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Coconut Defeats Debilitating Diarrhea

Eating coconut can often reduce or eliminate diarrhea, whether it is due to IBS or to dietary indiscretion. Overdoing can cause constipation.

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.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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