Ok guys, it’s time for a serious heart-to-heart. Between the many, many claims about coconut in the media lately and from what I’ve observed about coconut in my private practice, I can’t bite my tongue about it any longer.
It’s not that I don’t like coconut (quite the contrary), it’s just that the media/bloggers/folks in the public eye have a way of taking something that could be beneficial in certain applications and promoting its widespread use to EVERYONE across the board without warnings or restrictions.
This is probably going to be a heartbreaking post for some, but this needs to be said.
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Coconut has been touted as being a super mega ultra duty health food the last few years…
Coconut has been pushed heavily in the paleo circles; there are countless claims that it can do things like “shed pounds fast”, “reverse autoimmune disease”, “cure Alzheimer’s”, “fix your thyroid”, among others; and bloggers have concocted articles about the thousands of different ways you can use coconut. For these reasons and more, it shouldn’t be a huge shock that coconut use has gone waaaay up.
Here’s the problem: purely from an immunological standpoint, dousing yourself with coconut oil everyday, eating coconut oil by the spoonful, and using various forms of coconut in virtually every dish under the sun is very likely going to come back to bite you in the ass.
When you expose yourself to the same foods over and over and over again, day after day, you’re increasing the likelihood of developing sensitivities to those foods (especially so if you have other forms of stressors in your life).
What does that mean to you?
The very foods that you think are super healthy could actually end up making you seriously sick.
What kind of sick, you ask?
Think IBS type of sick. Or fibromyalgia type of sick. Or rheumatoid arthritis type of sick. Or chronic, unrelenting, unmerciful migraines type of sick. Or any number of other inflammatory conditions and symptoms.
When you eat foods you’re sensitive to, it causes inflammation in your body. That means that your white blood cells are viewing those foods as a threat… and, what do the white blood cells do to their enemies? They release chemical weapons on them, of course! While the weapons used can be quite effective against the actual threat, harm is being done to your body as well (think collateral damage), which you feel in the form of symptoms.
Inflammation can affect just about any part of your body, so symptoms are widespread and will vary from person to person. This means that two people who are sensitive to the same food could have completely different symptoms and, conversely, people who have the same exact symptoms could have completely different foods triggering them.
Getting back to coconut…
Coconut sensitivity is a real thing that’s actually happening.
I’ve seen quite a jump in new cases of coconut sensitivity in my LEAP clients. These are people of all ages and with very different symptoms… from toddlers with eczema to adults with fibromyalgia (in fact, this client that I interviewed here has a coconut sensitivity, which was a major bummer considering Hawaii is her home away from home!).
Many of these folks thought they were being “healthy” by using copious amounts of coconut… and I don’t blame them because of how coconut is being promoted. We’re led to believe that if a little is good, a lot must be better. I’m here to tell you to please, please, pretty please don’t fall into that way of thinking!
(BTW, I’d also tell you the exact same thing about kale, blueberries, green tea, ginger, turmeric, or any other “super food” being promoted – more does not = better… and you can develop sensitivities to these types of foods just as easily.)
Unfortunately, many of my clients have learned this lesson the hard way and have had to give up coconut completely in order to find relief from symptoms (some have even had to go as far as to remove any topical sources of coconut, which is no easy task considering derivatives of coconut are widely used in commercially-produced cleaning and personal care products).
Does this mean that you should stop eating coconut altogether?
Absolutely not! (Unless you’re sensitive to it, of course.)
Moderation and variety really are key here (and, yes… I realize how boring and generic that sounds).
If you’ve gravitated towards coconut because you’re avoiding other foods due to adverse reactions, don’t worry… there are PLENTY of options out there that you can add to the mix. There are countless non-dairy “milk” options, gluten-free flours, fats/oils, and so on that you can rotate in; don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The more variety you include in your diet, the better off you’ll be in the long run (trust me).
Amanda Austin is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified LEAP Therapist who approaches health and wellness from an integrative and functional perspective. She loves a good DIY, making a mess in the kitchen, and working up a sweat. She’s also obsessed with her incredibly spoiled fur-babies, which includes a rambunctious Boston Terrier, 2 cranky house cats, and 3 boisterous chickens.