Is there a role for charcoal in palliative diarrhea management?

Curr Med Res Opin. 2018 Jul;34(7):1253-1259. doi: 10.1080/03007995.2017.1416345. Epub 2018 Jan 10.


Objective: Symptomatic therapy is an intervention centered entirely on symptom management and pain relief. The utilization of charcoal in diarrhea management is a pertinent example of this type of medical care. Diarrhea is an ailment defined as an escalation in the frequency of bowel movements, unformed stool, abdominal discomfort, and pain. These symptoms can be extremely debilitating for patients, and effectuate frustration as well as severely dampening mood and overall well-being. This narrative review aims to explore the use of charcoal in diarrhea management and its possible benefits in alleviating discomfort associated with these symptoms.

Methods: The authors used PubMed, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar searches on recent literature available on the role of activated charcoal in diarrhea management.

Results: It was found that the main precursors of diarrhea include drugs and bacterial infection. Activated charcoal has a firm history in its ability to attract and expel ingested toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. It acts to prevent system absorption of these adverse entities, adsorbing them on the surface of its particles, making it a suitable diarrheal treatment.

Conclusions: Diarrhea can present itself alongside a multitude of treatments and conditions, such as chemotherapy, primary malignancy, intestinal, colorectal and pancreatic cancer, bacterial infection, and irritable bowel syndrome, making activated charcoal a potential therapy in these conditions. In comparison, with other common anti-diarrheal treatments, activated charcoal has exceptionally few side-effects. Overall, further research is necessary in order to wholly determine the effectiveness of charcoal in the management of diarrhea.

Keywords: Charcoal; diarrhea; life quality; palliative care; symptomatic therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / drug therapy
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use*
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy*
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / complications
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / complications
  • Quality of Life


  • Charcoal