Can coconut oil help fight yeast infections, including those in the mouth? When it comes to Candida albicans, the evidence suggests that the answer is “yes.”
Candida albicans is a species of yeast that naturally grows in the gut. Normally, it causes few problems, but disruptions can cause it to grow out of control.
For instance, when heavy use of antibiotics kills helpful bacteria along with the harmful, Candida can behave opportunistically to fill the void. People with compromised immune systems are also prone to problems with yeast overgrowth.
Such systemic yeast infections are known as candidiasis. In severe cases, the Candida can even invade the bloodstream. Candida infections of the blood are the fourth most common type found in US hospital patients.
Typically, candidiasis is fought with antifungal drugs. Yet these tend to be harsh and, of course, come with many side effects. Overuse also promotes the development of drug-resistant strains.
Enter coconut oil, long known for its antifungal properties.
According to a 2015 animal study in mSphere,
A coconut oil-rich diet reduced C. albicans in the gut compared to a beef tallow-or soybean oil-rich diet. Coconut oil alone, or the combination of coconut oil and beef tallow, reduced the amount of C. albicans in the gut by more than 90% compared to a beef tallow-rich diet.
“Coconut oil even reduced fungal colonization when mice were switched from beef tallow to coconut oil, or when mice were fed both beef tallow and coconut oil at the same time. These findings suggest that adding coconut oil to a patient’s existing diet might control the growth of C. albicans in the gut, and possibly decrease the risk of fungal infections caused by C. albicans,” said Kumamoto, Ph.D., a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine and member of the molecular microbiology and genetics program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.
“Food can be a powerful ally in reducing the risk of disease,” added another of the study’s authors.
Controlling Candida growth in the mouth is vital to good health. Research has shown that the yeast works in tandem with the decay-causing bacteria S. mutans to create extra strong, extra sticky biofilms – a/k/a dental plaque. Both bacteria and yeast thrive, promoting tooth decay and gum disease.
Eating more coconut oil is one way you may be able to keep the yeast under control. Another is to use a coconut-oil based toothpaste. There are plenty of commercially available pastes, or you can make your own at home.
Then there’s oil pulling, which can help eliminate plaque, prevent bad breath, and reduce oral pathogens. Most folks start out swishing coconut oil throughout their mouth for short periods of time, but the ideal is 10 to 20 minutes. The oil pulls out harmful bacteria and debris from the teeth, becoming thin and milky in the process. Then you just spit it out into the trash (not down the drain, as the oil will solidify and clog it).
Oil pulling should be done at least once daily for two months to see noticeable results.
Do note, however, that if you have mercury amalgam fillings, you may want to think twice about oil pulling. Some have expressed concern that mercury naturally released from these fillings may be concentrated in the oil and ingested.
If you have amalgams – or if you have crowns or braces, or are pregnant or breastfeeding – consult your dentist before doing any pulling with coconut oil.
Otherwise, it’s a safe practice – and one that our patients often find very effective indeed.