Herxheimer reactions. One of the banes of my existence as a health consultant. Can they be reduced from activated charcoal absorbing bacterial toxins?

What is a herxheimer reaction? It is the bodies immune system’s reaction to a heavy burden of toxins (mainly endotoxins.)1

What are endotoxins?

So a lot of people that I have coached and people on the internet symptoms worsen once you try to alleviate Gram-negative bacteria dysbiosis. Most of the time this occurs because the overgrowth produce endotoxins or release them when lysis (breaking down of the cell membrane) occurs during protocols or treatments.

So what can be done to reduce endotoxin release? Or at the very least help facilitate their detoxification and clearance from the body?

Is there anything that can be supplemented to absorb the endotoxins in the digestive tract before they overload the liver or enter the bloodstream and cause extensive inflammation if you have leaky gut?

Enter Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal comes from burning a carbon source that yields a blackish porous material. There are many different grades of activated charcoal that differ in their absorption, Fix Your Gut, however, is going to focus on standard food grade or medical grade activated charcoal.2

Activated charcoal is more than just for “detoxing” it serves a medical purpose. There is medical grade activated charcoal that is used for accidental oral overdose and poisoning (depending on the substance) in hospitals across the world.3

Activated charcoal only binds to larger molecules, non-polar molecules, or molecules that have a negative charge since activated charcoal itself has a slight positive charge.4 Some things that activated charcoal cannot bind to include:

  • Alcohol (activated charcoal, however, can bind to some impurities found in alcohol)5
  • Glycols6
  • Strong acids or bases7
  • Some heavy metals like lithium and iron.8

We are lucky, though, activated charcoal can bind to endotoxins produced in the gut when ingested. Binding of endotoxins in our digestive tract reduces inflammation, improves liver/kidney function, and helps reduce symptoms of a herxheimer reaction.9 10 11 12

Activated charcoal can also absorb excess gas as well produced by overgrowth that might reduce bloating and abdominal pain.

Finally, it can bind with some of the toxins in the food we ingest including mycotoxins.13

How Much Activated Charcoal Should Be Supplemented and Drawbacks of Activated Charcoal Supplementation

It depends on the severity of your herxheimer reaction.

I suggest one to two activated charcoal capsules an hour after taking your antimicrobial supplements so that it does not interfere with their use if you are having a herxheimer reaction.

In addition, I suggest one to two capsules if you are having strong reactions to food as well if you have overgrowth even if the food does not come from a questionable source.

Do not be surprised if your stool darkens when ingesting activated charcoal, this is normal.

There are drawbacks to supplementing with activated charcoal, though. Activated charcoal can interfere with your intake from food, medications, or supplements. I would take it a few hours away from supplements, medications, and meals if possible.14

If you take too much, there is also a possibility that it can cause gastrointestinal blockages, but most of the time this is only seen in medical emergencies where too much might be accidentally given to try to help someone who overdosed. If you have severe abdominal pains from ingesting normal amounts of activated charcoal, you might want to notify you doctor or go to the emergency room because you might have an intestinal blockage.15

What Brand of Activated Charcoal Do I Recommend?

I recommend Upgraded Coconut Charcoal.

Bulletproof produces their charcoal from coconut shells. It is ultra fine and highly purified. They also use acid washing in its preparation, to help remove heavy metals from the charcoal before you supplement with it. The charcoal is very fine, which increases its absorption.