Is Charcoal Safe for Pregnancy?

Why to indulge (or steer clear) of this wellness trend during pregnancy.

Article & Photos courtesy of Well Rounded NY

We’ve been hearing the buzz about activated charcoal for a little while now, but what about activated charcoal for pregnancy? While we’re excited about the prospects of this cutting-edge wellness trend — cleansing, toxin-removing, complexion-improving and more — when it comes to pregnancy, it’s not always best to be on the cutting edge.

“There are very few studies investigating the safety of charcoal use in pregnancy, and it hasn’t been assigned a FDA pregnancy category for safety,” says Cara Dolin, MD, OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow at NYU Langone Medical Center. (Activated charcoal is basically common charcoal that’s been heated to help develop internal spaces to trap chemicals.)

But she continues, “Since charcoal isn’t systemically absorbed it probably doesn’t result in any significant exposure or harm to your baby if you eat or drink it. There is even less potential exposure if you use it in cosmetics or toothpaste.”

Below, we dig into the safety and effectiveness of activated charcoal for pregnancy, both on and in your body. And as with any health or wellness trend, talk to your doctor or midwife before giving it a try.


Digestive Cleanse
Product to Try: Dirty Lemon Raw Detox, which is made from a mixture of activated charcoal, pure, cold-pressed lemon juice, dandelion extract, ginger root extract, and filtered water. $65/1 weeks’ worth of juice.
What it does: Absorb and soak up toxins and other materials and pull them out through the digestive tract. The ginger and dandelion root can help with morning sickness or nausea, too.
What the experts say: “The source of the activated charcoal (in Dirty Lemon) is organic coconut shell, so you can feel safe and comfortable with its sourcing; along with the raw, cold pressed organic lemon juice,” says Dr. Laurie Brodsky, Naturopathic Doctor and expert for Dirty Lemon. “As with any cold pressed, unpasteurized juice, it is wise to be aware of the theoretical risks while pregnant, considering a weakened immune system against all kinds of foreign invaders. That being said, the dosage of charcoal is very low, yet highly therapeutic in the sense that in small, spread out dosages, you will still greatly benefit from its powerfully absorbing and cleansing mode of action.”
How to use it: “If pregnant and planning to use it as a simple, cleansing part of your routine, then it is best to drink it in small dosages (through a straw!) throughout the day to see how you feel. I usually recommend sipping the juice away from food, medications and supplements by at least a couple of hours, but depending on your diet and how often you eat/snack, that may vary,” says Brodsky. “As with all pregnancies, I suggest that you tune into your body to see how you feel physically upon sipping.”
Verdict: Sure, but with caution. Since charcoal binds to other substances in your stomach, it will decrease the absorption of your prenatal vitamin (or anything you eat around the time you take it), notes our OBGYN friend Dolin. Also, look out for unpleasant side effects, she says, such as bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation and even possible bowel obstruction.

 

Teeth Whitening
Product to Try: Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal Capsules, $6.99
What it does: While activated charcoal won’t change the natural color of your teeth, it is said to help remove surface stains from coffee, tea, wine and even plaque. The fine powder is odorless, tasteless and safe to ingest.
How to use it: Pick up some activated charcoal tablets, then break them into a cup. Mix with a tiny bit of water to form a paste-like consistency. Dab it on your teeth then wait a few minutes and rinse. But don’t scrub!
What the experts say: “People don’t know how abrasive this stuff is and that it causes damage to the enamel if you brush with it. And there’s not enough information out there that convinces me that this really works. I haven’t seen anyone with major staining try it. I personally wouldn’t use it,” says Melissa Labbe, a registered dental hygienist at the Dr. Louis Spiegelman dental practice in New York. When it comes to pregnancy, she continues, “activated charcoal can have side effects when not used properly if ingested. Why take that chance of having problems during your pregnancy?”
Verdict: Probably not. The American Dental Association has not approved it as an official tooth whitener, and the effects are still iffy. Why bother?



Skin Detox
Product to Try: SoapBox Elements Black Body Wash, which is made from activated charcoal, coconut oil, olive oil, aloe, and essential oils $8.99
What it does: In this body wash, activated charcoal serves as a super-porous element that attracts toxins and purifies skin. Activated charcoal has been known to improve complexion and clear up acne, issues that can plague pregnancy skin.
What the experts say: “Activated Charcoal absorbs toxins and draws it out of your skin,” Ildi Pekar,  facialist to lovely ladies like Miranda Kerr and supermodel Irina Shayk. “This, in turn, helps it to heal.”
How to use it: Scrub yourself down in the shower. Go ahead, give your belly a little extra massage. You deserve it.
Verdict: Yes!

This article is by Jessica Pallay, courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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