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Coconut for Crohn’s Supported by Science

For two decades we have heard from readers about the value of coconut for Crohn's Disease. Now we have a plausible explanation for why this remedy works!

In 1998 we received an intriguing letter from a reader of our syndicated newspaper column. Donald Agar, from Pittsfield, MA, contacted us to say he had finally overcome a long-standing battle with inflammatory bowel disease. His secret: Coconut for Crohn’s disease. Now researchers have come up with a possible explanation for why coconut might have been so successful for Mr. Agar.

Donald Agar’s story:

Don was born on August 6, 1932. When his beloved wife Joan died, Don had to fend for himself. That meant shopping and cooking for himself. It was his choice of dessert that led to this letter to The People’s Pharmacy in 1998:

“I have had Crohn’s disease for 40 years, and during that time I have had a never-ending battle with diarrhea. Lomotil helps some, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem.

“Three months ago, I bought a box of Archway Coconut Macaroon cookies. I’ve been eating two a day and I have not experienced diarrhea in that time. If by chance I eat three in a day, I get constipated. Believe me, I have a new life now.

“My brother-in-law has a friend who just had cancer and suffered diarrhea as a consequence of the operation. We told him about the cookies and they corrected his diarrhea. I would be delighted if others were helped by my discovery, too.”

What It’s Like to Live with Crohn’s Disease:

People with Crohn’s disease have an inflammatory condition that can make their lives miserable. For reasons that remain mysterious, the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract. This onslaught can lead to abdominal cramping, frequent diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and fever.

Inflammation within the digestive tract can lead to ulceration and scar tissue. Rectal bleeding is not uncommon. Clearly, this form of inflammatory bowel disease requires expert care from a gastroenterologist.

Some people become prisoners in their own homes. One person described the situation this way:

“I was afraid to go anyplace because I never knew when I’d get an uncontrollable attack of stomach cramps and diarrhea. Sometimes I’d have 4 to 5 ‘Montezumas’ in a day. Even being at home, I couldn’t always make it to the john on time. I had to do a lot of laundry for a year. The floor got washed more than usual as a result of my accidents. I went to a couple of different doctors and got various prescriptions. No, they did not work.”

Drug Treatment for Crohn’s:


Usually Crohn’s is treated with drugs that can reduce inflammation. These may include corticosteroids like prednisone. During an acute flareup, corticosteroids may need to be injected intravenously or administered rectally. Long term treatment with steroids carries significant risks. Here is a link to this “deal with the devil.”

Donald Agar was prescribed so much prednisone over the 40 years he struggled with Crohn’s that he developed osteoporosis. He had to have two hip replacement surgeries as a consequence of the steroid’s negative impact on bone.

Biologics That Suppress the Immune Reactions:

These drugs are prescribed to damp down an overactive immune response. They include drugs like:

  • Humira (adalimumab)
  • Cimzia (certolizumab)
  • Remicade (infliximab)
  • Tysabri (natalizumab)

To learn more about the pros and cons of these TNF (tissue necrosis factor) blockers, go to this link.

Doctors also prescribe antibiotics like ciprofloxacin (Cipro) or metronidazole (Flagyl). They too have some unpleasant side effects. Read more at this link. Sometimes surgery is required when all else fails.

a coconut and coconut oil on a spoon, cook with coconut oil, coconut oil good

New Research involving Coconut for Crohn’s:

A study in mice suggests that changing the diet might be beneficial in treating Crohn’s. These mice with intestinal inflammation were fed a high-fat diet. The fats used were derived from plants and included coconut oil and cocoa butter. This diet changed their microbiome (bacterial ecology) significantly and reduced the inflammation found in their digestive tract.

So far, this research has been done only in mice. The researchers anticipate identifying the beneficial bacteria and offering them as probiotics to Crohn’s disease sufferers. They will also be conducting research to see whether coconut oil or cocoa butter are helpful in the diet of these patients.

[Reported at Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago, Illinois, June, 2017]

What’s Going On with Coconut for Crohn’s:

Over the last two decades we have received hundreds, if not thousands, of messages about the value of coconut for Crohn’s disease. Until this week we didn’t have a great explanation for how this remedy might be working.

People suggested that there was something in coconut oil that had anti-bacterial activity. They speculated that this compound might suppress the microbes that were causing an overactive immune reaction. Lest you think this is all nonsense, here is a link to an article demonstrating that virgin coconut oil (VCO) does indeed have antibacterial activity against the bad actor Clostridium difficile (C. diff). It was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (Dec. 2013).

Now we suspect that specialized fats in coconut may also modify the bacterial balance within the bowels. Mice fed coconut oil or cocoa butter were reported to have less inflammation within their intestinal tracts.

Stories from Readers: Coconut for Crohn’s

Not everyone benefits from coconut. Some people are disappointed that their symptoms do not respond to coconut macaroon cookies. Others, though, have been delighted with the outcome. Here are just a few reports and some links to articles you may find of interest.

Rose in Florida says:

“Archway-brand coconut macaroons absolutely work! Best tasting medicine ever. Two cookies will quell the worst attack-better than any drug that I have tried!

V.F.C. added:

“I lost my entire summer due to Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis. I have used Imodium daily for at least last 5 years. When my daughter told me to give macaroons a try, I thought, oh well. BUT SHE WAS SO CORRECT. It has stopped the diarrhea. Thank you, Archway.”

Not Just Coconut for Crohn’s:

Tom in Conway, AR, shared this galling experience:

“I had gallbladder removal and was shocked by the consequences. I wasn’t told about this. After every meal I had diarrhea. I have a super wife. She is my best friend. She searched the internet for information about my problem and found many others telling similar stories.

“The most effective has been the Coconut Macaroon Cookies she found at one of our two local Kroger Stores in Conway. I read on this site that Archway was out of business, BUT found that a company called HOMESTYLE had taken up the recipe. Not certain but believe it is a Kroger Generic Brand Name.”

Archway is back in business with their Coconut Macaroon Cookies. Some people prefer their brand. Others have come up with different recipes to provide coconut for Crohn’s disease.

Danii offered this variation on the theme:

“Simple coconut treat to help diarrhea: 1 TBSP coconut oil (cold pressed-organic), 1 TBSP raw honey (I use organic farm raw honey) And 3-4 round TBSP of unsweetened coconut flakes.

“Mix oil and honey together until smooth, then add flakes. I like it more on the dry side so I add more flakes. You can shape them into balls or flatten them like thin mint cookies and place them in the refrigerator. I snacked on a few and sipped on coconut water. Diarrhea gone in a day.

“I just read about pineapple helping with the inflammation, so next time I’ll either add pineapple juice to my water or a few pineapple pieces in the the coconut treats.”

Yulala reports that just coconut works for diarrhea:

“Macaroon Cookies are too sweet for me. I prefer coconut powder over macaroon cookies. So I keep some unsweetened, 100% organic, shredded coconut in the freezer. I just take 2 teaspoons of coconut powder ( it will taste better if 1/2 teaspoon of sugar is added). It will do the job, no sweat! It works for my dogs too.

“An 8 oz package of unsweetened, 100% organic, shredded coconut cost $4.99 at Food Lion Supermarket. Good buy.”

Deb in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, offers a similar story:

“I have found, due to a tip from People’s Pharmacy, that unsweetened shredded coconut solves this problem for me without the sugar contained in Archway Coconut Macaroons. I buy Bob’s Red Mill brand from the health food section of my super market. I mix it with yogurt – prob. 3 t per 8 oz. yogurt. I eat about 2 to 3 T of this mix with my breakfast and again at bedtime if I think of it.”

W. Morse added this perspective: chocolate covered coconut Mounds candy bar

“Coconut controls my son’s ulcerative colitis. I sprinkle roughly one tablespoon of coconut flakes on his yogurt in the morning and give him an individual Mounds bar for lunch. This has worked for a few years now. We started coconut therapy after hearing your program with Donald Agar. Thank you so much.”

DIY Cookies:

For those who would prefer to make their own coconut macaroon cookies, here is a recipe a listener to our radio show shared:

Recipe for Coconut Macaroon Cookies:

2 2/3 cups shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
4 egg whites

Mix ingredients well, drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees (or until lightly brown). Remove immediately from cookie sheet when done.
Carolyn from Virginia kindly shared this recipe, which her grandchildren love.

More articles about Coconut for Crohn’s:

Coconut Cookies Eased Crohn’s Symptoms

Special Diet Plus Coconut Controls Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Did Coconut Save Man’s Life?

Share your own coconut for Crohn’s story below in the comment section.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I’m very happy for those of you that coconut helps. I got so sick Nov 2004 and had emergency surgery. It was my 1st surgery for Crohn’s. I was informed there would be many more to come. I was given a list of foods I could never eat again. Seeds of any kind in any foods, no nuts of any kind along with the oils that come with them. No peanut butter, no tomatoes unless I remove all the seeds, foods with nuts, I’ve had to make w/out the nuts. As the years have gone by I no longer can eat carrots, they really give me such pain it’s just unreal. I was 51 yrs old when my world changed totally. There is no corn and no black pepper because you don’t digest those anyway. No beans of any kind except black beans they don’t seem to bother me, but no other kind. I also love green beans but no can do and no celery. Very important though is no raw veggies at all. They have to be cooked or not eaten. I learned this fact the hard way. I do take a lot of meds plus the Humira Shot every week. My Crohn’s doctor has me keep tabs on my bathroom trips and since I write everything down anyway I just make a spot for those. I’ve had 3 Hernia surgeries due to Crohn’s. I’m now put together with bits and pieces and not enough for anymore surgeries. Crohn’s starts at your mouth and affects just about every organ in your body, not the heart though nor the lungs. I’ve left those to COPD. We are keeping an eye out for MS because sometimes that shows up with a Crohn’s patient. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one. Coconut is something I can’t have either because it gets stuck in my stomach, or liver, or one of the other parts. No oil from it either just like no peanut oil. Crohn’s affects the eyes so watch for that. Being 65 I have already had Cat surgeries. They were so bad I didn’t dare try to drive, but now I can. hahahaha
I wish you all great luck with your new find. Congrats to y’all.

I recently had to try the coconut to control the runs. I did not have macaroons but I mixed 1 to 2 Tablespoons of flaked coconut in about 1/2 cup of Greek plain yogurt and another time the same amount of coconut in a spoonful of peanutbutter. Both really helped my problem within a day.

I have chronic microscopic collagenous colitis…have never tried coconut when I have a flare; but I will next time. Has anyone had experience with this?

Just wondering if these coconut cookies would work on Interstitial Cystitis? IC is an inflammatory disease and many Drs. believe it is an immune disease also.

I’m going to try it now.

I’ve written this before…. but eating a couple big tablespoons of shredded coconut (and you can get it without any added sugar) does exactly the same thing as the macaroons, and you get to skip the extra sugar and calories in the cookies.

I have added to this discussion once before. After gall bladder removal in 2014, I started having bouts of osmotic diarrhea leading to nausea and dehydration then to hospital. I could no longer go to meetings or even shopping safely. I remembered the macaroon stories from this column and decided to try it. Two macaroons a day plus a cup of ginger tea, and I no longer miss meetings or have to stay at home all the time. It is not a perfect cure, but it does work well
for me and I am grateful to know about it. And I buy my Archway macaroons at Kroger,
Albertson’s, and sometimes Walmart here in Dallas, Texas.

If Archway would get frankenfats out of their products, this would be a safe recommendation. I am almost sure whipworms was the cure for Crohn’s from NC State.

I think I need to get some of these cookies to eat the next time I have a problem with the “potty-a-lotty’s”. I read recently that Imodium/Loperamide is bad for you, so I want to quit using that. It would be great if the coconut cookies work out.

In 2004 I was in New York City and there was a blackout (the whole city) for several hours. I got soooo sick with uncontrollable diarrhea (I have IBS).

I ended up in the hospital for several hours. Finally I went back home (another city 3 hours away), continued with diarrhea even with antibiotics and other meds.

It was at home, tired of taking meds, that I asked my husband to go to the store and get me a bottle of coconut water or something with coconut. After I drank the coconut water, one hour later, it was gone….no more diarrhea.

Just curious! Will the macaroons or coconut help with diarrhea that is not Crohn related, say, upset tummy and diarrhea from food poisoning? Anyone have any feedback on this? ? Thanks.

I usually have a coconut macaroon cookie when I have a gassy stomach. And one cookie usually helps. I like the ones they have at Wegmans in their bakery department. I keep some on hand and even though they may get hard, they are still good and still do the trick.

Savealot food stores have inexpensive coconut macaroon cookies, too. $1.00 for a box. Good and cheap! and works for diarrhea.

We can no longer get Archway macaroons locally . Kroger used to carry them, but said Archway had discontinued these cookies. Thanks for the recipe.

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