Coconut Oil for Digestive Disorders
Excerpts from: Shilhavy, Brian & Marianity Jader, "Crohn's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, and Virgin Coconut Oil" in Virgin Coconut Oil, West Bend, Wisconsin USA, West Bend, Wisconsin, Tropical Traditions, Inc., 2005, p. 62.
you saw a newspaper headline which stated "Crohn's Disease Patients Find
Relief by Eating Cookies" you may think the editor was a little kooky. Dr.
L.A. Cohen of the Naylor Dana Institute for Disease Prevention in Valhalla New
York wouldn't think so, not if the cookies were made with coconut.
notes the ease with which medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) in coconut oil are
digested and absorbed and says they "have found use in the clinic as a
means to provide high energy lipid to patients with disorders of lipid
digestion (pancreatitis) lipid absorption (Crohn's
disease), and lipid transport (chylomicron
coconut cookies has made an impact on Gerald Brinkley, a Crohn's disease
sufferer for 30 years. "When I read that eating coconut macaroons could
ease symptoms," Brinkley says, "I decided to try them myself.
Coincidence or not, my symptoms have improved since I began eating two cookies
disease is an inflammatory intestinal disease characterized by diarrhea,
abdominal pain, bleeding ulcers, bloody stools, anemia,
and weight loss. Ulcerations can occur anywhere along the digestive tract from
the mouth to the rectum.
Ulcerative colitis is a similar disease that affects
the colon—the lower part of the intestinal tract. At times these chronic
conditions can become debilitating. The ability of the intestines to absorb
food is hampered which may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Sufferers find
that certain foods aggravate symptoms and are, therefore, constantly challenged
to find foods that they can tolerate.
Reports suggest that coconut may offer relief from symptoms and prevent
digestive distress. Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. co-author
of The People's Pharmacy Guide to Herbal and Home Remedies says during
the research for her book she heard enough testimonials about the benefit of
using coconut for Crohn's disease that she was convinced that this is one home
remedy that may have important medical significance and believes strongly that
more research should be pursued in this area.
I have also heard similar
stories. For example, one occurred in Hawaii and involved a small child that
suffered from an intestinal problem so severe that most any food, including milk,
aggravated symptoms. The child was wasting away because he couldn't tolerate
most of the foods he was given. A native Hawaiian told the mother to feed the
child the "jelly" inside an immature coconut.
She took the woman's
advice and the child thrived eating a diet consisting primarily of coconut
jelly. Knowing what we do scientifically about the digestibility of coconut
oil, it makes sense that it would be of benefit to those with digestive
enough researchers have demonstrated the benefits of coconut oil on patients
with digestive problems, including, Crohn's disease, at least since the 1980s.
The anti-inflammatory and healing effects of coconut oil apparently play a role
in soothing inflammation and healing injury in the digestive tract which are
characteristic of Crohn's disease.
properties also affects intestinal health by killing troublesome microorganisms that may cause chronic inflammation.
the cause of Crohn's disease is still unknown, many doctors feel it is the
result of a bacterial or viral infection. Stomach ulcers, for example, are
caused primarily by the bacterium H. pyloris.
bacteria bore into the stomach wall causing ulcerations and discomfort
characteristic of the condition. It's possible that this bacterium or a similar
one could also infect other areas of the digestive tract.
studies have shown that the measles and mumps viruses might be involved.
A persistent low-grade measles infection in the intestine is common in many Crohn's
and ulcerative colitis patients. The infection is localized in the digestive
tract so it does not cause a full-scale case of the measles.
Those who have had
measles or mumps in the past and now suffer from some type of inflammatory
bowel disease (1BD) such as Crohn's disease of ulcerative colitis are likely to
harbor a low-grade intestinal infection that the body
has not been able to overcome. The evidence for measles infection as a cause or
at least a contributing factor in IBD is very convincing.
In one study, for
example, 36 Crohn's disease patients, 22 ulcerative colitis patients, and 89
people free of IBD symptoms (controls) were tested. Twenty-eight of the 36
Crohn's disease patients (78%) and 13 of 22 ulcerative colitis patients (59%)
tested positive to the measles virus as compared to only 3 of 89 (3.3%)
H. pylori bacteria and the measles virus are both killed by
the MCFA in coconut oil. If the symptoms characteristic in Crohn's disease and
ulcerative colitis are also caused by these or some other microorganism
then coconut oil may be beneficial in treating these conditions.
Eating macaroons to ease symptoms of Crohn's disease,
as strange as it may sound, does have some scientific backing. For those who have Crohn's disease, ulcerative
colitis, stomach ulcers, or other digestive problems you don't have to eat
coconut cookies to get relief. Eating foods rich in Virgin Coconut Oil, which
is high in MCFAs, would work just as well if not
Digestion and Nutrient Absorption of Coconut Oil
at least five decades researchers have recognized that the medium chain fatty
acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil were digested
differently than other fats. This difference has had important applications in
the treatment of many digestive and metabolic health conditions and since that
time MCFA have been routinely used in hospital and baby formulas.
digestive health advantages of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) over long-chain
fatty acids (LCFA) are due to the differences in the way our bodies metabolize
these fats. Because the MCFA molecules are smaller, they require less energy
and fewer enzymes to break them down for digestion. They are digested and
absorbed quickly and with minimal effort.
are broken down almost immediately by enzymes in the saliva and gastric juices
so that pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes are not even essential.Therefore,
there is less strain on the pancreas and digestive system. This has important
implications for patients who suffer from digestive and metabolic problems.
Premature and ill infants especially whose digestive organs are underdeveloped, are able to absorb MCFA with relative ease,
while other fats pass through their systems pretty much undigested. People who suffer from malabsorption
problems such as cystic fibrosis, and have difficulty digesting or absorbing
fats and fat soluble vitamins, benefit greatly from MCFA.
They can also
be of importance for people suffering from diabetes, obesity, gallbladder
disease, pancreatitis, Crohn's disease, pancreatic
insufficiency, and some forms of cancer.
we get older our bodies don't function as well as they did in earlier years.
Our pancreas doesn't make as many digestive enzymes, our intestines don't
absorb nutrients as well, the whole process of digestion and elimination moves
at a lower rate of efficiency.
As a result, older people often suffer from
vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Because MCFA are easy to digest and improve
vitamin and mineral absorption they should be included in the meals of older
people. This is easy to do if the meals are prepared with coconut oil.
other fatty acids, MCFA are absorbed directly from the intestines into the
portal vein and sent straight to the liver where they are, for the most part,
burned as fuel.
fats require pancreatic enzymes to break them into smaller units. They are then
absorbed into the intestinal wall and packaged into bundles of fat (lipid) and
protein called lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are carried by the
lymphatic system, bypassing the liver, and then dumped into the bloodstream,
where they are circulated throughout the body.
As they circulate in the blood,
their fatty components are distributed to all the tissues of the body. The
lipoproteins get smaller and smaller, until there is little left of them. At
this time they are picked up by the liver, broken apart, and used to produce
energy or, if needed, repackaged into other lipoproteins and sent back into the
bloodstream to be distributed throughout the body.
Cholesterol, saturated fat,
monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat are all packaged together into
lipoproteins and carried throughout the body in this way. In contrast, MCFA are
not packaged into lipoproteins but go to the liver where they are converted
into energy. Ordinarily they are not stored to any significant degree as body
fat. MCFA produce energy. Other dietary fats produce body fat.
each of our cells is an organ called the mitochondria.
The energy needed by the cell to carry on its functions is generated by the
mitochondria. Mitochondria are encased in two membranous sacs which normally
require special enzymes to transport nutrients through them.
MCFA are unique in
that they can easily permeate both membranes of the mitochondria without the
need of enzymes and thus provide the cell with a quick and efficient source of
energy. Longer chain fatty acids demand special enzymes to pull them through
the double membrane, and the energy production process is much slower and
taxing on enzyme reserves.
of the above advantages, coconut oil has been a lifesaver for many people,
particularly the very young and the very old. It is used medicinally in special
food preparations for those who suffer digestive disorders and have trouble
digesting fats. For the same reason, it is also used in infant formula for the
treatment of malnutrition.
Since it is rapidly absorbed, it can deliver quick
nourishment without putting excessive strain on the digestive and enzyme systems
and help conserve the body's energy that would normally be expended in
digesting other fats. Medium-chain fatty acids comprise a major ingredient in
most infant formulas commonly used today.