Ah, the mighty coconut. Few superfoods can claim quite as many uses as the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocus nucifera). In nature’s brilliant all-in-one package, coconuts offer so very much—potable water, a high-calorie and high-fat food, fiber to make rope with, and a hard shell that can be turned into activated charcoal.
Coconut “meat,” the delicious white inside of the fruit, is just as wonderfully multipurpose all on its own, and can be eaten as is or made into nutrient-dense milk, cream, or oil. It’s no wonder the coconut palm is often referred to as the Tree of Life!
Each unique part of the coconut has its own benefits, but coconut oil is arguably one of the most healthy and useful derivatives of this delectable tropical tree.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is derived from the meat of the coconut fruit. To make virgin (also called “extra virgin”) coconut oil, coconut meat is either quickly dried and then pressed to extract the oil, or a machine presses the fresh “wet” meat to yield milk and oil, which is then separated by enzymes, fermentation, or centrifuge machines. This unrefined coconut oil has a luxurious, buttery feel with a slight coconut-y taste and smell.
Applied topically, coconut oil is a virtual panacea for the outside of your body. It soothes skin, softens hair, and can even hydrate and moisturize your cuticles and nails. But, what kind of benefits does it have for your innermost sanctum and foundation of health, your gut?
Organic Coconut Oil and Gut Health
As you know, we believe that living a gut healthy life is absolutely paramount to lifelong health, vitality, and well-being. Fortunately, it turns out that versatile coconut oil is every bit as good for your gut as we had hoped! Here’s how coconut oil keeps your gut in tip top shape.
1. Maintains a Balanced Microbiome
At its core, gut health entails having enough beneficial microbes in your microbiome to keep you firing on all cylinders physically, mentally, and emotionally. In a healthy, balanced microbiome, you’d have 85% of these “good guys” and only 15% of the bad guys that can cause issues. Unfortunately, many factors in modern life contribute to an out-of-balance microbiome...and that’s when the bad guys start to take over.
Lauric acid—which makes up about 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil—along with monolaurin, a byproduct of lauric acid digestion, can help keep all those inhospitable microbes at bay so the friendly flora can really thrive.1,2,3,4
What’s more, not only can coconut oil inhibit the bad guys, but studies indicate that dietary virgin (unrefined) coconut oil can actually lead to significant increases in beneficial Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, and Bifidobacterium species.5
2. Soothes the Digestive Tract
Just think how comforting coconut oil feels on dry, irritated skin. Now, imagine that same sensation as it makes your way from your mouth all the way down to your gut, coating and soothing along the way.
With its velvety texture, using coconut oil as a balm for skin and hair is a no-brainer. The good news is that, taken internally, coconut oil also works to calm and soothe the delicate (and sometimes irritable!) intestinal tract.6 This, in turn, helps you maintain a strong gut barrier for peak immune and overall health.
3. Supports Healthy Weight Management
Unlike most oils, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized much more efficiently than the more often consumed long-chain triglycerides. In fact, rather than having to go through the whole digestive process like other fatty acids (and depositing themselves in fat tissue along the way), the MCTs go straight from your gut to your liver, where they can be used as an instant energy source.4
This rapid release of energy can stop sugar cravings (often the result of low energy feelings) in their tracks! And the high-quality fat in coconut oil can be very satiating, allowing you to keep sugary junk foods out of sight, out of mind.
Studies also suggest that coconut oil can benefit gut health by supporting a favorable resting metabolic rate and encouraging healthy weight management.7,8 When your body is at a healthy weight, you tend to have more beneficial strains of bacteria (those all-important “good guys”), and therefore better overall gut health, than people who struggle with weight issues.9
Crave the Coconut
It’s clear that coconut oil benefits and gut health go hand in hand. So, how do you incorporate this wonder oil into your daily routine? You can purchase unrefined virgin coconut oil by the jar and spoon it into smoothies and other recipes (or just eat it by the spoonful!). We love the convenience of organic coconut oil capsules—just two capsules a day and you’re ready to support your gut from the inside out!
As you discover the glorious coconut and all it has to offer, remember to keep your gut health top of mind by proactively replenishing the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome on a daily basis. With formulas to support men, women, children, and pets, we’ve got everything you need to keep your friendly flora going strong day in and day out.
1. Kabara, J. J., Swieczkowski, D. M., Conley, A. J., & Truant, J. P. (1972). Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 2(1), 23-28. doi:10.1128/aac.2.1.23
2. Lieberman, S., Enig, M. G., & Preuss, H. G. (2006). A Review of Monolaurin and Lauric Acid:Natural Virucidal and Bactericidal Agents. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 12(6), 310-314. doi:10.1089/act.2006.12.310
3. Yang, H., Chen, J., Rathod, J., Jiang, Y., Tsai, P., Hung, Y., . . . Huang, I. (2018). Lauric Acid Is an Inhibitor of Clostridium difficile Growth in Vitro and Reduces Inflammation in a Mouse Infection Model. Frontiers in Microbiology, 8. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.02635
4. Dayrit, F. M. (2014). The Properties of Lauric Acid and Their Significance in Coconut Oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, 92(1), 1-15. doi:10.1007/s11746-014-2562-7
5. Mitic-Culafic, D., Djurasevic, S., Todorovic, Z., Knezevic-Vukcevic, J., Djordjevic, J., & Nikolic, B. (2019). Effect of virgin coconut oil on caecal microbiota composition in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 333, 012080. doi:10.1088/1755-1315/333/1/012080
6. Intahphuak, S., Khonsung, P., & Panthong, A. (2009). Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical Biology, 48(2), 151-157. doi:10.3109/13880200903062614
7. Papamandjaris, A. A., White, M. D., & Jones, P. J. (1999). Components of Total Energy Expenditure in Healthy Young Women Are Not Affected after 14 Days of Feeding with Medium-Versus Long-Chain Triglycerides. Obesity Research, 7(3), 273-280. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00406.x
8. Assunção, M. L., Ferreira, H. S., Santos, A. F., Cabral, C. R., & Florêncio, T. M. (2009). Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity. Lipids, 44(7), 593-601. doi:10.1007/s11745-009-3306-6
9. Tilg, H., & Kaser, A. (2011). Gut microbiome, obesity, and metabolic dysfunction. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 121(6), 2126-2132. doi:10.1172/jci58109
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.