If you like ice cream as much as I do, then you'll know there have been 2 new ice cream crazes this summer, and one of them contains activated charcoal. The deep black, purple and green hues of this ice cream drew me in. I had to have it. Except the only place it's available in Toronto always has a block-long line-up (I guess it's to be expected since I'm always in that neck of the woods on a sunny weekend afternoon). But one Wednesday evening when I walked out of yoga, hungry because I hadn't eaten dinner yet, I lucked out. It was nearly 9pm and only a handful of people in line!
As I was enjoying my ube black (purple yam and coconut) in a charcoal-infused cone, I started to wonder some things. How much activated charcoal is in this thing? Will this delicious black and purple treat do anything to my body? I mean, I know what activated charcoal is used for, medically. The next day my thoughts became: Why is my poop this scary colour?
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated Charcoal is traditionally used as a treatment to a drug overdose or poisoning (although does not work for some poisonings, including alcohol). Essentially, it binds to almost everything in the stomach and potentially the small intestine and removes it from the body. It has not got radar that detects the bad stuff (ie poison) over the good stuff (ie nutrients); it gets rid of it all.
What Else Is it Used For?
Lately, Gwyneth Paltrow (well that's a sign) and others have been using activated charcoal as a cleanse. This is absolutely unnecessary and can even be dangerous. There are 3 organs involved with cleansing the body (liver, kidneys and colon) and none of them require a lot of help, for most people. The danger is that it cleanses the body of toxins, nutrients and medications. Taken long term, it can even cause a bezoar (kind of like a lump of goop in your gut...not very cleansing). I also know some people that take activated charcoal when they are hungover or have eaten something that does not agree with them.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Eating Charcoal Ice Cream?
- Black tongue, lips and teeth
- Black, grey or green stool
- Can render meds ineffective, since they will be removed from the body so quickly (ie birth control pill, diabetes meds, blood pressure meds, etc)
- Nutrient deficiencies (long-term use)
Black ice cream is yummy (all ice cream is, really). If you want to have it once in awhile, and you're not on medications, then it's probably safe. However, if you take medications, then you might want to take extra precautions (ie alternative methods of birth control) when you eat charcoal-based ice cream. It's not clear how much activated charcoal you will get in just one serving (also served in a charcoal cone), but it was enough to give me symptoms...