The antiviral, antibacterial, and anti fungal properties of the medium chain fatty acids/triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil have been known to researchers since the 1960s. Research has shown that microorganisms that are inactivated include bacteria, yeast, fungi, and enveloped viruses. Much of this research is highlighted in the writings of Dr. Mary Enig Ph.D.
Lauric acid is the most predominant MCT found in coconut oil. Regarding lauric acid, Mary Enig Ph.D writes:
Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid, which has the additional beneficial function of being formed into monolaurin in the human or animal body. Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal to destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus, influenza, various pathogenic bacteria, including listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia. Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of the free lauric acid.
Lauric acid is also prominent in the saturated fat of human breast milk, giving vital immune building properties to a child’s first stage of life. Outside of human breast milk, nature’s most abundant source of lauric acid is coconut oil.
Overuse of Antibiotics
One of the biggest problems facing modern society is the overuse of pharmaceutical antibiotics. This overuse is starting to concern many people, as new super germs that are antibiotic resistant continue to develop. The Infectious Disease Society of America reports that germs resistant to one or more drugs kill 100,000 US hospital patients a year and cost the healthcare system more than $34 billion.
Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen recently, Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, stated that antibiotic resistance could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.” Dr. Chan stated that hospitals have become “hotbeds for highly-resistant pathogens” like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, “increasing the risk that hospitalization kills instead of cures.”
Even if you are not taking antibiotics from your doctor, there is a good chance that you are getting plenty of pharmaceuticals through the foods you eat. 80% of all antibiotics sold in US go into farm animal feed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was sued in 2011 by a coalition of environmental and public-health organizations claiming the agency’s lax stance on antibiotic use in farming is leading to costly and potentially fatal infections in humans. But by the end of the year, the FDA announced they would no longer try to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed, as it was too expensive. They decided to let the industry regulate their use of antibiotics in livestock voluntarily.
Instead of relying on man-made pharmaceuticals for everything, many are now turning to natural methods to boost the body’s immune system and resist harmful viruses and micro-organisms naturally. Coconut oil is truly one of nature’s best “germ fighters.”
Coconut Oil Offers Promise for Antibiotic Resistant Germs
Some of the most promising research in recent years has been in the area of using lauric acid or monolaurin, both derived from coconut oil, in treatments for antibiotic resistant super germs. One study was conducted at Georgetown University by Dr. Harry Preuss in 2005. Dr. Mary Enig writes:
One of the most serious and intractable medical problems facing doctors today is that of antibiotic-resistant infectious microorganisms, the so-called “superbugs.” One example is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), now a common source of blood poisoning and infection in hospitals (see sidebar below). Other examples of antibiotic-resistant infectious agents include Bacillus anthracis Sterne, virulent Escherichia coli, Klebsiela pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, and Mycobacterium terrae, viruses with lipid membranes, and a number of invasive fungi.
This problem has led to interest in researching the use of natural products to enhance the treatment of infectious disease, such as coconut oil and other oils rich in lauric acid as well as herbal remedies like originum oil, substances traditionally recognized for decades for their healing properties. While there have been many testimonies–so-called “anecdotes”–about the effectiveness of such natural treatments, until recently no published studies were available to doctors that would allow them to justify their use of these protocols.
Fortunately coconut oil and other lauric oils, as well as oregano oil, have recently been the object of study in the Georgetown University laboratory of Dr. Harry Preuss in the United States and this research has resulted in several published peer reviewed papers appearing in toxicology journals in 2005.
The antimicrobial properties of both volatile aromatic oils such as origanum (oregano) oil and medium chain fatty acids such as lauric acid and its derivative monolaurin from coconut oil have shown promise in these studies. As noted by these researchers, origanum oil, used as a food-flavoring agent, possesses a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity due, at least in part, to its high content of phenolic derivatives such as carvacrol and thymol. Also, lauric acid, which is present in heavy concentrations in coconut oil, forms monolaurin in the animal body and this derivative of lauric acid can inhibit the growth of many pathogenic microorganisms.
Part of the research focused on Staphylococcus aureus. In vitro studies were performed on two strains of Staphylococcus aureus and this was followed by in vivo studies in mice. The effects of monolaurin and originum when used in combination were better than the most potent antibiotic and this research showed that these safe antimicrobial agents could be useful for prevention and therapy of Staphylococcus aureus and numerous other infections.
It is now clear and scientifically validated that the inclusion of coconut oil in the diet could and should be utilized for its preventive and healing properties.
A study done in the Philippines in 2008 found that virgin coconut oil, added to antibiotic therapy, may help relieve the symptoms of community-acquired pneumonia in kids faster than antibiotic therapy alone:
The current study included 40 children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years old. All had community-acquired pneumonia and were being treated intravenously with the antibiotic ampicillin. Half of the group was randomized to also receive oral virgin coconut oil in a daily dose of 2 milliliters per every kilogram of weight. The oil was given for three days in a row. The researchers found that the respiratory rate normalized in 32.6 hours for the virgin coconut oil group versus 48.2 hours for the control group, according to the study. After three days, patients in the control group were more likely to still have crackles than those in the coconut oil group — 60 percent of the controls still had crackles compared to 25 percent of the coconut oil group. Those in the coconut oil group also had fevers for a shorter time, had normal oxygen saturation faster, and had shorter hospital stays, but Erguiza said these findings did not reach statistical significance. How might the coconut oil work to ease pneumonia? Erguiza hypothesized that it may boost ampicillin’s effectiveness because it contains lauric acid, which is known to have antimicrobial properties, she said.
Coconut Oil and Viruses
Antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses, but the lauric acid and monolaurin derived from coconut oil has been known to destroy viruses since at least the 1960s. Dr. Mary Enig summarizes much of this research:
Recognition of the antimicrobial activity of the monoglyceride of lauric acid (Monolaurin) has been reported since 1966. The seminal work can be credited to Jon Kabara. This early research was directed at the virucidal effects because of possible problems related to food preservation. Some of the early work by Hierholzer and Kabara (1982) that showed virucidal effects of Monolaurin on enveloped RNA and DNA viruses was done in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control of the US Public Health Service with selected prototypes or recognized strains of enveloped viruses. The envelope of these viruses is a lipid membrane.
There was an instance in the US in which an infant tested HIV positive had become HIV negative. That it was fed with an infant formula with a high coconut oil content gains significance in this context and at present an effort was on to find out how the ‘viral load’ of an HIV infected baby came down when fed a diet that helped in the generation of Monolaurin in the body.
Of the saturated fatty acids, lauric acid has greater anti-viral activity than either caprylic acid (C-10) or myristic acid (C-14). The action attributed to Monolaurin is that of solubilizing the lipids …in the envelope of the virus causing the disintegration of the virus envelope.” In India, coconut oil is fed to calves to treat Cryptosporidium.7
From 1999 – 2000 a study was done at San Lazaro hospital in Manila by Conrado S. Dayrit, MD, and the affect of coconut oil and monolaurin on the viral load of HIV patients. It was found that lauric acid did bring down the viral load of HIV patients. Dr. Dayrit conducted similar studies on the SARS virus, since the coconut oil consuming Philippines population was relatively unaffected by the SARS outbreak that happened in China and other countries a few years back.
Coconut Oil Proven to be a Powerful Germ Killer
One of the claims we constantly hear against coconut oil is that there is no research to back up any of the claims to health benefits. That is simply not true, and the research behind coconut oil’s ability to fight pathogens is well documented and well-known. Much of the research is regarding components of coconut oil or specific fatty acid extractions, since such products can be patented, while coconut oil cannot, since it is a basic dietary oil. More and more people are finding out just how powerful the medium chain fatty acids are in fighting pathogens. Here are a couple more examples:
Research done in the Philippines found monolaurin from Virgin Coconut Oil to be comparable in effectiveness, or even more effective, in fighting Mycobacterium tuberculosis as antibiotic drugs streptomycin, isoniazid, rifampicin, and ethamburol. The study was conducted by Jonathan Cabardo in his dissertation for a PhD degree in biological science at the University of Santo Tomas. His adviser was Dr Delia Ontengco, a well known microbiologist and professor at the UST Graduate School.10
A medical doctor in Florida recently saw excellent results from using coconut oil in treating Helico Pyloric Bacteria in the gut in his patients. They took one teaspoon of virgin coconut oil three times a day, and saw results as good or better than taking antibiotics.
So as super germs continue to develop and antibiotics lose their effectiveness, look to coconut oil as a possible alternative that is 100% natural.
Candida albicans is yeast (or fungus) that normally inhabits our digestive system. In healthy people, candida does little harm because it’s kept in check by beneficial microorganisms, or probiotics. These “good” bacteria, however, can be easily destroyed by antibiotics, prescription medications, birth control pills, poor diet and daily stress, allowing Candida yeast to grow out of control and produce infections. Thought to affect more than 40 million Americans, Candida can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as vaginitis, weight retention, bowel disorders, ear and sinus irritation, intense itching, canker sores and ringworm.
Yeast-connected health problems occur in people of all ages and both sexes. However, women are more apt to be affected. Yeasts are especially apt to play a role in causing your health problems if you:
1. Feel bad “all over,” yet the cause can’t be identified and treatment of many kinds hasn’t helped.
2. Have taken prolonged courses of broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs, including the tetracyclines (Sumycin®, Panmycin®, Vibramycin®, Minocin®, etc.), ampicillin, amoxicillin, the cephalosporins (Keflex®, Ceclor®, etc.), and sulfonamide drugs, including Septra® and Bactrim®.
3. Have consumed diets containing a lot of yeast and sugar.
4. Crave sweets, breads or alcoholic beverages.
5. Notice that sweets make your symptoms worse or give you a “pick-up,” followed by a “let-down.”
6. Have symptoms of hypoglycemia.
7. Have taken birth control pills, prednisone, Decadron® or other corticosteroid drugs.
8. Have had multiple pregnancies.
9. Have been troubled by recurrent problems related to your reproductive organs, including abdominal pain, vaginal infection or discomfort, premenstrual tension, menstrual irregularities, prostatitis or impotence.
10. Are bothered by persistent or recurrent symptoms involving your digestive and nervous systems.
11. Have been bothered by persistent or recurrent athlete’s foot, fungous infection of the nails or “jock itch.”
12. Feel bad on damp days or in moldy places.
13. Are made ill when exposed to perfumes, tobacco smoke and other chemicals.1
Prolonged antibiotic use is believed to be the most important factor in the development of chronic candidiasis. Antibiotics suppress the immune system and the normal intestinal bacteria that prevent yeast overgrowth, strongly promoting the proliferation of candida. Systemic candidiasis is when candida spreads throughout the body, outside just the digestive tract, and it can be life-threatening.
Getting rid of candida and restoring the proper balance of healthy flora within one’s digestive system is no easy task. It takes a multifaceted approach to kill the yeast, promote the healthy microorganisms, and watching ones diet to prevent the yeast from feeding on excessive sugar. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are effective in killing off the yeast, but if this happens too quickly it can cause a “die-off” effect that is referred to as a Herxheimer reaction, which is the result of the rapid killing of microorganisms and absorption of large quantities of yeast toxins, cell particles, and antigens. Your symptoms may get worse before they improve. Tom’s story illustrates this:
I have only recently discovered coconut oil and want to relate how it caused a severe Herxheimer reaction. I’ve been battling a systemic candida yeast infection for over ten years. I have the mutated (fungal) stage and it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I recently read research reports out of Harvard and the University of Tennessee that this can be deadly and there are no phamaceuticals for it that are effective. Candida yeast can overgrow in the gut under the right conditions until it mutates and becomes an invading pathogen, moves out of the gut and grows in mass in any part of the body. When it affects a vital organ, then it can be deadly. I’ve tried everything from conventional drugs to all the natural remedies including caprylic acid but have never experienced a die off reaction as I did when I took the coconut oil and aerobic oxygen for about one week. I have subcutaneous masses on the scalp, face, buttocks, arms, and probably internally, that I can’t see. I applied the coconut [oil] heavily and would melt a large hunk in my mouth all during the day. My skin is starting to look better and I know from the reaction that it killed off a lot of candida. The Herxheimer reaction is a welcome sign that you are doing something right. In cases where people are suffering with a chronic problem there may be a quick and somewhat adverse reaction. The “die-off effect,” or Herxheimer Reaction, refers to symptoms generated by a detoxification process. As the body begins to deal with dead microbes, one may experience a vareity of detox symptoms. I am now recovering from the reaction and will start another round of coconut oil. [This oil] is something I will not be without for the rest of my life. Brian, thanks for all your efforts in bringing this to market.
Research on Coconut Oil and Candida Yeast
There is good research now that shows the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil kill candida yeast. Caprylic acid is one of the fatty acids found in coconut oil that has been used for quite some time in fighting candida yeast infections. William Crook, M.D., the author of The Yeast Connection and the questionnaire above, reports that many physicians have used caprylic acid successfully for yeast infections and that it works especially well for those patients who have adverse reactions to antifungal drugs.
Besides caprylic acid, two other medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil have been found to kill Candida albicans. A study done at the University of Iceland showed “capric acid, a 10-carbon saturated fatty acid, causes the fastest and most effective killing of all three strains of Candida albicans tested, leaving the cytoplasm disorganized and shrunken because of a disrupted or disintegrated plasma membrane. Lauric acid, a 12-carbon saturated fatty acid, was the most active at lower concentrations and after a longer incubation time.”(2) This study shows great promise that all the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil work together to kill Candida albicans. A study done in Japan in 2012 found that four of the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid, were effective in fighting oral candidiasis.(3)
A study was done in Nigeria in 2007, in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Parasitology, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria, that specifically examined coconut oil’s role in combating candida, since common antifungal drugs were becoming “antimicrobial resistant.” The purpose of their study:
“The emergence of antimicrobial resistance, coupled with the availability of fewer antifungal agents with fungicidal actions, prompted this present study to characterize Candida species in our environment and determine the effectiveness of virgin coconut oil as an antifungal agent on these species.” Their conclusion: “It is noteworthy that coconut oil was active against species of Candida at 100% concentration compared to fluconazole. Coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species.”(4)
One important action of medium chain fatty acids killing candida yeast, is that the antimicrobial actions do not apparently affect beneficial bacteria, often referred to as “pro-biotics,” which are essential in overcoming candida infections. A study conducted at the University of Minnesota in 2010 showed that a monolaurin based gel (derived from lauric acid) did not affect Lactobacillus negatively, but significantly reduced Candida and G. vaginalis.
The Coconut Diet Anti-Yeast Program
In addition to Virgin Coconut Oil, if you suspect that you have a candida yeast overgrowth, we strongly recommend you supplement your diet with strong probiotics to balance the flora in your intestinal tract and rebuild your immune system. Traditional fermented foods are one of the best additions you can make to your diet, while eliminating refined sugars and simple carbohydrates that the yeasts feed upon.
Fermented milk called “Kefir”, a yogurt-like drink, is one traditional food originating from the Caucasus region of Central Asia and Turkey. It is best to make this drink yourself from real Kefir grains, rather than purchasing ready-made Kefir drinks, or kits that only contain “starter cultures” without the actual self-propagating Kefir grains. The best non-commercial website on Kefir, with links on where to obtain real Kefir grains, is: users.chariot.net.au run by Dominic N. Anfiteatro in Australia.
Other great traditional fermented foods and beverages would include sauerkraut, kimchee, chutney, and kombucha. Make sure they are not pasteurized, which would kill all the beneficial microorganisms.
So to summarize the Coconut Diet Anti-Yeast program:
1. Slowly work up to at least 3.5 tablespoons of Virgin Coconut Oil into one’s diet.
2. Add traditional fermented foods to one’s diet.
3. Eliminate sugars and simple carbohydrates (white breads, pasta, etc.) as much as possible from your diet.
Brian and Marianita Shilhavy