How Does Coconut Oil Kill Candida?

Studies suggest that using coconut oil for Candida albicans infections might be beneficial. Results indicate the food has antifungal properties that may help treat skin, oral and systemic infections.

Coconut oil can be beneficial for dealing with Candida. Credit: sergio_kumer/iStock/GettyImages

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Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that are effective against fungal infections, including candida.

Coconut Oil for Skin Infections

Authors of a May 2014 study featured in Natural Medicine Journal explain that researchers attribute coconut oil's medicinal properties to its content of medium-chain fatty acids. These healthful constituents, lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid, exert an anti-infective action against fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Although the mechanisms by which the fatty acids act is unknown, scientists have several postulations, says the Natural Medicine Journal study. Possibilities include interference with cellular structure and energy production, as well as impairment of nutrient intake and inhibition of enzyme activity.

The Natural Medicine Journal investigation reviewed the body of research exploring the efficacy and safety of coconut oil for skin infections, including candida. Coconut oil proved effective against candida species and a variety of bacteria.

When compared with commercial antibiotics, the oil didn't display an equal capacity to kill microbes. Nonetheless, because of the low incidence of side effects, it could be acceptable to use coconut oil for candida skin infections.

Coconut Oil for Oral Infections

A March 2016 study published in Scientifica states that thrush, a fungal infection of the oral area, is associated with dental cavities in early childhood. Researchers took swabs from children's teeth and placed them in test tubes to grow cultures of the microbes.

After isolating Candida albicans, they compared the efficacy of coconut oil with that of chlorhexidine, a germicide, and ketoconazole, an antifungal medication. Results showed the antifungal action of coconut oil was comparable to that of chlorhexidine and ketoconazole, suggesting that practitioners may want to consider using coconut oil for thrush.

Read more: Is Coconut Oil the Miracle Food It's Cracked Up to Be?

Candida albicans is one of the microbes that can cause inflammation of the gums, or gingivitis. A small March-April 2015 study featured in the Nigerian Medical Journal investigated the efficacy of oil pulling using coconut oil to decrease plaque-related gingivitis.

The practice of oil pulling, a procedure used in the traditional medicine of some ancient cultures, involves swishing the mouth with oil. Participants consisted of 60 adolescents who were asked to include oil pulling in their daily routine. Testing showed the coconut oil had antimicrobial activity against an array of pathogens, including candida.

Coconut Oil for Candida (Intestinal)

According to a 2016 study published in mSphere, Candida albicans that normally live in the gut can multiply, colonize the intestinal tract and cause a systemic infection in people with impaired immunity. These infections are life-threatening, with a death rate of 40 percent. The best way to prevent mortalities is to stop the growth of candida.

Test-tube studies show coconut oil can suppress and stop the growth, so researchers postulated that dietary intake of the food would reduce colonization.

While the team tested the oil on mice, the promising results are worth mentioning. The mice that were fed coconut oil experienced a reduction in candida population. Consequently, the authors of the mSphere study concluded that the oil could become the first dietary measure used to fight candida infections.

Coconut Oil Use Tips

Try treating a candida skin infection by rubbing coconut oil directly on the affected area, an application that comes with a low risk of adverse or allergic reactions, according to the Natural Medicine Journal study. A small number of patients have reported itching.

One coconut oil antifungal treatment involves a mouth rinse. Simply melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of the oil, swish it in the mouth for 10 seconds and then spit it out. Avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes.

The Natural Medicine Journal study warns that ingestion of coconut oil can result in low blood pressure and high blood lipids. Additionally, if you'd like to take coconut oil by mouth to help prevent or alleviate an internal candida infection, keep in mind that it's high in saturated fat.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat intake to not more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. This proportion of a 2,000-calorie diet would be 21 grams.

The American Heart Association says 1 tablespoon of coconut oil contains 12 grams of saturated fat, so keep your intake under 2 tablespoons per day, which has 24 grams. Add it to your diet by using it to saute vegetables.

When shopping for coconut oil, select the virgin variety because it contains more antioxidants than the refined, bleached, deodorized kind. In a 2009 study featured in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, researchers compared the healthful components and beneficial actions of the two kinds of oil. The virgin coconut oil contained more phenols and demonstrated greater antioxidant capacity.

What Is a Candida Infection?

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by candida, mainly Candida albicans, says Harvard Health Publishing. The microbes, otherwise called yeasts, are ubiquitous in the environment and sometimes live alongside bacteria in the mouth, vagina and gastrointestinal tract.

Candida populations are normally controlled by the body's native bacteria and immune system. However, if the bacterial community is altered by antibiotics, or if the body's chemistry or acidity changes, candida can multiply and produce symptoms.

People with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to fungal infections, states Harvard Health. The following are manifestations of candida:

  • Infections that affect the mouth, inner cheek, tongue and palate are called thrush.
  • Infections that spread from the mouth to the esophagus are referred to as esophagitis.
  • Infections may appear in moist parts of the skin that receive little ventilation. These include areas under large breasts, the crease of the buttocks and the hands of people who habitually wear rubber gloves. These infections also underlie diaper rash.
  • Infections of the vagina aren't uncommon. Birth control pills, frequent douching, pregnancy and diabetes may predispose women to this problem.
  • Infections termed "deep candidiasis" have entered the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. These serious infections occur in infants with very low birth weight, along with cancer patients on chemotherapy.

Read more: What You Should Know About Sex and Yeast Infections

Symptoms of Candida Infections

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes the symptoms of candida of the oral area. These involve redness, soreness, loss of taste, cracking at the mouth corners and a cotton-like feeling in the mouth. Signs may also include the appearance of white patches on the tongue, throat, roof of the mouth and inner cheek. Pain when swallowing indicates candidiasis of the esophagus.

The CDC states that symptoms of a candida infection in the vagina include soreness, itching, abnormal vaginal discharge and pain during sexual intercourse. Most cases are mild, but in severe infections, women develop redness, swelling and cracks in the vaginal wall.

When candida enters the bloodstream, it can affect the heart, eyes, bones, brain and other parts of the body, notes the CDC. People afflicted with this serious disease are usually ill from other medical disorders, which makes it difficult for doctors to discern what symptoms stem from the infection.

The most typical signs of an invasive Candida infection are chills and fever that aren't alleviated with antibiotics use to treat a suspected bacterial infection. Other symptoms ensue once the infection spreads to various organs in the body.

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