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Uh Oh- I Don’t Feel So Good


upset stomach Was it the taco?

Going to Mexico?  Visiting relatives?   Looking forward to the office or church potluck?

A friend of mine called me the other evening.  “Jack ate something bad.  He’s throwing up.  The emergency room just said to drink clear liquids.  Didn’t you tell me something about activated charcoal?”  (I’m always telling my friends about some natural remedy!)

With the holidays coming up, many of us will be traveling away from home or eating out at restaurants or going to potlucks more than usual.  We’re exposed to new foods and possibly some bad bacteria. And a lot of people will get a digestive upset.

If you’ve never gotten a “belly bug” you are lucky.  It’s usually a bacteria called E. coli and causes vomiting and diarrhea for several days.   It is a truly wretched experience.

I say, Be Prepared! Don’t let a bad bug ruin your holiday or your vacation.  One of the best remedies for mild nausea, vomiting and diarrhea caused by a food contaminant is activated charcoal.

My friend Linda who worked as a chef on yachts all over the world clued me in when I met her down inMexico.  “If you even feel slightly nauseous, just take one or two tablets with a glass of water,” she said.  “It’s better to stop it as soon as possible before it really takes hold.”

How’s Jack doing?

Jack was already vomiting, but he took a shot of 2 dissolved capsules in water and said he felt better almost immediately.

Act fast!

I always carry a couple of activated charcoal tablets or capsules with me in my purse.  Always.  If you delay too long, the bad bacteria can be absorbed from the stomach and intestines into the blood stream – and then the charcoal isn’t effective – and you’ll really feel rotten.

What is it? 

Activated charcoal is a form of carbon usually from coconut husks processed to be more adsorbent by increasing the surface area. [ Burnt toast, however, is not the same type of carbon and does not adsorb toxins.]

How does it work?

Adsorption [with a d] means that the charcoal binds to the bacteria. Once the bad bacteria is bound to the charcoal it can’t keep spreading.  It just gets passed out of the body in your stool.

How to take it

You can buy a bottle of it at almost any drugstore or health food store or online.  It’s cheap.  It comes in tablets or capsules. You can take the tablets or capsules with a glass of water or if you want it to work faster, open up the capsule or dissolve the tablet in a shot of water.   It will turn the water black.

For slight upsets, one or two capsules will probably take care of it.

For mild vomiting (1-4 times a day), you can take a 1-2 capsules every 1 hour until you feel better.

For severe vomiting, call your doctor.

Remember, the greatest danger is dehydration.  So if you aren’t urinating much, start to feel really thirsty and lightheaded when you stand up, call a health provider.

Take a probiotic, too

After the bout is over, take a probiotic to add more friendly bacteria into your gut.  It may help your body clear away any lingering bad bacteria and help your bowel movements get back to normal.

What to watch out for…

Constipation.  Activated charcoal can make some people constipated.  Drink as much fluids as you can and eat foods like kiwi, papaya, tomatoes or prunes that moisten and help move stool along. Your stool may be black or have black clumps in it.  That’s the charcoal.

Medications.  Activated charcoal may adsorb medications so their effectiveness may be reduced.

When to call the emergency room or your doctor:

  • Blood or pus in your stools
  • Diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting
  • A fever above 101°F, or your child has a fever above 100.4°F along with diarrhea
  • Signs of dehydration (thirst, dizziness, light-headedness)
  • Recently traveled to a foreign country and developed diarrhea
  • Diarrhea that has not gotten better in 5 days (2 days for an infant or child), or has gotten worse
  • A child who has been vomiting for more than 12 hours (in a newborn under 3 months you should call as soon as vomiting or diarrhea begins)
  • Food poisoning from mushrooms, fish, or suspected botulism

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