Coconut oil has been all the buzz lately. Many Doctors on TV have been recommending it as a way to treat thyroid disorders.
Will coconut oil cure your hypothyroidism?
But it can help with the symptoms of hypothyroidism and help support your thyroid help.
In addition to the health benefits it provides, coconut oil is incredibly versatile. You can use it in different ways – even for beauty and skincare purposes.
Numerous studies have confirmed the wonderful health benefits we can obtain through regular consumption of olive oil.
In this article, we will explore how coconut oil can help improve the health and function of the thyroid.
Coconut oil overview
Coconut oil is first extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts harvested from a coconut palm.
The natural habitat of a coconut palm is in tropical and subtropical regions; which is why it is largely prevalent in Southern and Central American countries, Africa, India, and most nations in Asia.
What many people don’t know is that coconut oil is incredibly healthy. When the term “oil” comes to mind, the last thing we think of is that it could be good for us, but in this case, that’s the truth.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon or 13g of coconut oil contains 121 calories and 13.47g of fat of which 0.2g is polyunsaturated, 0.8g is monounsaturated, and 11.21g is saturated.
It doesn’t contain cholesterol and fiber[i]. Depending on the amount, little to no vitamins are found in coconut oil.
Basically, coconut oil is abundant in healthy saturated fats that raise the levels of HDL or good cholesterol.
Is coconut oil good for thyroid?
Coconut oil has become a kitchen staple thanks to its versatility. Not only can you use it for culinary purposes, but there are many other types of applications as well.
Scientists are intrigued by this oil, which explains why they carried out studies to figure its effects on our health.
Can regular intake of coconut oil support thyroid health and function?
Yes and no. It can support thyroid health to a degree – but not directly.
While coconut oil is widely researched, there haven’t been studies that focused on its direct impact on thyroid.
However, coconut oil can still support thyroid health through multiple indirect mechanisms, as listed and described below.
Inflammation is the part of the body’s immune response to injury, viruses, bacteria, and other threats. A certain degree of inflammation is needed to heal and strengthen the immune system, but when left unresolved, it can wreak havoc on our health.
Long-term inflammation is the underlying cause of many autoimmune conditions and other diseases. An anti-inflammatory diet can help manage problems associated with inflammation, and coconut oil is a big part of it.
A growing body of evidence confirms that coconut oil has moderate anti-inflammatory effects as it has an inhibitory impact on chronic inflammation. It also has analgesic[ii] or pain-relieving effects which make this healthy fat even better.
The anti-inflammatory action of coconut oil is particularly important if we keep in mind that conditions such as hypothyroidism are also marked by inflammation.
Gupta et al. found that subclinical hypothyroidism patients have increased inflammatory markers and the problem becomes worse if the disease progresses or if left untreated[iii]. Its potential to manage inflammation makes coconut oil a valuable addition to your diet.
There are different types of fat and coconut oil that belongs to the healthy group.
Coconut oil supports weight loss and aids in weight management through multiple mechanisms[iv]:
- Coconut oil consists of medium chain fatty acids, which are metabolized in a different manner than longer chain fats. As a result, they exhibit a beneficial impact on metabolism which is crucial for weight loss and weight management
- Coconut oil is thermogenic meaning it boosts energy expenditure or fat burning
- Overeating is a major factor that leads to weight gain, and coconut oil can help with that; it suppresses your appetite to make you eat less. The fewer calories you consume, the better the weight loss
- Coconut oil can help you lose fat in the abdominal region[v]
Including coconut oil into your diet can help you slim down and keep your weight in a healthy range.
Weight management is crucial for good health and wellbeing, and it also allows you to avoid further complications if you have hypothyroidism.
One of the hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism is weight gain due to the fact that thyroid hormones regulate basal metabolism, thermogenesis, and play a role in the metabolism of lipid and glucose. When the thyroid gland doesn’t work properly and fails to produce sufficient amounts of T3 and T4, thermogenesis decreases while BMI goes up[vi].
An important part of the management of hypothyroidism is weight loss, but it can be quite tricky to lose extra weight.
That's why we need to be proactive and enrich our diet with foods that support weight loss, and coconut oil is one of them.
Slimming down and keeping weight in a healthy range will help you manage other symptoms of hypothyroidism as well.
Thyroid hormones, particularly T3, help our liver process and remove excess cholesterol from the body.
When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough T4 and T3 hormones, the liver is unable to process as much cholesterol as it should. In turn, the body removes a lower amount of LDL or bad cholesterol[vii].
In addition to weight gain, high cholesterol levels is also a symptom of hypothyroidism, especially in patients whose condition is moderate to severe[viii].
We tend to overlook the importance of managing cholesterol.
The buildup of cholesterol paves the way to serious cardiovascular problems ranging from atherosclerosis to heart attack. A healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet are crucial for keeping cholesterol levels in a normal range.
Some people may think that coconut oil boosts cholesterol because it’s fat. However, coconut oil contains natural saturated fats that increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
One study enrolled 40 women who took either coconut oil or soybean oil for 12 weeks and measured their cholesterol levels. Their findings showed that coconut oil was more effective than soybean oil in reducing LDL and elevating HDL cholesterol.
Essentially, coconut oil helps you keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range which can be incredibly useful if you have hypothyroidism as it can prevent further complications.
Stress isn't something we can avoid; it shows up at one point or the other, but we can manage it.
The problem occurs when we fail to do something about stress, and it keeps getting worse and worse. When left unmanaged, stress can be a huge threat to your health.
Mizokami et al. found that stress affects the immune system either directly or indirectly through our endocrine and nervous systems.
These immune alterations may contribute to the onset of autoimmunity and the likelihood of autoimmune disease. Stress can be one of the environmental factors for the development of thyroid autoimmunity[ix]. Conditions such as Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis are the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively, and stress can either contribute to their development or make them worse.
Evidence suggests that coconut oil can aid stress management. In addition to cholesterol-lowering effects, virgin coconut oil also reduces levels of stress hormones. Therefore, this healthy oil exhibits anti-stress effects as well, according to this study cited here[x].
Adding coconut oil to your diet can be an additional tool to decrease levels of stress hormone to prevent complications that would occur with too much stress, including those affecting thyroid.
How much coconut oil to eat per day?
Regular intake of this oil can allow us to manage our weight and cholesterol, tackle stress, lose weight, and remain healthy. Indirectly, these effects support thyroid function and aid the management of conditions affecting the thyroid gland.
When something is healthy for us, there’s a common belief that the more you eat, the better and stronger the effects. However, that’s not always the case! Moderation is crucial in a healthy diet, and coconut oil is not the exception.
In order to obtain favorable effects that coconut oil has to offer, you need to consume just the right amount.
Taking two tablespoons is a sufficient amount to obtain benefits of coconut oil without eating too much. There is no need to start with two tablespoons, though. The best thing to do is to start with a lower amount at first and work your way up to those two tablespoons.
How to use coconut oil?
Earlier in the article, we have mentioned that coconut oil was versatile, and that’s exactly the beauty of it.
If you’ve never used coconut oil before the first thing to remember is that it’s not like other oils – instead of being liquid, this oil is solid. You have plenty of options to consume this oil to obtain its health benefits.
For example, you can use it for cooking because it has a high smoke point, and it's an ideal ally in your kitchen.
Coconut oil is easy to incorporate in a wide range of recipes, but you can also add it to coffee or tea. The most practical thing to do is to try different methods to see what works for you or not.
Nowadays, it's also easy to get supplements that deliver coconut oil in a capsule form, and while it seems like a convenient intake method – the reality is different.
Most products contain 1g of coconut oil per capsule meaning you'd have to take a multitude of pills to reach two tablespoons limit, and that's not really useful.
Plus, virgin coconut oil is the best kind, so you may want to stick to that.
Multiple studies have confirmed the health benefits of coconut oil, but unfortunately, the direct relationship between coconut oil and thyroid is not fully evaluated yet.
That being said, coconut oil supports the function of the thyroid gland through various mechanisms ranging from anti-inflammatory effects to stress relief.
It’s crucial to conduct research on this specific subject to uncover the true potential of coconut oil and elucidate its potential benefits for thyroid health and disorders such as hypothyroidism.
[i] Basic report: 04047, oil, coconut. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/04047?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=coconut+oil+1+tbsp&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=
[ii] Intahphuak S, Khonsung P, Panthong A. (2010). Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical Biology; 48(2):151-157. Doi: 10.3109/13880200903062614. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645831
[iii] Gupta, G., Sharma, P., Kumar, P., & Itagappa, M. (2015). Study on Subclinical Hypothyroidism and its Association with Various Inflammatory Markers. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 9(11), BC04–BC6. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/14640.6806. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668398/
[iv] How coconut oil can help you lose weight and belly fat, Healthline. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss
[v] Assuncao ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, et al. (2009). Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids; 44(7):593-601. Doi: 10.1007/s11745-009-3306-6. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11745-009-3306-6
[vi]Sanyal, D., & Raychaudhuri, M. (2016). Hypothyroidism and obesity: An intriguing link. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 20(4), 554–557. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.183454. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911848/
[vii]. How are thyroid and cholesterol-related? Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322618.php
[viii] Martin SS et al. (2017). Thyroid Function, Cardiovascular Risk Factors, and Incident Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-00986. Retrieved from: https://www.thyroid.org/patient-thyroid-information/ct-for-patients/august-2017/vol-10-issue-8-p-9/
[ix] Mizokami T, Wu Li A, El-Kaissi S, Wall JR. (2004). Stress and thyroid autoimmunity. Thyroid;14(12):1047-1055. Doi: 10.1089/thy.2004.14.1047. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058
[x] Yeap, S. K., Beh, B. K., Ali, N. M., Yusof, H. M., Ho, W. Y., Koh, S. P., … Long, K., (2015). Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo. Experimental and therapeutic medicine, 9(1), 39–42. doi:10.3892/etm.2014.2045. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4247320/