Activated charcoal is made by heating ordinary charcoal in the presence of a particular gas to create pores or internal spaces in the charcoal. These pores are then used to trap toxins or chemicals. Activated charcoal is used to treat certain types of poisoning and medication overdose after oral ingestion, but its usage without any valid reasons is not recommended.
The regular use of activated charcoal to ease pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness, may interfere with the absorption of prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements. It is better to seek your doctor’s advice before taking activated charcoal during pregnancy.
Read this article to know more about the safety, efficacy, and uses of activated charcoal during pregnancy.
Is Activated Charcoal Safe During Pregnancy?
Lower doses of activated charcoal for a short duration may not cause any serious health effects (1). However, activated charcoal may prevent the absorption of certain pregnancy or lactation supplements and may interact with some medications.
Activated charcoal is not recommended for pregnant women with intestinal obstruction or slow bowel movement. While its consumption may not harm expectant mothers, her unborn children, or breastfed infants, its use should be with caution.
The effectiveness of activated charcoal at treating certain types of toxicities and poisoning may vary depending on the time of exposure and the kind of substance (toxin or poison) ingested. Therefore, activated charcoal during pregnancy should only be consumed under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Note: The effectiveness of charcoal in poisoning or drug overdose does not mean that it is effective in detoxing or cleansing the body. Pregnant women should observe caution while consuming detoxifying charcoal juices and other products. Activated charcoal is known by several other names, such as charbon actif, activated carbon, lamp black, vegetable carbon, animal carbon, etc. Therefore, do check the ingredients of health supplements and juices before you take them.
Uses Of Activated Charcoal During Pregnancy
Activated charcoal is used to treat some conditions. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence from randomized controlled trials and other studies to support its use, other than the treatment of ingestion of certain toxins or oral drug overdose.
Although there is not enough data to assess the actual effectiveness of activated charcoal, the oral ingestion of activated charcoal could be beneficial in the following ways (2).
- Lowers cholesterol
- Reduces morning sickness
- Treats diarrhea and upset stomach
- Reduces abdominal gases or flatulence
- Relieves indigestion symptoms
- Treats obstetric cholestasis or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (reduced bile flow in pregnancy causing accumulation of bile salts)
- Reduce phosphate levels in dialysis patients
- Wound healing bandage
- Teeth whitening
These natural remedies are not approved or regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). More studies are required to determine the effectiveness of the above-listed uses of activated charcoal in pregnancy.
Side Effects Of Using Activated Charcoal In Pregnancy
The use of activated charcoal regularly and in high amounts can be associated with certain side effects, such as the following (3).
- Black stools
- May interfere with nutrients and the dietary supplements absorption process
- Interaction with certain drugs, such as syrup of Ipecac
- May harm gut bacteria
The compounds found in charcoal may also cause unpleasant effects. Therefore, seek expert advice to know the safety and effectiveness of activated charcoal and other ingredients in activated charcoal products.
Activated Charcoal Dosage During Pregnancy
The prescribed dosage of activated charcoal in poisoning or overdose can be 50-100 grams for the initial dose, followed by 12.5 grams per hour (4). These are given at the poison centers or hospitals under medical supervision, and the exact dosage may vary. Do not self-medicate with activated charcoal. If there is a case of poisoning or drug overdose, then seek emergency care.
Activated charcoal is not useful in acid or caustic ingestions, and many other chemicals. Do note that the FDA or other drug-regulating authorities do not regulate the dosage level of activated charcoal for natural remedies and other conditions.
Activated Charcoal Interactions
Peroral activated charcoal may reduce the effectiveness of orally ingested prescribed medications. The charcoal may bind with medicine and prevent their absorption. It is advisable to seek medical advice before using activated charcoal in pregnancy, since you may have to take essential vitamin and mineral supplements for the pregnancy (5).
Activated charcoal may also reduce the absorption of micronutrients from food sources. Taking activated charcoal for unproven benefits may reduce the absorption of prenatal vitamins and mineral supplements. Also, drug interactions of activated charcoal should be adequately discussed with your health providers.
Can You Use Activated Charcoal To Whiten Teeth While Pregnant?
Activated charcoal is often used for teeth whitening. It is said to absorb plaque and other teeth-damaging chemicals from the oral cavity. However, this anecdotal remedy lacks scientific evidence.
The American Dental Association (ADA) does not recommend using charcoal-based tooth whitening products (6) (7). Also, charcoal may damage dental enamel due to abrasion. If you wish to whiten your teeth during pregnancy, then visit a dentist who can recommend a safe toothpaste with low relative dentin abrasivity (RDA) rating (8).
Pregnancy is a time when anything harmful could affect your baby, as well as your health. It is always better to go with approved remedies and treatment under the guidance of certified professionals. You may also read labels of detoxification agents before using them, since some can be harmful to developing babies and infants of nursing mothers; so should not be used or if used should be used with caution.
2. Activated charcoal; Summit Medical Group
3. The hype of activated charcoal; Allina Health System
4. Activated charcoal; MedlinePlus; The United States National Library of Medicine
5. Activated charcoal; MyHealth; The Government of Malaysia
6. Whitening; American Dental Association (ADA)
7. Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction; American Dental Association (ADA)
8. Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA); Lincoln Dental Center