Activated charcoal is charcoal (a form of carbon) that has been treated with oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. The use of special manufacturing techniques results in highly porous charcoals that have surface areas of 300-2,000 square meters per gram. These charcoals are widely used to adsorb odorous, colored, infectious and toxic substances from gases or liquids.
When a material adsorbs something, it attaches to it by chemical attraction. The huge surface area of activated charcoal gives it countless bonding sites. When passing next to the carbon surface, many things attach and are trapped, while other chemicals and compounds are not attracted to carbon at all. Once all of the bonding sites are filled, activated charcoal no longer has any detoxifying effect. An example of how activated charcoal is used in daily life is in water purification filters.
In an acute bacterial or viral infection of the GI tract, taking activated charcoal orally often stops the diarrhea. It works by adsorbing the organisms causing the infection and, since charcoal itself is not absorbed, it carries the offending organisms safely out of the body. A typical dose is 2 to 4 capsules, 4 or more times per day for up to 2 days.
Charcoal is considered one of the first aid remedies for diarrhea. When "activated charcoal" is not available, less effective regular charcoal will often work. It can be made by burning toast and scraping the charcoal from it's surface. This process is repeated until you have created as much as you need. Although not as convenient as capsules, the powder can be placed in the mouth and rinsed down with liquid. If there are no signs of improvement within the first day, medical help should be sought.
Charcoal tablets and anise tea both are effective in relieving gas.
If a change in your diet fails to relieve diarrhea, then the next step in treatment is to use bile acid sequestering agents, such as activated charcoal or doctor-prescribed cholestyramine (Questran) or colestipol (Colestid).