Detox ingredients have become big business recently — and one that's really risen in popularity over the past year or so is activated charcoal. But there have been concerns raised about its potential side effects. So, does activated charcoal affect the pill? According to several medical experts, there are a few pointers you should be aware of if you don't want to fall pregnant.
Activated charcoal isn't like regular charcoal. It's charcoal that has been heated to extremely high temperatures; a process which reduces pore size and increases surface area. As Healthline reports, this allows the charcoal to absorb harmful molecules such as toxins, leaving your body as healthy as can be. Or so many thought.
It turns out that this black wonder ingredient — which has so far been used in everything from whitening toothpastes and face masks to ice creams and juices — may go a little overboard when it comes to the whole absorption thing.
"Charcoal can't determine what is beneficial and what is harmful when absorbing liquids from the body," nutrition therapist Ian Marber recently told Grazia. "This means it can also absorb water soluble supplements (for example vitamin C or vitamin B) and medications including the contraceptive pill."
Yes, that does mean that there is a possibility that activated charcoal could impact how effective the pill is, putting you at risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Of course, this potentially worrying side effect is rarely mentioned by brands hawking activated charcoal products.
"If you’re eating, like, one ice cream with activated charcoal, you’re going to be fine," she told Well+Good, adding that those who are on charcoal-heavy cleanses or taking supplements containing the ingredient are more at risk. (And if you really can't banish it from your life, simply take your contraceptive pill a few hours beforehand to allow it time to fully absorb into your body.)
However, it's not just the pill that can be affected. As previously mentioned, any water soluble medication and supplements can disappear before they've had a chance to do any good.
While there isn't much science to back up most of these claims, dietitian nutritionist Maya Feller told Bon Appetit that "there is some evidence that activated charcoal has been shown to bond to vitamins, which means it may remove them from your system. I would caution against daily use especially for people that are taking prescription medications or supplements."
Nutritionist Sophie Griffiths has also reminded people that activated charcoal has the potential to enter the lungs. "There are numerous case reports of collapsed lungs and serious lung disease following such an unfortunate mistake," she told Glamour, adding that charcoal can also cause issues such as bowel obstructions, diarrhoea, and severe dehydration.
However, Griffiths states that activated charcoal is "generally safe to use" unless you're again consuming large amounts.