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The trendy wellness ingredient might be messing with your birth control


Charcoal-Bread-Toast Pin It
Photo: Stocksy/Gillian Vann

You’re probably hearing a lot about activated charcoal right now—it’s buzzy in wellness circles for its reputed detoxing powers and it’s very Instagrammable, thanks to its dark color, making everything look kind of weird and exciting (hello, #charcoalicecream). And while it’s popping up in everything from toast to skin care to pizza, a report in the Insider warns that you may want to stick to regular slices if you’re taking the birth control pill.

In 2015 (i.e. before the charcoal craze really took off), Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterologist based in Virginia told Women’s Health that the problem with activated charcoal products is that they absorb the drugs in your body, which can render your birth control “ineffective.” This week, Insider revisited the topic—and gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, MD, reiterated that activated charcoal can potentially mess with your pregnancy protection.

The problem with activated charcoal products is that they absorb the drugs in your body, which can render your birth control ineffective.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. According to Dr. Dweck, “If you’re eating, like, one ice cream with activated charcoal, you’re going to be fine.” The problem only really rears its head when you’re consuming activated charcoal in large doses through supplements or charcoal-heavy cleanses.

And Dr. Dweck says there’s an easy hack to counteract the charcoal’s pill-diffusing effects: Just take your birth control a couple of hours before any charcoal supplement to give your body enough time to absorb the pill before the charcoal comes along.

So, like a lot of things that are good for you (*cough* coconut oil and avocados), there can always be exceptions where it goes the other way—and it pays to read the fine print to know what’s right for you. 

Looking for new ways to get your charcoal fix? Check out this activated charcoal cocktail recipe and Shiva Rose’s guide to incorporating it into your diet and skin-care routine.