For the better part of April, I've 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 my friends and co-workers, I'm referring to the kind of bloating that you simply cannot stop complaining about—you feel so profoundly uncomfortable in your own skin that word vomit ensues. While 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), I fortunately stumbled upon a solution after around 10 days of discomfort.
After traversing the antacid section of Duane Reade on multiple occasions (to no success), my desperation led me to google the very eloquent words "what to do when your bloated stomach won't go away." Within seconds I was deep in an internet rabbit hole on HealingWell, a community forum dedicated to discussing various health issues (aka 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 bloating.
"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 familiarity with activated charcoal led me to the Whole Foods by my office within 15 minutes. After purchasing Country Life's activated charcoal supplements for $10, I popped two capsules 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, of course.
"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, DNM, DC, CNS. "The porous surface of activated charcoal has a negative electric charge that causes positive charged toxins and gas to bond with it." As such, activated charcoal is a relatively overlooked way to deal with stomach bloating and gas. "It works by binding the gas-causing byproducts in foods that cause discomfort," he adds.
He cites a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, which found that activated charcoal prevents intestinal discomfort following a typically gas-producing meal. He recommends taking 500 milligrams of activated charcoal one hour before a big meal and washing 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.