The whole detox concept sounds great but is ultra-problematic. It immediately brings to mind hunger-inducing juice cleanses and that terrifying cayenne-lemonade situation all of our moms tried (and failed).
What’s a detox/cleanse?
Detoxes are short-term diets meant to help eliminate toxins from your bod, including heavy metals, pollutants, chemicals, and other substances or compounds deemed harmful or unwanted by whichever doctor, nutrition coach, influencer, or unqualified celebrity who developed the diet.
There’s seemingly one for every situation. And while there’s some evidence they can be helpful for peeps with certain health conditions, like autoimmune diseases or allergies, many embark on a detox for weight loss.
Enter the coconut oil detox. It’s main claims: weight loss, relief from digestive woes, and the eradication of viruses, infection, and fungi.
Coconut oil is a rich saturated fat that’s derived from the kernel of ripe coconuts, it’s hailed (and scientifically blessed) for moisturizing and protecting your skin, boosting good cholesterol, and reducing plaque around your pearly whites.
A diet that contains saturated fats?! 😱 Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that your body metabolizes differently than the long-chain fatty acids found in most other saturated fats.
MCTs are absorbed quickly to be used as fuel ASAP, so they don’t raise cholesterol levels or get stored as fat.
Some science makes a connection between the high lauric acid content in coconut oil and weight loss, which could be why it’s popular in cleanses. But other research questions whether lauric acid should be considered an MCT, and if MCTs separated from coconut oil are a better agent for weight loss.
While there’s some good science behind the health benefits of coconut oil, there’s a whole lotta nothin’ behind the claim that a coconut oil detox specifically is healthy, safe, or a good long-term weight loss solution.
Here’s what we know.
Coconut oil detox for weight loss
Consuming only water and coconut oil for a few days isn’t a safe or sustainable approach to healthy weight loss. Doing so creates an extreme caloric deficit, only resulting in loss of water weight, so it will just come right back when you return to regular noshing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that women consume 1,600 to 2,400 calories and men consume 2,000 to 3,000 calories each day.
If weight loss is a concern, talk to you doctor about healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes instead.
Coconut oil detox for candida
Candida is the most common fungus in the body. It’s a natural part of your skin, mouth, digestive tract, vagina, and even toenails. It’s harmless when it’s in harmony, but an overgrowth can cause an infection (aka candidiasis).
Coconut oil’s antifungal properties could be why supporters believe a coconut oil cleanse could reduce candida overgrowth. There’s actually a diet geared toward this very issue, and it involves eating a lot more than just coconut oil.
Coconut oil detox for infection
Coconut oil is famously antimicrobial. Caprylic acid and lauric acid, two fatty acids found in coconut oil, might help rid your gut of other types of fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
Eating too much coconut oil like the “detox” calls for and nothing else, can cause cramps, gastro discomfort, and diarrhea.
The American Heart Association and the USDA recommend only 10 percent of your diet be reserved for saturated fat, and coconut oil is no exception.
Plus, increased saturated fatty acids have been linked to the increase of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Here are the deets on the coconut “detox,” but remember: Friends don’t let friends detox for weight loss. Science doesn’t back up the benefits, but it does back up the pitfalls.
Pro tip: Talk to your healthcare provider before trying this. There’s no medically-recommended coconut oil cleanse, so having a pro weigh in will ensure your safety and how such a cleanse may affect you.
The basic premise:
- Consume 10 to 14 tablespoons of unrefined, organic extra virgin coconut oil every day for 3 to 7 days.
- Mixing it with warm lemon water, plain organic yogurt, and Stevia is OK. (Sugar is a no-go).
- Noshing on raw coconut “meat” is allowed each day.
- Use only high-quality organic, unrefined coconut oil. Supporters warn against crappy coconut oil that may be processed with weird chemicals. If you’re only eating coconut oil for a few days, might as well spring for the good stuff.
- Ease into it for your stomach’s sake. Going from zero to 14 tablespoons could trigger diarrhea. Instead, take small amounts of coconut oil daily for a few weeks, gradually increasing until you can handle the amount recommended for a detox.
- Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day. Sugarless limeade and warm lemon water are allowed, too.
- Avoid strenuous activity(which is nearly impossible if you’re in a dangerous caloric deficit).
- If you feel lightheaded or faint, stop the whole thing and eat a balanced meal.
One more time for the peeps in the back…
There’s no scientific evidence that a coconut oil cleanse has any health benefits, especially for weight loss.
Healthy weight loss doesn’t look like this
Healthy weight loss can and should be achieved through sustainable and safe methods.
(FYI — 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered healthy weight loss.)
The most successful diets aren’t diets — they’re lifestyles. The key to sustainable weight loss and, more importantly, long-term health is something you can live with for a long, long time. Here are 10 examples.
Coconut oil has risen to superfood status for its cholesterol, skin-soothing, and antimicrobial benefits.
A coconut oil detox or cleanse requires participants to ingest 10 to 14 tablespoons for several days, with little else consumed.
Despite the many proposed health benefits of coconut oil, there’s no solid link between an extreme detox like this and better health. Anecdotal benefits include weight loss and that it might help with viruses and infections like candidiasis.
Side effects include cramps, gastro discomfort, and diarrhea. You could also become lightheaded or faint.
Check with your healthcare professional before starting a coconut oil detox — or any detox, really.