Want a Healthy Gut? Try MCT Oil
The use of MCT oil has been growing as word spreads about its brain benefits. It’s also well known as an effective way to promote weight loss and improve exercise performance. And it’s quite popular for those on a ketogenic diet.
But many people are not aware of its benefits to the digestive system. It’s more beneficial than you might imagine.
Before we dive into how it can boost your microbiome, let’s take a look at how it works and why it’s growing in popularity.
What is MCT Oil and How Does It Work?
MCT’s are medium-chain triglycerides. They are a form of saturated fatty acid. That’s why you’ll also see them referred to as MCFA’s (medium chain fatty acids.) Triglycerides are transported into your cells and burned for energy or stored as body fat.
All triglycerides are made up of a glycerol backbone and 3 fatty acids that form short, medium or long chains – their name is dependent upon their length. For example, MCT’s have 6-12 carbon atoms in their tails. These medium-length chains allow MCT’s to be broken down and absorbed very quickly. This is where much of the big benefit comes from.
There are 4 main types of MCT’s (C# = number of carbon atoms in the fatty acid)
- C6: caproic acid
- C8: caprylic acid
- C10: capric acid
- C12: lauric acid
Unlike long-chain fatty acids or LCT’s, MCT’s go straight to the liver. Long-chain fat absorption is a more complicated process. When you take in LCT’s, you must first digest (break apart) the triglycerides into free fatty acids and glycerol, package them, ferry them from your lymphatics and then into your bloodstream. Finally, these go to your liver for further processing where they are repackaged and then taxied to your other tissues where they will be burned or stored. That’s a lot of work!
To complete this process, you use your lymphatic system, venous system, cholesterol carriers, liver, energy, and time. If your insulin is low enough that you aren’t storing that fat, then you still need adequate carnitine to get the fatty acids into your cellular engines (mitochondria) to burn. There are many potential nutritional roadblocks to burning fat, such as micronutrient deficiencies, low cholesterol, a sluggish liver, or problems making carnitine. These are a lot of “ifs” that could potentially roadblock you from using long-chain fats for energy.
The good news is, your body handles medium-chain triglycerides differently. You absorb MCTs more effectively in your small intestine than long-chain fats (such as vegetable oils) because the enzymes (lipases) that digest triglycerides into medium-chain fatty acids and glycerol work on MCT’s faster than longer-chain triglycerides. Then you transport the medium-chain fatty acids directly through your bloodstream to your liver attached to your taxicab blood protein albumin. This allows you to bypass your lymphatic system and cholesterol carriers altogether. When they get to a mitochondrion, MCT’s don’t need carnitine to get across the membrane and into the engine. They are burned preferentially, before other fatty fuels. At every potential roadblock, MCTs sail through! The result is more energy, more quickly, and with less potential for weight gain.
MCT’s Gut Benefits
Research shows that dietary fats stimulate digestion more than carbohydrates and lead to greater contractions in the gut.
In another study, MCT-fed piglets had a better gastro-intestinal health which contributed to a decrease in intestinal inflammation. This led to an improvement of gut health and integrity with a direct impact on the gut bacteria. In general, MCT intake prevented intestinal atrophy and significantly increased intestinal permeability
MCTs can potentially kill straphylococcus (causes food poisoning and urinary tract infections), neisseria (causes meningitis, gonorrhea and pelvic inflammatory diseases), streptococcus (causes strep throat, pneumonia and sinus infections), and other strains that cause ulcers, stomach viruses, and sexually transmitted diseases.
MCT and MCFA were also shown to reduce proliferation of certain species of Malassezia by 50%, an infectious fungus widespread in hospitals.
Lauric, caprylic, and capric acid acid all inhibited bacterial growth (lauric being the most effective) and yeast growth. These acids inhibited Clostridium difficile growth. Clostridium difficile colitis results from disruption of normal healthy bacteria in the colon, often from antibiotics. C. difficile can also be transmitted from person to person by spores. It can cause severe damage to the colon and even be fatal. Researchers say there may be potential for coconut oil to be used as a preventive measure for patients requiring long-term hospitalization or extended stays in rehabilitation facilities.
MCT and the Keto Diet
MCT oil is a staple in the diets of many people who live a keto lifestyle. That’s because MCT’s are significant to ketosis, which is the goal of the keto diet. Ketosis is the process where the liver breaks down fat and converts it to energy. As this metabolic process happens, ketones are created. The body switches from burning its primary fuel source, glucose, for energy to burning fats and ketones instead.
Research shows that a keto diet can have positive effects on heart health, diabetes and metabolic syndrome (MS). MS is a cluster of risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess waist fat and high cholesterol that increase your likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
How To Choose an MCT Supplement
There is no question, you should always consume a high-quality and organic MCT oil. An MCT oil grown and processed conventionally could have traces of toxins, mold or heavy metals caused by chemical extraction or a lack of safety testing… about 80% of MCT oils are conventionally derived. If you don’t know where your MCT oil is sourced, manufactured, and how it is processed, you may be introducing toxins into your system that rob your body of health instead of creating it. You want to look for pure, cold-pressed, and non-GMO coconut-based oil that is extracted and purified with enzymes, not harsh chemicals.
You can take liquid MCT oil by the spoonful for quick, reliable energy. You can easily mix it into smoothies, shakes, sauces, teas or coffee, or bake it into a delicious fat-friendly cookie for a less intense, longer duration spike in ketone production. Simply Goodfats MCT Coconut Coffee Creamer is another delicious way to add MCT oil to your morning.
MCT supplements are also available in powder form that can easily be added to a variety of food, smoothies or other drinks. Simply Goodfats Creamy MCT Oil Powder is a good option if you’re trying MCT oil for the first time because it is a bit lighter and gentler on the stomach.
Whether you choose a liquid or powder, you’re giving yourself better gut health, improved mental focus, a boost of energy and greater potential for weight loss. And that’s a great way to start any day!