Use of Activated Charcoal for IBS

Goals

To understand the use of activated charcoal for IBS, its benefits, indications, side effects, contraindications, and patient reviews.

Early Findings

Overview

  • Some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) include cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating and constipation.
  • The use of activated charcoal to treat gas and toxins in the gut is not a new idea. Among its benefits is the ability to "adsorb bacterial toxins and bile acids that may be contributing to symptoms in IBS."
  • While currently activated charcoal is authorized for use as an emergency treatment for poisoning and overdosing, its toxin-clearing properties are believed to also be beneficial for a number of health concerns, from skin infection to intestinal gas and diarrhea.
  • A panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports in 2011 on the scientific opinion for the effect of activated charcoal in reduction of excessive intestinal gas and bloating confirm that there is evidence to support the claimed positive effect.
  • With long-term use, some of the side effects include black tongue, black stools, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. It is also known to interact with acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • A review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science in April 2015 warns that, by removing certain nutrients in the guts, activated charcoal may change the balance of gut bacteria, potentially leading to some health concerns.

Summary

The initial research finds that activated charcoal has been known to have a number of health benefits, among which is in relieving the symptoms of IBS such as bloating. Evidence of its effectiveness in toxin clearing in clinical settings is conclusive. However, long-term use could potentially lead to side effects.

Proposed next steps:

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