As a biohacker and general health nerd, I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter how clean I eat — our environment is saturated with high levels of toxicity. This is even more of a problem when you have to eat out or are traveling. A commercial flight exposes you to high levels of toxic jet fuel and other airborne contaminants.[10] And that’s not even counting the additives from the crappy airplane food.

Activated charcoal always saves the day when I overindulge on food or when I’m on long trips. And it does wonders when my kids suddenly drop into uncharacteristic fits of whining or tantrums, especially after snacks at a friend’s house. Activated charcoal always brings them back to normal within about 10 minutes. It’s amazing to watch.

Take activated charcoal when:

Activated charcoal isn’t just for isolated situations. Taking activated coconut charcoal on a daily basis is a great way to help you thrive in an overly toxin-filled environment. It’s best to take it between meals and a few hours after using any vitamin or mineral supplements, as it may interfere with their absorption. Be sure to take charcoal capsules at a different time to your prescription meds, which won’t enter your body when they bind to charcoal (more on dosing below).

How to take activated charcoal

Everyone responds differently to different doses, so always consult a doctor before using any supplement or binding agent like charcoal.

Charcoal dosage: Take two capsules (1,000mg) when consuming food of unknown quality or when drinking alcohol. Or try it in a recipe. Check out these 10 activated charcoal recipes to get started (including my favorite — waffles with white chocolate frosting).

When to avoid taking charcoal: Never take activated charcoal with prescription medications or with other supplements. Charcoal binds a lot of substances — even the good stuff like prescription medications, vitamins, and minerals. Wait 2-3 hours after taking charcoal to take other supplements or meds and talk to your doctor about the details.

Drink plenty of water: Excessive charcoal consumption, especially without magnesium, can result in constipation. Take 300-400 mg magnesium glycate about 3 hours after taking charcoal and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.

And speaking of poop…

If you use activated charcoal, it will turn your poop black. This is great because it tells you how long food takes to go through your bowel (called transit time), but it can be surprising. Our kids’ preschool called once, concerned over dark stools. I had to explain the difference between bloody stools (which are black) and charcoal.

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