Does MCT Oil Cause Diarrhea?

Many may have heard of claims against MCT (or medium-chain triglyceride) oils causing diarrhea. If one has had experience with MCT oils themselves, they likely know that this claim tends to be true. 

MCTs are triglycerides with fatty acids C6-C12. Capric and caprylic acids are most common in MCT oils – caprylic acid being known to cause diarrhea or an upset stomach.

Although displeasing, this side effect usually only lasts about two to three weeks. Read more on why MCT oils may cause an upset stomach or diarrhea, and how to decrease the likelihood of this continuing.

Why do MCT oils cause diarrhea?

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The human body does not naturally contain the enzymes to properly process MCT oils, and certain additives that are quite common in MCT products only worsen the issue. The body is used to LCT’s (long-chain triglycerides), which is more commonly found in the foods we eat.

Large amounts of MCT oil too quickly is simply seen by the body as an irritant or stressor, and therefore needs to be flushed out by the body. Amounts the body is not used to leads to side effects such as a stomach ache, diarrhea, bloating, and sometimes vomiting.

It is recommended to begin in smaller doses, starting at one teaspoon, to avoid as much stomach pain as possible.

What are MCTs specifically made up of?

There are four different types of medium-chain fatty acids commonly found. These include caproic acid, capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid.

Caprylic acid is known to help the body get rid of bacteria, yeast, and other infections. Due to its detoxifying properties, it triggers an immune system response, which in turn may lead to diarrhea, bloating, and other stomach issues.

Caprylic acid is also one of the most prominent ingredients found in MCT oils and is truly good for the body, treating infections, increasing the burning of fat, and much more.

Capric acid is also one of the most common ingredients in MCT oils, and acts very similar to caprylic acid. Capric acid, though, is less known to directly cause diarrhea.

Why do people use MCT oils?

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MCT oils are increasingly being used as a source of ketones. When taken as a supplement, these are known as “exogenous ketones.” Ketosis occurs when your body does not have enough glucose for energy, causing it to burns stored fats instead. This is a normal process that happens in the body, but supplements, certain diets, and more can encourage the process.

Essentially, the body metabolizes MCTs much more like carbohydrates than it does fats, meaning it can be used very quickly for energy due to the much smaller chain.

MCT oils are also known for stimulating better mental and physical performance. It is fairly common for athletes to use MCT oils for reasons such as better performance, increased burning of fat, and increased lean muscle mass.

Where does MCT oil come from?

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Although MCT is a manmade product, it is extracted from naturally occurring food sources such as coconut oil, meaning it can be consumed naturally, as well. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are both high in MCTs, and some foods such as milk and other dairy products also contain levels of MCTs.

Foods containing MCTs:

        • Coconut oil
        • Palm kernel oil
        • Butter
        • Cheese
        • Milk
        • Yogurt

What are tips for avoiding these side effects?

As mentioned previously, when introducing MCT oils into your diet, begin daily with lower amounts of MCT oil and work your way up. Recommended serving sizes tend to be one to three teaspoons, meaning begin with one teaspoon and slowly move towards three teaspoons.

Always take your MCT oils right before, during, or after a meal. Consumers and doctors alike can confirm this will greatly reduce the chances of a severely upset stomach. There are plenty of foods to consume that can include MCTs, though it’s recommended that one does not cook on high temperatures with MCT oils.

Lots of people talk of adding MCT oil to their coffee in the mornings, and while this is a great stimulant and shows benefits, coffee is a natural laxative with caffeine proving to increase these properties. That means that if you are experiencing stomach issues from the MCT oil, coffee will likely make it worse, so stear clear of this.

Try taking a digestive enzyme with lipase. Lipase can help ease digestion when it comes to fatty meals, or in this case, fatty acids in MCTs.

If you experience extreme gastrointestinal issues, or if the problem persists, consider switching to a higher quality brand, or perhaps try switching formulas. Formulas usually range from 100% capric acid, 100% caprylic acid, or a mixture of both.

If switching brands and formulas does not help the issue, considering stopping use as sometimes the body simply may not adapt well to MCTs. Incorporating amounts of naturally occurring MCTs could be a loophole around this. Possibly try the organic route through things such as coconut oil, which is sometimes up to 60% MCT oils. If you want to continue the use of MCT oils, think about consulting a doctor.

It is suggested that those with medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency do not consume caprylic acid. 

Should you use MCT oils?

The gastrointestinal side effects should not necessarily deter anyone from beginning the use of MCT oils. MCTs have proven to have great benefits on the mind and body, including an increased focus, physical performance, and burning of body fat. On top of that, it is often used for medical purposes such as managing Epilepsy, Autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.

These side effects should subside after two to three weeks, but remember that every individual may react differently.

If you are prone to have frequent stomach issues such as bloating, cramping, vomiting, or diarrhea, consider consulting your doctor before incorporating MCT oils into your diet.

Those with MCAD deficiency should not consume MCT oils.

In conclusion:

        • Begin in small doses of MCT oil
        • Incorporate MCTs with a meal or take after eating
        • Avoid using with coffee
        • Take a digestive enzyme with lipase
        • Try other brands and formulas
        • Try MCT the natural way
        • Listen to your body – consult a doctor when need be