Digestive Health Irritable Bowel Syndrome Nutrition Print The Effects of Coconut on IBS By Barbara Bolen, PhD Updated June 23, 2019 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician More in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Nutrition Causes & Diagnosis Living With Symptoms Treatment Support & Coping IBS With Constipation IBS With Diarrhea Related Conditions View All Coconuts have long been the mainstay of the diets of people who live in tropical areas and now they have become a hot new food craze. This is due to the purported health benefits given to coconut in its many forms. People are now eating more coconut itself, as well as stocking their kitchens with coconut oil, milk, and water. If you have IBS, you may be wary of foods that are a little more exotic than the foods you grew up with. Take a look at which coconut products might be beneficial to add to your IBS diet, and which products you should probably avoid. One measure of whether a food is friendly or not for an IBS diet is whether it is high or low in FODMAPs, which are fermentable sugars and alcohols. Coconut products vary in this. A diet low in FODMAPs is considered by some to be a strategy for reducing IBS symptoms. Low FODMAP 1/4 cup or less shredded or dried coconut 3 ounces or less coconut water 1/2 cup coconut milk 1 tablespoon coconut oil High FODMAP 1/2 cup or more of shredded or dried coconut 8 ounces coconut water Shredded Coconut and IBS enviromantic/E+/Getty Images Dried, shredded coconut is often added to baked goods, candies, and other sweet treats to give them the unique flavor of coconut. People seem to either love the taste of coconut or hate it. If you are a coconut lover, read on to see if it is okay to be enjoying shredded coconut on a regular basis. Health Benefits Shredded coconut is considered to be a good source of the following nutrients: Dietary fiberHealthy fatPhosphorusPotassium Uses for Shredded Coconut Shredded coconut can be enjoyed in many ways. Just be sure to buy the unsweetened variety so as to avoid consuming excessive amounts of sugar: Add to smoothiesSprinkle on fruits or vegetablesUse in baking The Effect on IBS The researchers at Monash University in Australia have done research on the amounts of FODMAPs in the various coconut products. Here is what they found regarding dried, shredded coconut: 1/4 cup serving is considered low in FODMAPs1/2 cup serving is high in polyols, one of the types of FODMAPs This means that you should be able to enjoy eating shredded coconut in lower amounts without worrying that it will worsen your IBS symptoms. If you are not sensitive to polyols, you may not have to worry about portion size at all. The Bottom Line At lower amounts, shredded coconut appears to offer the benefit of IBS-friendly dietary fiber without the worry of IBS-unfriendly FODMAPs. If you are a coconut fan, feel free to sprinkle away! Coconut Oil for IBS Dawn Poland/E+/Getty Images The increasing popularity of coconut oil is due in part to a growing awareness that fats are not as bad for us as was previously thought. It is now believed that healthy sources of dietary fat are essential for our overall health. In moderation, coconut oil is seen as a "healthy fat." If you purchase coconut oil, one of the first things that you may notice is that its form changes depending on room temperature. When stored in a cool room, coconut oil is firm like shortening. If the room warms, coconut oil will turn liquid. Whenever possible buy extra virgin coconut oil. Health Benefits Ask an alternative health practitioner about the health benefits of coconut oil and then be prepared for a long list. The list will likely focus on coconut oil having anti-cancer, anti-dementia, antibiotic, antiviral, and other properties. However, there is little to no clinical research to date to back up most of these claims. One area where firmer conclusions can be made about coconut oil is in the area of cardiovascular health. Although coconut oil is classified as saturated fat, it is high in lauric acid, which is thought to have a beneficial effect on HDL cholesterol that's the good one! What is also known is that healthy fats, such as coconut oil, aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. A small study using mice as subjects found some evidence that coconut oil was effective in repairing cells and increasing antioxidants following the experience of stress. How to Use Coconut Oil Coconut oil is a good choice for sàute dishes due to its high smoke point. This means that it is preferable to other oils when cooking at a higher heat to avoid the unpleasant flavor (and health risks) associated with the point that the oil starts to smoke. In addition to using coconut oil for sàuteing, you can add it to: Any recipe that calls for cooking oilCoffee or teaSmoothies The Effect on IBS According to the Monash University researchers, a serving size of 1 tablespoon of coconut oil is considered low-FODMAP. Since coconut oil is a fat and not a carbohydrate, there should be no concerns about FODMAP content at any size. However, too much fat can strengthen intestinal contractions, which is not something you want when you have IBS. Some people say they get constipation relief by ingesting coconut oil on a daily basis. However, there is no research to support or contradict this. The Bottom Line Coconut oil appears to be a good source of healthy fat that in moderation should not make your IBS worse. Coconut Milk for IBS daltoZen/Moment/Getty Images Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the meat of a ripe brown coconut. Health Benefits Because coconut milk contains coconut oil, particularly in the form of medium-chain fatty acids, it is thought to offer similar health benefits as the oil itself. How to Use Coconut Milk Coconut milk can be used wherever you would use cow's milk: BakingDrinkingSmoothiesSoups The Effect on IBS According to the researchers at Monash University, a serving size of 1/2 cup is considered low-FODMAP. The Bottom Line Coconut milk appears to offer a healthful, dairy-free milk substitute appropriate for anyone who has IBS. In particular, coconut milk is a nice choice for those who are lactose intolerant or who are following the low-FODMAP diet. Just be sure to buy coconut milk that does not have guar gum added to it as guar gum can be associated with causing unwanted digestive symptoms. Coconut Water and IBS Jamie Grill/Getty Images Coconut water is the liquid from the inside of unripe green coconuts. Coconut water has begun to enjoy increasing popularity as a substitute for sports drinks due to its lower sugar content. Health Benefits Of all the ways that coconuts can be enjoyed, coconut water offers the least in terms of health benefits. It does contain potassium, sodium and other minerals, which is why it is viewed as a healthier alternative to popular sports drinks. However, it is still high in calories and so should only be used by people who have high activity levels or it may contribute to weight gain. How to Use Coconut Water Coconut water can be drunk straight or added to smoothies. The Effect on IBS Unlike coconut oil, coconut water contains FODMAPs. According to Monash University: A 3 oz. serving is considered low-FODMAPAn 8 oz. serving contains higher amounts of the FODMAPs oligos and polyols The Bottom Line With its potential for higher levels of IBS-triggering FODMAPs and its not-so-impressive nutritional profile, it is probably best to leave coconut water off of your grocery list. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! One of the most challenging aspects of having IBS is trying to figure out what's safe to eat. Our recipe guide makes it easier. Sign up and get yours now! Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources "Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good" Harvard School of Public Health. Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App. Yeap SK, Beh BK, Ali NM, et al. Antistress and Antioxidant Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil. Exp Ther Med. 2015;9(1):39-42.