#WTFWednesday – Is #activatedcharcoal the latest WTF fad?

I saw a fart ad on TV, and of course I had to share it with you.

The science behind this is that activated charcoal does bind with positively charged molecules. Emergency Rooms give patients that have ingested something dangerous activated charcoal to drink in order to bind with whatever poison/toxin they’ve ingested. HOWEVER, as of now, no science supports it working in the liver as a hangover remedy.

As a flatulence remedy… well, actually, no.

At least according to science, specifically this study from Potter, Ellis, and Levitt in Gastroenterology, 1986 Mar;88(3):620-4 called Activated Charcoal: in vivo and in vitro studies of effect on gas formation. Or as I like to think of it as the baked-bean fart research. Because they used baked beans. No lie. Science is so fun. There’s beans and measuring farts. Like for real. Here’s the link to the abstract, saved on the National Institute of Health’s website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3917957  Basically, what they did was measure farts in live people and externally using “fecal homogenates”.

Ladies and gentleman, I bet these guys were NOT the favorites in the lab, but they were taking a hit for our team. Our team of gassy people, that is.

I can see it, “Hey Bob, is your petri-dish poop farting yet?”

“Why yes. How about your patients?”

“The waiting room is filled…”

I continued my fart remedy research with an Abstract from the American Journal of Gastroenterology printed in 1986, Jul;81(7):532-5 titled Efficacy of Activated Charcoal in Reducing Intestinal Gas: A Double-Blind Clincal Trial by Jain NK, Patel VP, and Pitchumoni CS. It said that patients given the charcoal OR the placebo both had beneficial results. However, charcoal seemed more effective when the patients were asked if they had less cramping. The results were conflicting. And the study is from 1986. I’m thinking if this worked, this fad would have taken off in the late 80’s-90’s.

In 2010, Mark Pimental, MD wrote an article for Gastroenterology and Hepatology where he reviewed the data for The Treatment of Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This found that 11% of the patients taking the placebo said they felt better, had less IBS symptoms. The placebo… you know the “fake drug” that is inert and does nothing. 21% taking the charcoal said they felt better. The study also looked at the placebo versus Rifaximin antibiotic. Now, this result is super curious because it’s 30% placebo to 40% Rifaximin patients felt they had beneficial results. Which means… if you took the placebo from the Rifaximin study you’d do 10% better at reducing your symptoms than if you took the actual charcoal.

Yes, these are “conflicting” results.

Bizarre, in fact.

Perhaps it’s just better to “think” the gas away. It’ll certainly save you cash.

And remember, he who smelt it, dealt it.

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