Can coconut oil cause diarrhea?

Man dashing to toilet after eating coconut oil

"Hey, our coconut oil can cause diarrhea, so beware!" Are you expecting to see warning text like that on the label when you bring home a jar of coconut oil? Too bad! No company would dare to scare their potential buyers away. You probably have to learn the hard way that coconut oil can trigger diarrhea.

But that only occurs when you take it straight by the spoonful (say, 2 tablespoons) and to make it even worse, on an empty stomach.

You're not alone. It happens most of the time to coconut oil newbies. No, not food poisoning, don't worry. You won't die from diarrhea that's caused by ingesting too much coconut oil. You still have a long life to live.

1. So, what should you do after getting diarrhea from eating coconut oil?

Stop your intake of coconut oil and other food immediately. In essence, fast.

Fasting helps to avoid further stimulation of your bowels. And wait for the diarrhea effect to taper off. If you feel hungry after a couple of runs, take some bites and see how it goes.

The diarrhea effect should mitigate in a few hours. But it may take up to 12 hours or longer to completely wear off, depending on how severe your bowels have loosened.

In the meantime, drink some salt water (sip by sip to avoid stimulating your bowels) to replenish the loss of sodium and fluid in your body in the process of frequent bowel movements. This ensures you won't get struck by hyponatremia (i.e. water poisoning).

Thereafter, do not consume coconut oil for the next few days until you're sure you've fully recovered from the coconut oil-triggered diarrhea.

2. How to start off with coconut oil to avoid diarrhea?

If you want to get back on coconut oil for its amazing health benefits, don't make the same mistake again as a beginner. You've learned your lesson, right? So, how much to start with?

One teaspoon. And even with just a teaspoon, never take it on an empty stomach. You just never know how your body will react even on a teaspoon of coconut oil although this rarely causes diarrhea.

So, always take coconut oil internally with food. You can of course, cook your food with it.

Foods (especially the fiber-rich ones) help to slow the digestion of coconut oil. It is primarily the 50–64% medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil that loosen bowels and trigger diarrhea. More appropriately, diarrhea-like symptoms.

Real diarrhea from food poisoning may cause your life. But the diarrhea you get from eating too much coconut oil provides an opportunity for a good body detox, actually.

Didn't you just feel better after having an accidental cleansing of your entire bowels?

If no food stays in your stomach and coconut oil is the only thing inside there to get dissolved and broken down, the medium-chain fatty acids can easily prompt your intestinal muscles to contract.

And if you take quite a lot of coconut oil, the sudden increase of gut motility can cause stomach cramp.

That's not all, glycerols that are freed from the medium-chain triglyceride structure upon digestion will gather fluid in your stools. This will cause your stools to become softer and very watery. And if you can't make it to the bathroom in time, better get yourself a diaper.

That's how coconut oil causes diarrhea.

You know what, you can actually leverage this bad side effect of eating coconut oil by using it to ease your chronic constipation, if you do have it. It's powerful.

Other dietary oils may not loosen your bowels so fast because most of them compose of long-chain triglycerides. Long-chain fats take longer to break down and their long-chain fatty acids do not permeate cells to stimulate bowels as swift as medium-chain fatty acids do.

So, start off with just one teaspoon of coconut oil and add it to food.

For example, let's say you're having a healthy oatmeal for breakfast. Pour a teaspoon of coconut oil over and stir well. Next, your lunch? Same thing, add to your food.

What about dinner? Better not take coconut oil in the evening in case its cumulative effect triggers diarrhea after the meal. You'll be too busy dashing to the bathroom instead of sleeping well at night. This can affect your work the following morning. If it causes diarrhea during the daytime, you still have sufficient time to let the effect subside and enjoy a good night's sleep.

If taking a teaspoon of coconut oil (with food) in the morning doesn't cause diarrhea, that doesn't mean it won't trigger diarrhea when you take another teaspoon during lunch. The effect from coconut oil can overlap and pile up as a result, hence causing a cumulative effect.

I would recommend a max of 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of coconut oil that spread over a day for a brand spanking newbie. Keep it that way for at least a week before you increase to 4 or more teaspoons.

However much coconut oil per day you're consuming, split it 50/50. For example, 1 ½ teaspoons (½ tablespoon) at breakfast and 1 ½ teaspoons (½ tablespoon) at lunch. That totals up to 3 teaspoons per day.

But if you think 3 teaspoons of coconut oil per day are causing you to feel nauseous and lose appetite, this means your body has yet to get used to coconut oil. Reduce it to 2 teaspoons or even one per day then.

The nauseating feeling could also stem from the release of toxins when large number of harmful microbes (like Candida yeast) die in your gut after the medium-chain fatty acids, particularly lauric, caprylic and capric acids in coconut oil kill them all. Removal of toxins may induce certain degree of discomfort.

Anyway, such discomfort will gradually fade off as your body adapts better to coconut oil.

3. Which coconut oil gives you a stronger diarrhea effect?

As both virgin and RBD coconut oils have similar nutritional profile, they trigger diarrhea in a very similar manner as stated above. I mean, if you consume too much of them.

As for MCT oil (the edible form of fractionated coconut oil), you might get a more intense effect out of drinking it alone. This is because MCT oil contains purely medium-chain triglycerides, which can actively power up your bowel movement at a relatively lower amount.

But you can allay its diarrhea-like symptoms by consuming with food, same as when you ingest virgin or RBD coconut oil.

4. To wrap it up

If you're getting started with consuming coconut oil for its massive health benefits, always keep in mind that you should never try to take too much in one sitting, especially on an empty stomach.

You'll get the diarrhea-like side effects appear faster and more severe when taking coconut oil alone than when you include the oil in your meals.

Same holds true when you stop your coconut oil intake for some time and you're trying to resume its consumption.

For instance, you used to consume 3 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for a year and you're good with that all along. Then you stop it completely for some reasons. And after a month you're thinking of getting back on it. Don't fall back on to the usual 3 tablespoons or you might trigger diarrhea.

Begin with a teaspoon as stated above. And gradually build up your intake once again to condition your body for coconut oil's effect.

Of course, if you're good with taking coconut oil alone without food and on an empty stomach, by all means. Most people can't withstand that, to be honest.

Last but not least, I suggest a max of 3–4 tablespoons daily for adults and 1–2 tablespoons daily for children. But you should only do that when your body is ready to take that amount.

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