one whole coconut

We were surprised back in 1998 when we got a letter from a reader about coconut. Donald Agar of Pittsfield, Massachusetts had suffered with Crohn’s disease for 40 years. He discovered through serendipity that if he ate two Archway Coconut Macaroon Cookies a day, he was free of the diarrhea that usually made his life difficult. (He also reported that three cookies daily caused constipation.) When we wrote about Donald’s discovery, we heard from many other readers who confirmed the benefits of coconut against diarrhea.

Coconut for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Q. I want to tell you my success story about using coconut for treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This debilitating condition has plagued me for 20 long years.

I could never make any appointments in the morning, because I never knew if I would be sick that morning or not. Often, I was sick five days out of seven.

Then I saw your column on eating shredded coconut to quell diarrhea. I love coconut, so I decided to try it. Using macaroon cookies or Mounds bars in place of plain shredded coconut made it especially enjoyable.

I was shocked when I realized that it was working! It’s been three weeks, and I’ve not had a single sick day.

This is like a miracle for me, and I want to tell everyone who is suffering with IBS so that they can also start living again, like me.

Coconut Works for Others:

A. Over the years, we have heard from others who have found that shredded coconut is helpful against diarrhea. Here are a few of their stories:

“Yesterday one of my elderly gardening clients came to the door very ill. He had gone to the ER for severe diarrhea and vomiting. The Rx meds had not stopped the diarrhea. I went to the store and got him some coconut macaroons. He called me 4 hours later and said they worked great. They stopped the diarrhea in its tracks! “

Why Does Coconut Work?

One reader went further. Out of curiosity, this person did some internet research to try to find out why coconut counteracts diarrhea.

“I thought the following information interesting to pass along as a piece to the medicinal coconut puzzle. I found the following coconut information while researching other related issues and I remembered the coconut questions and comments in People’s Pharmacy. It appears no one answered the question why coconut works – this is always the first question I ask.

“Coconut oil contains 48-50% LAURIC ACID, a fat (the only other good source of LAURIC ACID is mother’s milk). Lauric acid is broken down by saliva or skin bacteria to make MONOLAURIN. MONOLAURIN is an amazing anti-microbial that acts like a secret agent.

“Viruses and bacteria cleverly wrap themselves in fatty acids (monolaurin is a fatty acid) so they can get in the body without being destroyed by our bodies chemical environment. When monolaurin is present, the microbes just see it as another fat and use it to wrap themselves. But, secret agent monolaurin rapidly dissolves, disintegrating the microbes protective coating, exposing it to the bodies chemical environment, where it is then destroyed.

“From what I have read, the coconut that contains LAURIC ACID, which the body uses to make the MONOLAURIN that kills bacteria/viruses, is the reason it is effective treatment for diarrhea and other intestinal issues. Everything I read referred to coconut oil, but I am assuming the same applies to coconut flakes etc, just to a lesser extent because it’s not as concentrated as the coconut oil. Much more fascinating health information about coconuts on the net or look for books by Bruce Fife on the issue. I don’t have any serious intestinal issues, but after stumbling on coconut facts and researching them myself, I am definitely going to incorporate coconut oil in my diet for immune support! Hope this helps!”

Serious Science About Coconut:

Like this reader, some scientists have looked into the reasons why coconut might be effective against diarrhea. What they have found corroborates the effect of lauric acid on intestinal bacteria, including Clostridium difficile, a species that can cause intractable diarrhea, particularly following antibiotic treatment (Shilling et al, Journal of Medicinal Food, Dec. 2013). E. coli is also susceptible to fatty acids found in coconut, in this case capric and caprylic acids (Marounek et al, Folia Microbiologica, 2003).

Mouse research shows that coconut-derived fatty acids can disrupt the growth of the common mouth yeast Candida albicans (Takahashi et al, Medical Mycology Journal, 2012). In a study that assessed the activity of various fatty acids against oral micro-organisms, scientists determined that such fatty acids (including lauric acid) were more effective against common bacteria of the mouth than against C. albicans (Huang et al, Archives of Oral Biology, July 2011). These findings clarify why so many readers report that coconut in one form or another can conquer disastrous diarrhea.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Jack

    Just a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great style and design. “The price one pays for pursuing a profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” by James Arthur Baldwin.

  2. Becky

    Would coconut help with the diarrhea associated with pancreatic cancer?

  3. Ellen Childress
    Dallas, Texas

    Have had lifelong GI problems, but nothing terrible or chronic until I had my gallbladder removed two years ago. Resulted in chronic diarrhea/nausea with sudden bouts of
    osmotic diarrhea and vomiting that would land me in the hospital within a few hours
    in a totally dehydrated condition. Nothing worked.I just stopped talking to doctors and
    started having two Archway macaroons a day and a cup of ginger tea, mostly added to my
    iced tea during the day. After about six weeks, I am noting that the nausea and chronic
    diarrhea have become less frequent, and the sudden bouts of osmotic diarrhea accompanied by vomiting have not occurred at all. I am kind of holding my breath because I developed an absolute terror of eating anything. All tests normal. But Iam sensitive to wheat and so I eat a gluten free diet, which is fine. Not difficult. I am also lactose intolerant, but that, too, is not an issue. I can manage small amounts of dairy with no problems. However, over the two years of what we think has been “post-cholestectomy syndrome”, I have lost
    55 pounds and am still pretty scared to eat. I needed to lose the weight but don’t recommend this method ! The food fear is gradually abating as I try small amounts of different things, and can eat out with my husband occasionally now without any difficulties.
    I knew about the macaroons from your columns years ago. Thanks so much for that help !

  4. julie

    I have been dealing with extream diarrhea since July 11th, I remember the date, as it started out of the blue, no other issues, felt fine. It did not stop, with in 10 min of eating, 4 hrs the longests, I was very quickly going to nearest restroom. Only mild weight loss, had blood work, perfect, had stool sample, normal. It is now oct. 26th. I have issues with sleep, knees keep me up, or just have second wind and end up wide awake and not sleeping, so I tried something I saw on facebook, for sleep….1 teaspoon coconut oil, 1/2 teaspoon raw honey and 1/8 teaspoon seasalt…I was able to sleep, my knees have not bothered me since I started using it, day 2 now, and believe it or not the diarrhea has stopped as sudden as it started, just normal movements. Why I will figure out and somehow get it out there as the Dr. wanted to send me to a specialist.

  5. joe

    I’ve used coconut oil pills 4ct daily and without them and a good probiotic my diarrhea comes right back.

    • Janet

      Did the coconut oil, honey, sea salt combination also help with knee pain? Thank you.


  6. Abigail

    Barbara – posted August 11, 2015 – I’d like so much to know what powder it is you are taking at the suggestion of your helpful health food store clerk. Do you still have the packaging so you can tell us which G____ it is? thanks! Appreciate the reminder to take DGL.

  7. Ann

    I am allergic to eggs and also soy, and dairy too. I would prefer to just have the coconut from the package.
    So many good things to learn from this website. Thank you People’s Pharmacy.

  8. Barbara

    I have had IBS off and on. Dr.’s checked everything -no answer. I got hurt recently and had to take pain meds. I got a very bad case of diarrhea for 3 weeks and my friend said take DGL pills (form of licorice) and the health food store helper said also take glusimine? powder. My diarrhea stopped in one day and I have been taking for a few months now and so far so good. Dr’s just say take the brat diet. Did not work for me.

  9. J

    FYI – I was diagnosed with IBS about 20 years ago and suffered off and on since. Turns out I have Celiac’s disease (gluten allergy) and having that for so long has resulted in other health problems like severe anemia and hypothyroidism. Why don’t doctors rule out Celiac’s in IBS cases? It’s a simple blood test, which I would highly recommend for you who suffer with IBS.

  10. Judy
    Charlotte NC

    WARNING: Coconut will not help if you have microscopic colitis which is either lymphocytic colitis or collagenous colitis. It will make it worse due to the fiber. Once medication gets the disease under control, fiber can again be added to the diet.

  11. debp

    I have suffered from IBS for most of my life only to have it become debilitating after a life threatening bacteria invaded me and I had to go on IV antibiotics to kill it and unfortunately whatever was left of my intestinal flora as well. I was a walking mess of every symptom possible. I’d been cooking and baking with coconut oil for years and just recently read that it can help with IBS, so I started eating more of it, but wasn’t really focusing on it.
    Well, as I was rummaging through my cupboard I found 5 jars of organic coconut manna that I’d purchased for some reason but never tried nor had any idea what to do with. I decided to dig one out and give it a try. After warming it up enough to stir I took a spoonful and was in love. Every hour I was going to get another spoonful because I couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful it tasted. Well it must have been a good dose because by the next day it cured my constipation, gas and pain. I have eaten half a jar in a few days and have never felt better!
    I don’t know if this is proven or not because it’s only been a few days but I can say at this point, I will never want to go a day without coconut manna. It’s also curbed my appetite for any in-between snacking. I’ve been sugar free for many months now so it is a tasty treat to have something sweet like this.

    • col

      Activated charcoal stops IBS, food poisoning, stomach upsets, flatulence etc. it comes in capsule form or in a bag. It’s cheap and should sort it out fast. 100 capsules are less than £10.

  12. TM

    I read about coconut helping IBS and decided to try it. It worked for me. It took about three or four days to really kick in.
    I first got the “sweetened” coconut you get at most grocery stores. My nutritionist told me to get “unsweetened” coconut and I like that much, much better. The “unsweetened” coconut is more like a fiber. The “sweetened” coconut is way to sweet for my taste.
    The “unsweetened” coconut mixes well with foods. I have put it over my cereal, in yogurt, in/over hot vegetables and in some soups. It mixed especially well with black bean soup but again the “unsweetened” has a mild taste and mixes well with foods. It is gritty and adds that quality to the food you sprinkle it on.
    I have been sprinkling three soup spoons of unsweetened coconut over the foods and that has worked for me. I hope it works for people who try it, too.

  13. Maureen H.

    I have Colitis, and, an taking LOMOTIL to control diarrhea. Can I take Coconut Macarron cookies WITH Lomotil, or, stop taking medication? Thank you for an early reply.

  14. DS

    So my HDL is 100. Is that “raising the lipid profile”? Doesn’t worry me. Saturated fat is the GOOD fat.

  15. GEM

    Actually, the best coconut macaroons have nothing but coconut, sugar, and egg white, with a tiny bit of vanilla and rice flour. The coconut provides ALL the fat!
    These are not your Voortman or Nabisco macaroons; you’d make them at home or buy them at a store like Whole Foods. They work wonderfully, but two of them contain 7 g saturated fat, which is entirely from the coconut.

  16. GEM

    Are you referring to salmon patties? Mom made them, and they were very tasty. Use canned red salmon, mix with crumbled crackers, form them into patties and fry the way you would hamburgers. She may have used a little egg in them to help keep them from crumbling. Good with green peas or beets.
    Some people add chopped onion to the patties.

  17. M. K.

    A recent discovery: Old fashioned, homemade cornbread made without flour is helpful for IBS. There are many variations to be found online. I’ve made some with cornmeal and gluten-free flours but still prefer yellow cornmeal only. I make a two cup recipe, then cut and freeze the leftovers. Since I don’t tolerate sweets, this is great for occasional snacks.

  18. JO

    Some people get loose bowels from Stevia.

  19. JO

    If the coconut is not working, try eliminating soy from your diet. It’s pretty hard to do, as it is in almost every processed food- including some coconut macaroons! Read every label, and if there is soy or soy lecithin, put it back on the shelf. I had diarrhea I could not get rid of and tried coconut and everything else. After keeping a food/symptom journal for 2 weeks, I discovered soy was the culprit.
    Soy allergy also makes it hard to eat out in restaurants, but it can be done. Ask questions, and especially about what kind of oil they use for deep frying. If they say “it’s not soy, it’s vegetable oil”, steer clear, as it probably contains soybean oil too. Mayonnaise (soybean oil), Crisco (soybean oil), cookies, crackers, Paul Newman’s Olive Oil dressing– you guessed it, it also contains soy oil. Read labels!!

  20. Cindy B.

    I have had to take Sotolol, a beta blocker, due to a dx of atrial fibrillation. I also take lots of magnesium as magnesium is very good for controlling heart arrythmias. Unfortunately both Sotolol and magnesium cause diarrhea, which I had until I added shredded coconut to my diet. I just take a couple big rounded tablespoons of the organic unsweetened coconut shreds that I get at my local natural foods store and that does the trick! No need to eat macaroons, which have lots of extra fat and sugar in them.

  21. Dawn D

    I just bought some shredded coconut at the local health food store (wanted to make sure it was in it’s raw form and not processed.) I’m going to start sprinkling some on my cereal and maybe make some macaroon cookies with Stevia.
    I would NOT buy your macaroons, as they are full of processed ingredients and the coconut may not actually be real coconut.

  22. CG

    Like the last person, I’m going to add this stuff to my diet but will buy the coconut macaroons. A couple cookies a day shouldn’t hurt and might do good things?? I bought a package the last time this was mentioned and ate the cookies but don’t remember if they did anything I noticed. I don’t take anything but the small aspirin daily and only aspirin if I have a pain or ?
    I do frequently eat fish and do eat yogurt daily and olive oil several days a week and cook with it. It’s interesting to me to hear others choices. …. and can anyone remember the recipe for canned salmon you fry? I know it’s made quickly because Mother made in when was running late.

  23. Miss E.

    I know coconut stops diarrhea but does it in turn cause constipation?

  24. EBZ

    Caution: Remember, however, that coconut oil is a saturated fat which raises the lipid profile.

  25. DS

    I use coconut oil for everything, from cooking to putting it on my skin after a shower. I am very glad to know HOW it works.

  26. CRH

    My doctor, a natureopathic doctor, has me take three tablespoons of coconut oil a day. I can use it anyway that I would like to. It helps with my IBS and it is helping me to get rid of body fat. My middle is coming down. I also am using the oil on my skin tags. Some have already come off after just two weeks. I don’t understand everything I’ve read about coconut oil, but I just know it works for me.

  27. J. Miljer

    I’ve been trying Archway Macaroons, Mounds and shredded coconut for months
    and it has been absolutely no help in my fight against constant diarrhea.

  28. Dawn D

    So would you recommend the shredded coconut or the oil? Definitely going to try this for my IBS!! Thank you!!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.