Fun fact: The Internet is riddled with hilarious anecdotes wherein MCT addicts find themselves running to the bathroom after enjoying a supercharged coffee. (But like, don’t Google this—it can get pretty gross.) Why, I wondered after reading innumerable stories—it was a bit of a rabbit-hole situation—does this occur, and can it be prevented?
According to board-certified nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner Dana James, the answer is pretty simple. “MCT oil doesn’t cause diarrhea more than any oil,” she says. “Oils, such as castor oil, have long been used as a laxative.” Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council, however, adds that MCT oil does specifically contain isolated fatty acids like caprylic acid that are digested extraordinarily quickly and may mildly bother the gut lining at high doses. This irritation can then signal your digestive system to dump.
If inducing a bowel movement of any consistency is not your intention, James suggests cutting back on the amount of MCT oil you’re imbibing. Also, given that coffee is known to have a laxative effect as well for some portions of the population, partnering the two may spell disaster for some people. “Adding MCT to coffee is a sure-fire way to elicit a bowel movement because the fat seems to enhance the stimulatory effect of caffeine,” James explains.
She actually doesn’t recommend use of MCT oil in her practice at all because it’s processed rather than natural. “I would prefer someone to use coconut oil, which is 70 percent MCT and the remainder LCT,” she says. “There’s something about the wisdom of nature which we as humans can only ever hope to understand.” If you aren’t ready to ditch the cult-beloved oil, however, Dana Hunnes PhD, RD, a senior dietician at UCLA Medical Center, tells me that those who experience the diarrhea side effect should try to take their MCT oil with food, in a meal setting. (I should also note that she doesn’t believe the oil should cause diarrhea and has patients who take it in a hospital setting without issue.) Dr. Axe agrees and further suggests splitting up your serving throughout the day, taking doses about three to four hours apart. “Additionally, taking a digestive enzyme with lipase can help ease symptoms,” he says.
According to my extensive “MCT oil + diarrhea” forum research online, the “disaster pants” phenomenon does seem to wane for many users with continued usage over time, too. Just don’t do what this guy did.
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