For the better part of a month, I had unwillingly accessorized my go-to uniform of vintage Levi jeans, a white T-shirt, and a black leather jacket with a hard, bloated stomach. To the chagrin of friends and co-workers, it was the kind of bloating that I simply could not stop complaining about because I felt so profoundly uncomfortable in my own skin. I've yet to pinpoint the exact cause of this discomfort (I assume it may have something to do with my highly unsuccessful run-in with probiotics which, incidentally, can actually make you more bloated). Fortunately, I stumbled upon a solution to my incessant stomach bloating after suffering roughly 10 days of discomfort.
The Search Begins
After traversing the antacid section of Duane Reade on multiple occasions (to no success), my desperation led me to Google "what to do when your bloated stomach won't go away." Within seconds I was deep into an internet rabbit hole on HealingWell, a community forum dedicated to discussing various health issues (both a doctor and germaphobe's nightmare!). It was in a chat entitled "Amazing cure for bloating that won't go away" that I discovered activated charcoal supplements as a way to alleviate persistent stomach bloating.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a fine black powder made from coal, wood, or other carbon-rich materials burned at high temperatures. Because of its toxin-absorbing properties, activated charcoal is often used as a natural treatment medicinally and cosmetically.
A Rave Review
"This stuff is the bomb. I bought it at Whole Foods, took one capsule, woke up the next morning, and it was all over. I am truly stunned," wrote one user, who described bloating symptoms similar to mine. While I normally don't take health advice from strangers on the internet (and don't condone doing so), my desperation and unfamiliarity with activated charcoal had me visiting the Whole Foods by my office within 15 minutes. After purchasing Country Life's Activated Charcoal Capsules for $10, I popped two supplements per the instructions, went to bed, and woke up feeling like the balloon in my stomach was slowly deflating. The comparative success of this experiment led me to do more internet research.
A Natural Solution
"Activated charcoal is a potent natural treatment used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them," explains Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS. "The porous surface of activated charcoal has a negative electric charge that causes positive-charged toxins and gas to bond with it." Because activated charcoal is typically used to treat cases of accidental poisoning and drug overdoses, it had been relatively overlooked in alleviating stomach bloating and gas. "It works by binding the gas-causing byproducts in foods that cause discomfort," he adds. Axe cites a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, which found that "activated charcoal prevents intestinal discomfort following a typically gas-producing meal."
To combat stomach bloating, take 500 milligrams of activated charcoal one hour before a big meal and wash it down with a full glass of water.
After eating, follow it up with another full glass of water to "help get the charcoal into your system, where it can bind with gas-producing elements."
For more information on the benefits of activated charcoal, head over to Axe's website.