Whether it's taking fenugreek, eating Chipotle, or ordering a drink from Starbuck's "secret menu," breastfeeding moms are always looking for ways to improve their lactation. With all the buzz surrounding the detoxing benefits of activated charcoal, it's understandable that breastfeeding moms would consider its impact on breast milk or supply. But does activated charcoal benefit breastfeeding?
What is activated charcoal? It's actually very different from the charcoal you use when you barbecue. According to WebMd, activated charcoal is made when common substances are heated with a gas, causing it to develop internal pores, which help trap toxins and chemicals. Dr. Axe recommended getting activated charcoal that is made from a safe source, like organic coconut shells, if you are using it for natural healing purposes.
How does it work? Science Based Medicine explained that activated charcoal, when ingested, acts like a drug sponge, and it is widely used to treat medicinal overdoses or poisonings. So it basically traps certain kinds of toxins (not all toxins) when it meets them in your digestive tract. The website further explained that activated charcoal can even absorb your prescription medications, hindering their effectiveness, so it's important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before mixing it with other drugs.
Romper reached out to Bineesh Moyeed, Pharm.D, who says that while there is anecdotal evidence that activated charcoal has benefits to things like breastfeeding, there is no scientific evidence to back it up.
"Activated charcoal can clean some toxins in your stomach, which may make you feel good or healthy," Moyeed says, "but there is no data that suggests it benefits breastfeeding in anyway." She says that if you have spoken to your doctor about activated charcoal, and they've given you the green light, then there's no harm in taking it. Moyeed notes, however, that activated charcoal can cause severe diarrhea, and even turn stools black, and while these aren't life threatening side effects, they can make you uncomfortable.
So if you are breastfeeding, and you feel like activated charcoal is benefiting you, it's good to know that it won't affect your baby in any way. Just make sure to talk to your doctor about any interactions it may have with other medicines you are taking. Whether it's eating a burrito, drinking an oatmeal latte, or eating burnt coconut shells, the fact that you're looking for things to improve your lactation shows how much you love your baby, and how awesome of a mom you are.