Charcoal isn’t just for your backyard grill. Even though charcoal makes most of us think of glowing embers and yummy barbecued kabobs or steak, it has stomach soothing medicinal properties too. The CDC reports that 19 to 21 million Americans will get the stomach flu, and charcoal might just help you get back on your feet faster.
What is the Stomach Flu?
What’s often referred to as stomach flu, stomach bugs, or even food poisoning can be caused by bacterial infections or viruses. This inflammation of your gastrointestinal tract might be referred to as gastroenteritis or norovirus, but in either case the symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. The illness comes on quickly and can have you off your feet from one to three days. Common treatment recommendations include drinking fluids, getting rest, and following the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet—but you might want to try an old Native American remedy.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is made with a variety of burned materials including bamboo, wood, coal, or coconut shells. This treatment was used by Native Americans hundreds of years ago, and there’s even some record of it being used by Egyptians. Activated charcoal is processed at high temperatures and results in a black powder that is incredibly effective at absorbing a variety of substances. Charcoal is “activated” when a high temperature is sued in combination with an activating agent that expand its surface area. This is what gives activated charcoal its incredible absorbing powers.
Why do people take activated charcoal?
Most commonly used to treat poisoning and drug overdoses, activated charcoal is now gaining attention as a remedy for stomach bugs that cause nausea and vomiting. The theory is that activated charcoal can absorb the bacteria responsible for causing stomach flu (the same way it is used to absorb poisons). You can also have a virus that can cause the same sort of tummy troubles, and activated charcoal may help with the symptoms.
How should I take charcoal?
You can buy activated charcoal online in capsules or powder. If you feel the nauseating symptoms of a stomach bug coming on, or if you are actively vomiting, you can put the powder in some applesauce, if you have capsules you can open them up. A common recommendation is 500 to 1,000 mg, two to three times per day. I recommend that you take other supplements at different time so that the charcoal doesn’t absorb good nutrients. If you notice any worsening symptoms after taking the supplement stop taking and call your doctor.
Can I give activated charcoal to my children?
Yes, but check with your pediatrician before giving activated charcoal to your child. If you get the okay, start with ¼ of a capsule (about 200 mg) in some applesauce and repeat no more than 2 times a day. If you or your child continue to have abdominal pain or persistent fever, you must see your doctor.