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Digestive Problems From Coconut

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Digestive Problems From Coconut
Coconut may cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. Photo Credit Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Coconut products are in many cuisines around the world and are now easy to find at most supermarkets if you want to reproduce these same ethnic dishes at home. Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream, dessicated coconut, fresh coconut meat and coconut water can add a lot of flavors to whatever you are cooking, or even eaten on their own. Unfortunately, coconut products contain a lot of substances that may induce digestive problems in sensitive individuals, including bloating, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence and abdominal pain, discomfort and cramping.

Fructose Malabsorption

If you have fructose malabsorption, whether you know it or not, you have trouble absorbing fructose, which results in a variety of unpleasant digestive problems. Although coconut does not contain a lot of sugar, if unsweetened, a significant proportion of the sugar it contains is under the form of fructose. Coconut oil does not contain any fructose, but all other coconut products do. If you notice that you suffer from bloating, abdominal pain or changes in your bowel movements after eating coconut products, it is probable that its fructose content be responsible. You can ask your doctor to be tested for fructose malabsorption with a hydrogen breath test. Fructose malabsorbers also have trouble tolerating apples, pears, honey, asparagus and high-fructose corn syrup.

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Many coconut-based foods also contain fructans, which are actually made of a small chain of fructose. Fructans are part of the short-chain fermentable carbohydrates that can be responsible for gastrointestinal problems. Coconut oil do not contain fructans, but all other coconut products, including coconut milk, coconut milk, coconut butter and dessicated coconut, do. People that have digestive problems when eating fructan-containing coconut products often also react to onions, garlic, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and wheat. There is not test to diagnose fructan malabsorption, but you can keep a food journal to help you identify the foods that cause your digestive issues.

Salicylates And Amines

Salicylates and amines are some of the food chemicals naturally present in many foods and that may induce digestive problems in some people. If you are sensitive to these food chemicals, you can have symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain and changes in the frequency of your bowel movements. Dessicated coconut, coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil contain salicylates and amines


Sulphites are often found in dessicated coconut. If you are intolerant to sulphites, you can experience digestive problems after you eat foods containing dried coconut. Eliminate coconut from your diet for a little while to see if your digestion and other symptoms improve.

Guar Gum

Guar gum can cause gastrointestinal problems in some people. This natural thickener is made from a legume and is almost always added to canned coconut milk and canned coconut cream. If you experience symptoms when eating these coconut-based products, check the ingredients to see whether they contain guar gum. Experiment with a guar gum-free coconut milk or coconut cream to see if your digestion is better without this thickener.

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author image Aglaee Jacob
Aglaee Jacob is a registered dietitian. She has experience working with people who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity issues. Jacob obtained a bachelor of science and a master of science, both in nutrition, from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.
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