Coconut oil has become one of the hottest trends over the past several years but at the time of writing this, the pendulum has started to swing back.
Again coconut oil is under fire for it’s ‘saturated fat’ content and the same old predictable fear-mongering is resurfacing.
While the saturated fat discussion is beyond the scope of this post, coconut, coconut milk, and coconut oil DO HAVE some health benefits and can be part of a healthy diet.
Used for cooking, sauteing, baking, as a skin moisturizer and more, coconut oil is also promoted for having medicinal properties, notably as an antimicrobial agent because it contains caprylic acid.
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What is caprylic acid?
Caprylic acid is a type of saturated fatty acid known as a medium chain triglyceride or MCT.
Other MCTs include caproic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid.
Foods contain very little caprylic acid. There are other MCTs in dairy foods though but those are mostly capra acid. Caprylic acid is found in palm oil, but of all the foods high in caprylic acid, coconut and coconut oil are the most popular. About 6.8% of the MCTs in coconut is caprylic acid.
This beneficial saturated fatty acid boasts antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s been promoted for the prevention of urinary tract infections, bladder infections, acne, sexually transmitted diseases and different types of intestinal infections.
Caprylic acid benefits
As mentioned, caprylic acid has been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties (1). In the natural health world, caprylic acid has been promoted mostly as a candidiasis albicans treatment.
Caprylic acid may benefit various skin conditions including acne. Caprylic acid appears to also help with digestive conditions too such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.
What is candida albican?
Candida albican is one of many different types of fungus that live in and on the human body. It’s the type of yeast that normally lives in small amounts in places like your mouth, belly, on your skin, genitals, and in your digestive tract.
Normally it doesn’t cause any problems. Other microorganisms that live in your body, like your gut bacteria, can keep the candida in check, as does your immune system. But when conditions are just right, the yeast can multiply and grow out of control. The infection it causes is called candidiasis
Candidiasis, or overgrowth syndrome, can present with irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms, abdominal bloating, constipation, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and even sugar cravings.
What causes candida overgrowth?
One cause of candidiasis is an impaired immune system. Both intestinal candida overgrowth and oral candida overgrowth (oral thrush) are seen in HIV/AIDS and during cancer treatment. But there are other factors that can increase the risk candidiasis (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
- Diabetes (microorganisms live in high sugar environments)
- Oral contraceptives
- A diet high in sugar and refined carbs
- Large intake of alcohol
- A weakened immune system
How to treat candida overgrowth?
Candida albicans treatment is typically antifungal medication., and rightfully so, antifungals are your true defense for a candida albican infection.
The location of the candidiasis determines the formulation of the antifungal, e.g. genital candidiasis will be treated with creams, pills or suppositories. Thrush or oral candida overgrowth will be treated with pills, liquid solutions (to gargle with) or lozenges, etc.
But is there anything food-related or food-derived that might offer support?
What does caprylic acid do to candida?
Caprylic acid has been promoted as an antifungal for intestinal candidiasis. A treatment I was first introduced to (almost 20 years ago) was by a friend who was diagnosed with candida overgrowth. She was told to put bentonite clay, psyllium husks and caprylic acid in a mason jar, shake and drink three times a day.
There is some evidence of caprylic acid’s ability to treat various health issues (7). Caprylic acid’s natural yeast-fighting abilities primarily lie in its ability to penetrate the cell membranes of candida yeast cells, causing them to die (8).
Die off symptoms
The rapid destruction of pathogens during treatment results in a negative reaction called die off syndrome. It’s also referred to as Herx reaction, which is short for Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.
Herx reaction refers to an adverse response to toxins released by bacteria and fungus when they are killed by antibiotics and antifungal medications. Symptoms of Candida die-off can be scary because they come on suddenly and make you feel crappy, very quickly.
The good news is that the die off reaction isn’t considered serious or dangerous.
- fever abd chills
- muscle aches
- rapid heart rate
- skin flushing
- skin rash
- mild decrease in blood pressure
Supporting gut health
Taking caprylic acid regularly may help to maintain the balance of microorganisms in the intestines encouraging the growth of beneficial microflora within the digestive tract, while warding any future candida overgrowth by also keeping viruses found in the gut, in check (9, 10)
Unlike antibiotics which ‘carpet bomb’ the gut and kill off lots of other bacteria and microorganisms as collateral damage, caprylic acid doesn’t; in fact, it promotes the growth of beneficial microbiota.
A balanced and diverse microbiota has been shown to support your immune function, associated with a lowered risk for allergies, better brain function, improved hormonal health, lower risk for obesity, and lower inflammations levels.
Coconut Oil vs caprylic acid
To recap, coconut oil contains caprylic acid. However, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) products such as oils and powders are positioning themselves to be superior to coconut oil in terms of MCT content.
There are four different kinds of MCTs depending on the number of carbons ‘C’: caproic acid c6 (C6:0), caprylic acid c8 (C8:0), capric acid c10 (C10:0), and lauric acid c12 (C12:0). MCTs are found in some foods including coconut oil but MCT oils and powders have much greater content of all MCTs including caprylic acid.
Most MCT products are a mix of caprylic (C8:0) and capric (C10:0), typically in a 50:50 ratio and are less expensive. If you’re looking for 100% pure caprylic acid, there are a handful of brands that make this formulation and it does come at a cost. Pure caprylic acid oils are more expensive.
Is coconut oil antifungal and antibacterial?
Yes, coconut oil does have antibacterial and antifungal properties. How? because the medium chain fatty acid lauric acid (c12), which makes up about 50% of the total fatty acids in coconut oil is converted to monolaurin once digested.
Both lauric acid and it’s derivative monolaurin have been shown to kill various pathogens and microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi (11). More specifically, these MCTs have been shown to kill common pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans (12, 13).
Coconut oil also contains a relatively small amount of caprylic acid; about 10-13% of the total fatty acid or about 1.1 to 1.4 g per tablespoon. Caprylic acid has been demonstrated to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties across a variety of health conditions (8).
How much coconut oil to kill candida?
Most advocate 2-3 Tbsp of coconut oil per day. This would provide about 2.8 to 4.2 g pf caprylic acid. Higher doses may be needed which is why you might have to switch to MCT oils or powder to get the full benefits.
What is the best coconut oil for candida?
While there are no studies comparing different qualities of coconut oil and their effect on candida, as with any food or food product, buy and use the best quality product you can that fits within your budget.
While not standardized like it is with olive oil, virgin coconut oil is coconut oil that has been mechanically processed without the use of chemicals or solvents. The oil is extracted through the use of pressure rather than complicated chemical processes. This is a more gentle method than using chemicals and solvents, and it is far less likely to damage the oil.
How do you use coconut oil as an antifungal?
Coconut oil is used topically as an antifungal for skin conditions. It is typically rubbed into the skin and skin condition such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatophilosis, etc. To treat digestive disorders, coconut oil is consumed as food. There are several ways to include coconut oil in your diet. You can bake with it, use it as cooking oil, put some on cooked vegetables, throw it into a smoothie or protein shake, put a little into your coffee or take it right off the spoon.
Caprylic acid dose
How much caprylic acid in a tablespoon of coconut oil?
Coconut oil has a mere 1.4 g of caprylic acid per tablespoon versus 7 g for a blended MCT product versus 14 g for pure caprylic acid. As you can see, caprylic acid from coconut oil pales in comparison. Coconut oil is still a perfectly good oil to use cooking etc but it may not the best if you want a potential therapeutic dose. Give it a go and see.
As a caprylic acid supplement, MCT oil a or specialty oil that’s pure caprylic acid such as Bullet Proof Brain Octane Oil, is the way to go.
What is the ideal caprylic acid dose?
This is difficult to answer. There aren’t any well-designed studies supporting the ideal dose of caprylic acid to treat candidiasis.
The usual recommended dosage is 1,000 to 2,000 mg three times a day with meals or a daily total of 3000 to 6000 mg per day.
Some suggest that you start with a smaller amount (500 mg once or twice a day) and then slowly increase your dose every two to three days until you reach the full recommended dose.
How long do you take caprylic acid?
A three-to-four month course of caprylic acid is typically used in the natural health world.
Are there any caprylic acid side effects?
Aside from the potential stomach upset, caprylic acid appears to pose little to no risk from toxicity when consumed as a supplement at levels up to 15% of total calories or about 50% of total fat. The downside is that it can cause stomach upset when taken in high doses, e.g. 1 to 2 Tablespoons of either an MCT blend or pure caprylic acid at once.
Foods high in caprylic acid
There are not a lot of foods that naturally contain caprylic acid. One hundred percent grass-fed and grass finished
In addition to coconut oil, it’s found in palm oil and naturally occurring in breast milk which is rich in MCTs. In addition to immunoglobins (proteins) that provide immune protection to breastfeeding infants, breast milk is rich in lauric and caprylic acid.
Caprylic acid is an MCT found in coconut, coconut milk, coconut oil, and palm oil.
Caprylic acid has many antibacterial and antifungal properties and is promoted as a natural treatment for infections such as candidiasis.
An alternative to coconut and palm, there are several MCT products such as MCT oils and powders.
Both MCT products and coconut oil have similar antimicrobial and antifungal benefits. Because MCT products have more MCTs, some experts argue that the antifungal benefits of coconut oil are questionable because of the relatively small amount of caprylic acid.
Those with frequent stomach problems or sensitive stomachs should exercise caution. Taking MCT products can cause stomach upset. I’ve noticed this when I’ve added it to coffee but not when I’ve used in on cooked vegetables or on salads.
Start slowly when adding MCT products to your diet. This will help you adapt.
Ultimately, both MCT products and coconut oil are beneficial, particularly for gut health. However, if your aim is to get more capric acid and caprylic acid to use as an antimicrobial, then MCT oil is probably more of what you’re after.
Coconut oil is largely lauric acid (C12). And while coconut oil is a great source of MCTs, its MCT levels are only 62–65%, much less than pure MCT oil.
It’s also important to note that MCT oil (and coconut oil for that matter), are fat. Just one tablespoon has over 13 g and 120 or so calories which add up quickly.
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