Activated Charcoal May Help Relieve Digestive Symptoms

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Today, our neighbors in Canada are celebrating Victoria Day. There will be BBQs fired up all over the country in celebration of the long weekend and the promises of sunshine and summer.

 But did you know that firing up that BBQ could be bad for your health?

 If you’re using charcoal or wood to cook your tasty (and hopefully healthy) meals, you’d better think twice the next time you go to light up the grill.

 Both charcoal and wood are considered ‘dirty’ burners. This means they release potential carcinogens into the air and potentially onto your food. According to the American Cancer Society PAHs (a possibly carcinogenic compound) are formed when the fat from your meat drips on the charcoal. When smoke rises these PAHs rise with it and lands on your food and in the air around your BBQ.

 Interestingly Canada has labeled charcoal as a hazardous material. Whenever you pick up a bag of briquettes for your BBQ you’ll also see warning labels about the health risks associated with charcoal.

 Fortunately there are a number of alternatives for your BBQ — including natural charcoal which does not contain any additives. Natural gas and propane are also better options. There are no current clinical studies on the effects of either gas, though there is some concern that cooking regularly over natural gas may increase your chance for respiratory problems.

 And while charcoal grilling is considered bad for your health, you may have seen activated charcoal the last time you were browsing your local health store’s shelves.

 Activated charcoal is commonly used to relieve digestive symptoms including gas, diarrhea and indigestion.

 Activated charcoal can be purchased in any well-stocked health food store or pharmacy and does not require a prescription. The instructions on the label or from your doctor should be closely followed. Charcoal should be taken with a glass of water, and because it works by binding to other materials it should not be taken within an hour or two or other medications.

 A daily dose should not exceed 4.16 grams (which worked out to 16 260 mg capsules). And as with any new treatment or supplement, you should consult your health care provider first.

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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »