Coconut For IBS Symptoms: Oil, Milk, Water

The word “coconut” comes from the Malay language where it means ‘watery fruit.’ The flesh of the coconut is made up mostly of water but also contains some protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Coconut, a tropical fruit, is not just a culinary delight but also a source of multiple health benefits. From its water to its oil, every part of the coconut has been associated with health advantages.

But how does it fare for those with IBS? This article delves into the multifaceted relationship between various coconut products and IBS.

Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have said that coconut helps to relieve their symptoms, including bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea or constipation. 

I will discuss the benefits and uses of coconut for people with IBS symptoms. Coconut can come in many different forms. You may find coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, and shredded coconut.

Harnessing the Benefits of Coconut for IBS

Given the diverse forms of coconut products available, it’s essential to know how to incorporate them into an IBS-friendly diet:

  • Coconut Oil: Opt for organic, extra virgin coconut oil for cooking and baking. Monitor your body’s response, especially if you’re on a low FODMAP diet.
  • Coconut Milk: Use it as a dairy substitute in recipes, but be wary of additives like guar gum that might exacerbate IBS symptoms.
  • Coconut Water: A refreshing drink packed with electrolytes, but moderation is key to avoid excessive calorie intake.
  • Shredded Coconut: A delightful addition to cereals and desserts, but as with all foods, it’s essential to observe how your body reacts.

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a saturated fat derived from the meat of mature coconuts. It’s been used for centuries in Asia and Africa as a cooking oil and for medicinal purposes to treat various health conditions.

It contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which makes it easily digestible and absorbed into the body. MCTs are also known to improve energy levels and boost metabolism to help with weight loss. 

The consistency of coconut oil varies with temperature, solidifying in cooler environments and liquefying when warm. Its diverse applications range from cooking to skincare, making it a versatile household item.

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years in Asia as a natural remedy for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. It also helps with weight loss, digestion, and even hair growth.

If you ask alternative medicine practitioners about its benefits, you’ll hear about even more. You may not find a lot of clinical research studies that back up those claims though. There are more studies about how coconut oil is a “healthy fat” and its benefits.

These are some benefits why you should consider using coconut oil in your diet:

  1. Helps With Weight Loss – One study found that when overweight women were given either olive oil or coconut oil they lost more weight than those who took no oils at all! This was true even though both groups ate about the same amount of calories each day. Researchers believe that the extra fats helped them feel fuller longer so they consumed fewer calories overall.
  2. Improves Digestion – When taken internally, coconut oil improves digestion by increasing bile production and stimulating pancreatic enzymes.
  3. Improves Cardiovascular Health – Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which can improve the good ‘HDL’ cholesterol.
  4. Prevents Hair Damage – Hair can be damaged from protein loss when exposed to some haircare products and processes, and ultraviolet rays from the sun.

How to Use Coconut Oil for IBS Symptoms

Choose a 100% organic coconut oil. An extra virgin coconut oil is a better option, similar to when choosing a type of olive oil. You can easily buy it online

There are multiple ways to ingest coconut oil to help with your IBS symptoms.

  1. Cooking Oil – Use coconut oil just like any other oil. Use it when cooking eggs, sautéing vegetables, baking, and others. 
  2. Spread – You can put coconut on your toast and bagels, instead of butter. 
  3. Drink – Add it to your warm and hot drinks, like hot tea. Start by adding 1-2 teaspoons daily to your tea to see if it helps with your symptoms. You can try up to 2 tablespoons for more severe symptoms. 

If you’re on a low FODMAP diet, 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil won’t be a problem because it’s not a carbohydrate. Coconut oil is a ‘good’ fat, but it’s still a fat, so be careful not to use it excessively. 

Coconut Milk Benefits and Uses

Coconut milk, a creamy concoction derived from the flesh of coconuts, is a staple in many Southeast Asian dishes, especially Thai. Its rich texture and subtle sweetness make it a favorite in curries, desserts, and beverages.

It has many of the same benefits as coconut oil, as well as a good source of vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, fiber, and more. 

When using coconut milk, you can treat it as a replacement for cow’s milk: 

  • Drinking – Add it to coffee and drinks
  • Soups
  • Baking
  • Cooking sauces

Coconut is dairy-free, so it’s great for those who are lactose intolerant. If cow’s milk and other dairy products flare up your IBS symptoms, try using coconut milk instead.

When buying coconut milk, be sure not to buy any that contains guar gum, because it can cause digestive issues in high amounts. This is a popular coconut milk option online

Coconut Water Benefits and Uses

Coconut water is the liquid inside young, green coconuts. Unlike coconut milk though, this liquid isn’t processed or cooked at all. Instead, it’s simply squeezed out of the shell after being harvested. 

It contains electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, and other minerals. It’s become popular as a rehydration drink after workouts because it’s low in calories and sugar. There aren’t any clinical studies to prove that it hydrates more than regular water, but people do prefer its sweeter flavor. 

Coconut water is low FODMAP and can be good for people with IBS, but be careful with drinking too much of it. Coconut water still has calories and that can lead to weight gain if you don’t exercise regularly. 

You can try drinking coconut water if you like it and keep an eye on how your body reacts. 

Shredded Coconut Benefits and Uses

This is another type of coconut product that’s becoming increasingly popular. Shredded coconut comes from dried coconut meat that’s been shredded into small pieces.

The best way to eat them is to sprinkle them over cereal, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, smoothies, etc. They also make delicious snacks when mixed together with nuts and seeds. 

They have the same coconut benefits of fiber, potassium, and phosphorus that’s good for IBS symptoms. 

There are some who say shredded coconut helps with their diarrhea. The only way to know if it will help with your individual situation is to try it. 

Coconut for IBS Final Thoughts

While coconut, in its various forms, offers numerous health benefits, its relationship with IBS is multifaceted.

It’s essential to approach coconut products with an informed perspective, understanding their potential benefits and pitfalls. By doing so, one can harness the tropical fruit’s advantages while managing IBS symptoms effectively.

There are plenty of ways to use coconut in your diet. You may want to start by trying one of these options first: 

  • Use coconut oil as a cooking fat
  • Mix 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil to hot tea
  • Add coconut milk to recipes
  • Try adding coconut flakes to cereals
  • Sprinkle coconut shreds on top of foods

If none of these work for you, then maybe you should consider taking a closer look at triggers and what they might have in common. Talk to a dietician, nutritionist, and your doctor to see how you can relieve IBS symptoms.

For more articles on IBS and food, check these articles out:


Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Kelly Chow

    Kelly first experienced IBS symptoms at the age of 24 with major-to-severe symptoms. She underwent all types of tests and experimented with many treatments before finally finding ways to manage her symptoms. Kelly has written and shared ebooks and Gluten-Free diet plans that she has used to live life like she did before IBS.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.