There is currently no regulated use of activated charcoal for IBS, but some research suggests it may have some gastrointestinal benefits.

Activated charcoal absorbs toxins from the body, and healthcare professionals typically use it for treating poisoning or removing toxins from the body.

Off-label use for activated charcoal includes treating digestive issues, such as celiac disease, to absorb ingested gluten. However, there is currently a lack of evidence supporting using activated charcoal for this purpose.

Some research looks into using activated charcoal for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This article discusses the current evidence for its use and the potential benefits and risks. It also provides tips for managing IBS symptoms.

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According to a 2018 review, activated charcoal may be a potential treatment for IBS-D — the type of IBS where diarrhea is a main symptom. This is because activated charcoal may help prevent the body from absorbing toxins or irritants that may cause diarrhea.

The review also noted that activated charcoal may have few side effects compared with other medications for diarrhea. Researchers still require further evidence to determine whether activated charcoal effectively manages diarrhea.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) may cause IBS symptoms, and people with IBS may also have SIBO.

A 2017 small-scale study compared the effects of activated charcoal and simethicone (Carbosylane) with the antibiotic metronidazole in 16 people with flatus incontinence linked to SIBO. Flatus incontinence is the medical term for the involuntary passing of intestinal gas, commonly known as farting.

Over 10 days, participants took either metronidazole or Carbosylane. The metronidazole group significantly reduced symptoms of flatus incontinence compared to the Carbosylane group.

However, Carbosylane treatment significantly reduced abdominal pain scores, while metronidazole did not.

According to a 2018 review, activated charcoal attracts and absorbs any ingested toxins and removes them from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The activated charcoal prevents the absorption of these particles into the GI tract, which may help manage IBS symptoms such as diarrhea.

The GI tract does not absorb the activated charcoal, so it passes through the body and removes toxins.

The 2017 study mentioned above found that activated charcoal reduces abdominal pain in people with flatus incontinence relating to SIBO.

Furthermore, a 2017 review suggests activated charcoal may be a beneficial treatment for IBS and diarrhea, with few side effects.

However, researchers still require further evidence on the potential benefits of using activated charcoal to manage IBS symptoms.

The 2017 study showed no negative side effects in people taking a combination of simethicone and activated charcoal to treat flatus incontinence linked to SIBO.

Activated charcoal is not toxic to the body as it is nonabsorbable. However, potential risks of activated charcoal may include aspiration or bowel obstruction.

These risks apply to using activated charcoal for treating poisoning but may differ for treating IBS. This is because over-the-counter (OTC) preparations may be less activated, and the dosage may be considerably smaller.

Other potential side effects of activated charcoal may include nausea and vomiting if drinking a gritty mixture.

Activated charcoal can affect the absorption of medications, including acetaminophen, aspirin, and tricyclic antidepressants. It is important to talk with a healthcare professional before taking activated charcoal.

There is a lack of evidence to support taking activated charcoal for IBS.

Activated charcoal is available as a supplement in powder or capsule form. OTC activated charcoal is typically available in tablet form containing 250 milligrams.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements for safety or effectiveness, so there is a lack of regulation over using activated charcoal for off-label uses such as IBS.

People can talk with a healthcare professional before using activated charcoal for managing IBS.

Tips for managing IBS include:

Read about treatment options for IBS.

Some people use activated charcoal as an off-label treatment for IBS symptoms.

While there is a lack of evidence to support using activated charcoal for IBS, some research suggests it may help manage IBS symptoms, such as diarrhea or abdominal pain.

People can talk with a doctor before using activated charcoal to treat IBS. Activated charcoal is an absorbent agent, so it may interfere with other medications.