The Great Coconut Obsession

by 1264 · October 13, 2013 at 05:31 AM

If there's one thing the paleo gurus love, it's coconut. Coconut seems to be the predominant ingredient in most paleo recipes; Dr. K says you should consume it religiously for leaky gut; it's prescribed for candida and bacterial overgrowth--and the list goes on and on and friggin' on.

However, there seem to be a lot of people that do not tolerate coconut at all. Any thoughts as to why this is?

Could it be the guar gum? Possibly the fructans/fructose?

I personally don't seem to tolerate it very well, and had avoided it while being on the Blood Type diet. I'm not saying there's much stock in that diet mind you (although I was Blood Type O rolls eyes). Rather, I'm curious what people's experiences have been with coconut. If you had digestive issues, when you corrected them, were you able to tolerate coconut better? Did you notice issues improve when you stopped using it?

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18 Replies

16813 · June 06, 2012 at 10:19 AM

To expand on my comment:

Coconut milk, chips/shredded, flour, water, and oil are completely different things though they come from the same nut.

Coconut Oil to me seems the most interesting as it both contains safe saturated oils, and MCTs, which are very beneficial and easily convert to ketones. They seem to be very useful for folks whose brains can no longer handle glucose properly (i.e. Alzheimer's/aka "Type 3" diabetes as per Dr. Bruce Fife et al.)

MCTs are very useful when you're trying to adapt to a low carb diet if that's your goal, and can raise your heart rate, burning more calories as well. You can easily overdo it by doing nothing but coconut oil and coffee, which will completely kill your appetite, and then you get a cortisol spike which is necessary to kick in gluconeogenesis to provide glucose for blood sugar and brain cells.

MCTs are can also attack some viruses and some bad bacteria without harming the good bacteria. Depending on your gut flora, this can cause an imbalance, so of course you can get gut issues.

Another benefit is that since the MCT oils don't get processed by the same pathway as other oils, you can give your liver a rest, so it can heal, and build up bile levels.

When you're first starting out on coconut oil, it's dose dependent. If you take too much at once (for some people it's as low as a tablespoon), you can easily get the runs because your digestive system cannot produce enough bile to deal with the amount of fats coming in. You'd get the same issue with butter or any oil if you over did it. Over time, you can do several tablespoons a day, and not have this issue.

So if you overdo the oil, yes, you'll get the runs. Once you get used to a larger dose of oil, you won't. Some canned coconut oils have things like guar gum in them, preservatives, etc. Your constipation issues sound more like either a lack of magnesium, or lack of stomach acid/bile. I've never heard of coconut causing a Herxheimer reaction.

Then, some people have actual, real allergies to coconuts, in which case they obviously should be treated the same as wheat. They might not have the same issues to just MCT oil, so YMMV.

Coconut meat which you can find in wraps, frozen shredded meat, milk, chips, shreds, flour, (the last being defatted meat) do contain loads of fiber, and those are sugars which we cannot digest, but depending on our gut flora, gut bacteria can. As you know, gut bacteria can also digest the sugars in beans, which cause gas, well, in the same way, depending on what gut flora you have, the same might happen. Or you might have different bacteria, the beneficial kinds which can convert the fibers into fats, and all will be well.

Coconut milk in a can, I love the stuff, and I'm probably both a coffee and coconut milk addict, but you can have a reaction to the preservatives, or if Guar gum or other additives are added in, to that, or have issues with the BPAs in the can lining.

I've recently seen "Silk" brand coconut milk in stores, but it has some nasty stuff in such as carragean which is a suspected carcinogen, but they add it in so they can sell a water down product that still has the same thick mouthfeel as the stuff that's full fat and not watered down. (I've also found that things like "organic chocolate milk" aimed at kids have that stuff in it, which, if it turns out that carragean is indeed a carcinogen should be outright criminal.)

So it depends widely from brand to brand whether it will agree with you.

Coconut water is a wonderful source of potassium and a few other minerals, so it tends to be a great electrolyte/recovery drink, so you can skip the artificial crap in things like gatorade. Also, it seems that in potassium pills are for some reason limited to a very small amount (99mg), so you'd need 6-7 pills to match what's in a single box of coconut water. You could of course get it from cucumbers or bananas, but unless I've just had a very intense workout, I'll stay away from bananas.

Keep in mind that your gut flora can and does change depending on what you eat, especially the kinds of carbs/fiber you ingest, and what fermented foods, probiotics/yeasts, you ingest. Things like coconut oil, oregano oil, antibiotics will absolutely affect them, so while you might have issues with coconut today, you might not tomorrow (or vice versa). Unless it's an actual allergy, in which case, it's a whole different ballgame.

5809 · June 06, 2012 at 05:39 AM

You don't need coconut products to be paleo. Coconut shreds and flour= bomb belly for me, same with coconut milk with guar gum. Coconut oil and manna= happy magic time. If you can't do coconut, don't do coconut. It's great for the skin and for oiling up some hot wings, but if you don't dig it, don't eat it. Get your paws on some avocado oil or render your own lard and keep it in a jar for cooking (refrigerate the lard).

3512 · June 06, 2012 at 01:10 AM

I think the coconut hype is a bunch of bull. Don't get me wrong it's a healthy food, but it isn't as great as many people make out to be, and I find many people are intolerant to it. Personally, I have never been able to handle it. It use to give me diarrhea, but now it makes me constipated. For the last 2-3 weeks I have been extremely constipated, small, hard to pass stools and the only difference in my diet has been the addition of large quantities of coconut milk (the oil doesn't do this).

I know many people praise it for its gut benefits but I find it always worsens my digestion, I don't believe in the "die-off" effect either, so don't get me started. My digestion is perfect when I don't consume coconut, yet it always takes a turn for the worse when I begin to consume it again.

5744 · June 06, 2012 at 01:13 AM

Are you drinking pure coconut milk? Most, if not all of the ones I've found have additives. Many of those additives cause GI issues, not necessarily the coconut. I'm curious if the oils give you no issues but the milk does. Have you ever consumed unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut manna with similar issues?

734 · June 05, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Coconut (oil, juice & milk) is one of the main ingredients in my diet as a recovering Crohn-ulcerative colitis patient and it works tremendously well. It's obviously not just the coconut, but coconut definitely plays a big part in it.

Coconut oil simply works for so many illnesses and does so many good things in both sick and healthy people; it's amazing. I'm very skeptic about super foods, its miracles and their prophets, but this one deserves the title of a true super food, I believe.

Look at: http://www.amazon.com/Coconut-Cures-Preventing-Treating-Problems/dp/0941599604/ if you want to know more. It's a fantastic book.

15380 · June 06, 2012 at 04:00 AM

I am one of those people who cannot tolerate coconut. At one time, when I had a teaspoon, I got so sick I thought I would need to go to the emergency room. It never happened to me after consuming butter.

Before going gluten-free I could. I loved coconut and could have it with no problem.

Ever since I have started a gluten-free diet there is a whole array of things I cannot tolerate, including all nuts.

Also, somehow gluten-free diet aggravated/caused my gastritis.

I really do not have an explanation to this but I find this very strange.

Also, I did not grow up on coconuts. I grew up on gluten, meat, potatoes and cabbage. Not sure if it makes any difference.

384 · June 06, 2012 at 03:02 AM

It seems different for everyone, which makes sense since everyone is different. Some people thrive with more starch and sugars, some thrive with less. There is no one definitive answer for everyone.

One thing I find interesting is that those with true allergies most likely have leaky gut or have had one at some point in time. From what I understand, when your gut wall is permeable pretty much any protein can make its way into your blood (not just the "bad" ones like gluten). My guess is that when this happens you get a shitty luck of the dice and your body makes antibodies for coconut protein (or whatever else ails you).

I just don't believe you can be born allergic to coconuts or any other non-toxic food for no reason. I understand if your genes don't produce an enzyme or something, but getting an immune response just seems like a "learned" thing. I'm mostly illiterate when it comes to specifics of this, but can you be born with antibodies to something your parents didn't have?

To me intolerance just screams of some kind of digestive issues as the true root cause. As far as I know there's nothing gut-irritating about coconut oil. Maybe some have problems with the fiber, or misidentify increased fiber as a digestive problem.

I seem to do better when consuming coconut oil, but the milk (canned) can give me trouble if I do too much (but so can heavy cream, so...). I do know that if I run out or get tired of it I will have some loose stools when I first incorporate it back in.

311 · June 06, 2012 at 01:19 AM

Love coconut oil, my cats loved it at first taste, and I have known dogs to peel and devour their own coconuts. (I have lived and still spend time in the tropics) It has made me way less sensitive to the sun, but maybe removal of seed oils was also a factor. Am no longer prone to dandruff. My aging skin on my forearms occasionally peels back when knocked, and my usual treatment is to roll back the still attached skin, cover with micropore and drip betadine through the micropore to achieve a skin graft. On a recent camping holiday with no access to this treatment, I used coconut oil in preference to an antibiotic cream, sealed with a band-aid and the skin graft was successful! I am talking about a skin peel-back the size of a finger nail. Have always used and loved coconut products in Asian and Indian food, but only started using the oil 6 months ago.

1019 · June 06, 2012 at 12:05 AM

The worst my skin has ever been in my life was when regularly consuming coconut oil and drinking coconut milk.

32177 · June 06, 2012 at 12:00 AM

Google FODMAPS. Coconut meat/milk/flour can be a problem. Oil is fine.

15 · June 05, 2012 at 11:19 PM

I have major digestion/intolerance issues, and recently I started experimenting with coconut milk. It was HORRIFIC. I won't go into details but I'm sure you know what I'm hinting at (tip: it involves a bathroom).

I still use coconut oil.

I don't know why it is, considering all the health benefits it's suppose to possess (it's even aimed towards those of us with intolerances?), but for me it seems coconut milk at least, is a no go.

12607 · June 05, 2012 at 11:08 PM

I can't eat much actual coconut (coconut meat, shredded coconut, coconut butter, etc.) before I get stomach issues. My hypothesis is that its due to the relatively high content of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber seems to be way worse for my gut than soluble fiber and I think evidence shows this is true for most people.

I do fine with the oil, though I've grown a bit sick of the taste. I prefer animal fats.

993 · October 13, 2013 at 05:31 AM

Even though coconuts are wonderful, if you don't tolerate coconuts for whatever reason, just don't eat them

30 · October 12, 2013 at 05:21 PM

For some people coconut is not an option. From negative digestion responses to just plain taste aversion. For others, like myself, it was the missing link. I had hit a wall well over a year ago in fat loss and health gain and the introduction of organic coconut oil, made all the difference. I fry my eggs and veggies in it as well as ingest 3-6 table spoons a day melted in some hot tea or coffee. For about 2 days I was well suited near a restroom but after that it was smooth sailing fat loss with incredible natural energy. The energy I have during workouts also has a notable significant change. Anyone wanting to try implementing coconut into their diet should try with oil first. They should also give their body a couple days to adjust. Another great high calorie high fat coconut product is Thai kitchen coconut milk, in a can. Its 700 calories and 70 grams of fat and definitely played a part building me some extra muscle. Mix it with raw egg yokes, almond butter, and ice (I've added some healthy protein powder as well) and you are talking about a concrete awesome smoothie that is NOT high in carbs.

Stay Healthy @Jon 11!

Adam Chevalier

p.s. This caveman doesn't know technology so well so enjoy this post here and in the comments. ; )

0 · January 19, 2013 at 06:07 PM

I dont remember having problems with Coconut, however since starting paleo every time I ingest Coconut I have terrible gas and bloating

I started paleo because of candida

I also cant do almond flour - as almonds cause herpes simplex (cold sores) breakouts

Starting to think i will never be able to eat any baked goodies ever again

0 · August 15, 2012 at 12:01 AM

when i took the grains out of my diet suddenly i could tolerate many foods better, including nut butters and dairy (though in general i don't do that well with dairy, but not nearly so bad as when i was eating grains). but there are a lot of other ways to cook and bake. coconut is just one.

1498 · June 06, 2012 at 12:28 PM

This is a great response!

12804 · June 06, 2012 at 02:22 AM

The fiber can be allergenic and unrefined coconut oil can have allergens too. Try refined coconut oil and see if you can tolerate that.

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