How effective is coconut oil against Candida and is there any benefit in using more refined coconut oil derivatives like monolaurin or castor oil fractions like undecylenic acid?
We’re diving into the fungal world today talking about fatty acids to treat candida, what the research tells us and how I might approach this in clinical practice.
A few years ago Candida and fungal overgrowths in the digestive tract weren’t really on my radar. At the time I was using a ton of SIBO breath testing and stool testing to get to the bottom of digestive issues in my patients (I still do). In the past few years I have been recommending more and more organic acids testing, aka OAT testing, particularly from Mosaic labs (used to be called Great Plains labs) and have seen a whole other angle on gut health, namely FUNGAL!
Even back in the 60’s there was concern around candida overgrowths associated with increasing exposure to antibiotics and antibiotics have become more and more a part of our lives since then (1).
If you’re curious here’s a video on the top symptoms I see that make me suspect Candida overgrowths.
Ok, now you’re primed on what to look out for let’s jump into the topic of today, fats vs fungus.
Coconut oil and candida
Coconut oil is over 90% saturated fatty acids and about 50% of those fatty acids are lauric acid (2). Lauric acid is a type of MCT which may be familiar to you as medium chain triglycerides (aka MCT’s) were all the rage about 5-10 years ago.
These different fractions of fatty acids found in coconut oil have been shown to inhibit hyphal formation of candida which reduces Candida’s pathogenicity. They can reduce adhesion and biofilm formation and maybe the most interesting piece is the ability for these fatty acids to disrupt and alter the by-layer of fungal membranes (3).
Monolaurin, a fraction of lauric acid (more of a monoester formed from lauric acid and glycerol but who’s counting) has been trialled as an antifungal with studies showing it can reduce Candida’s biofilm formation too (4).
Along with the antifungal properties monolaurin also acts as an antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal too (5).
Castor Oil Fractions to Treat Candida Overgrowths Naturally
Moving onto another source of fatty acids to treat candida and fungal overgrowths in the body we come to undecylenic acid which is sourced from castor oil
From a clinical standpoint this is my favourite place to start when working with coconut oil fractions and treating fungal overgrowths like candida. I’ll link to my preferred products below if it helps, remember to work with a practitioner here and to start low and slow on any antifungal as the die off can be serious!
Looking at how undecylenic acid works we’ve got studies showing that it can inhibit the switch from the unicellular yeast form of Candida, which is not so strongly associated with symptoms, to the hyphal form which is much more aggressive and damaging to the body in much the same way as coconut oil fatty acids (6)
Undecylenic acid also has been shown to inhibit adhesion, mitochondrial activity, cell proliferation and biofilm formation of Candida too (7).
Clinical Experience Treating Candida with Fatty Acids
The biggest question is what to do with all this information. Where do I see benefit with fatty acids in the treatment of Candida?
Depending on the case, how treatment resistant the Candida microbe has been to past rounds and how unwell the patient is I will generally start with targeted probiotics, prebiotics and herbal medicine first. If you have been through round after round of strong herbs or pharmaceutical antifungals and still can’t quite shake Candida then I would move straight to undecylenic acid initially alongside the core program.
My preference is a product by Thorne which you can find here.
There’s another product called Mega Mycobalance by Microbiome Labs (love these folks) and this product also has propolis in it too which is a potent antifungal.
On its own I wouldn’t be looking for it to be a silver bullet. If we still needed to broaden out the antifungal angle I would be looking for products with the additional coconut oil fractions or even, if tolerated, consider supplementing with straight MCT oil too.
A third option to trial, which I have used in the past but dropped as it was hard to get here in Australia, is a fantastic product called Lauricidin which is quite a potent but well tolerated monolaurin product. Thankfully it’s now on Amazon so it’s a bit easier to track down!
Hopefully that’s been helpful. I’m getting lots of feedback saying more candida support info so it’ll be coming hard and fast. It’s something I see all the time in the clinic and normally shifts with the core strategies. When it gets a bit sticky and stubborn these approaches above can really help.
Any insights or experience share it in the comments section below!
References and Resources
- The role of antibiotics in the pathogenesis of Candida infections
- Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida albicans Isolated in Children with Early Childhood Caries: An In Vitro Study
- Antibacterial and Antifungal Effectiveness of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) Mousse against Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans Biofilms
- In vitro evaluation of antifungal activity of monolaurin against Candida albicans biofilms
- Inhibitory and eradication activities of 1-monolaurin as anti-biofilm on monospecies and polymicrobial of Staphylococcus epidermidis and Candida tropicalis
- Undecylenic Acid Inhibits Morphogenesis of Candida albicans
- Antifungal effects of undecylenic acid on the biofilm formation of Candida albicans