When I see products advertising activated charcoal, I can’t help but say, “really? still?”
Activated charcoal has enjoyed a real moment for the past couple of years. Now, with the holidays in full swing, it’s being peddled as a healthy reinforcement for liver detox.
These companies know that alcohol and sugar consumption go up this season and that people are looking for ways to deal with the potential side effects.
The thing is, activated charcoal does not bind to alcohol to limit its effect. Because it doesn’t alter absorption rates, it will not make you less drunk, feel any less hungover, or save your liver from processing any of your drinking.
Activated charcoal is sometimes used in very high doses in hospitals to treat patients who have recently ingested a dangerous level of toxic compounds. It binds to these compounds to limit absorption and must usually be administered within an hour of drinking.
Taking a few capsules or drinking an activated charcoal tea will do nothing for you or your liver.
So, what can you do instead? The best things you can do for your liver are the same things you can do for virtually every other aspect of overall health: eat a healthful diet, drink in moderation, and maintain a healthy weight.
Of course, the holidays present plenty of opportunities to indulge, and even the most regimented person may overdo it on a few occasions.
Going to town on a gingerbread house or holiday baking, or having a few spiked egg nogs throughout the holidays, shouldn’t lead to long-lasting liver damage if such behavior is infrequent.
If this behavior is regular, you may be at a higher risk for liver disease.
The best way to offset any impacts of seasonal indulgences is to make good decisions in between them. Stay active and eat healthy before and after “off days” to help your body and liver recover and prepare.