Coconut oil has been popping up all over the place now. Lots of people are talking about it and all of it’s wonderful health benefits. It’s true, coconut oil is an absolutely amazing super-food. I’m not going to go deeply into all of the great uses and attributes of coconut oil on this particular post, as many people have written up super informative articles on that subject already.
What I want to talk about is coconut oil and it’s use for autism…particularly as a brain super-fuel. I read a really informative book a year or so ago called Stop Autism Now! A Parents Guide to Preventing and Reversing Autism Spectrum Disorders (by Bruce Fife). Now, I just want to say upfront that I don’t know that I feel coconut oil in itself can stop, reverse or cure autism. However, I really do believe that it can help tremendously in all three of those areas. There really doesn’t seem to be a one ingredient cure for autism. It would be nice, but in everything I have researched and experienced on my own, there are always several variables in play…all which may require a different approach or treatment.
Coconut oil is a really healthy saturated fat made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are fatty acids of a medium length. Medium-chain fatty acids are actually metabolized differently in our bodies. They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract where they are used as a quick source of energy or they are turned into ketones. Ketones are molecules in our bodies that produce energy from fats for the specific purpose of nourishing our brains. We can make them from stored fat or from special fats like the MCTs that are found in coconut oil.
Okay, so here comes a bit of the science, =). Typically glucose powers our brain’s cells. However, when the brain is dealing with issues (commonly found in sufferers of autism) such as; chronic inflammation, irritation, over-active immune function etc, the brain is unable to properly process the glucose it needs for fuel. When the brain is unable to process glucose it begins to starve. When your brain starves, the normal growth and development of it becomes stunted, it begins struggling for survival, and starts shutting down (remember, it’s about survival). This results in issues with the loss of learned skills, speech, memory, motor function etc.
Enter ketones. Ketones happen to be a much more effective alternative for fueling the brain. Ketones are actually able to bypass the problem areas in the glucose metabolism to feed the brain the much needed energy to perform properly (and not starve). Not only are ketones an exceptional form of brain fuel, but they also produce special proteins called “brain derived neurotrophic factors” that facilitate the maintaining of brain cell function, repair and protection. AND they stimulate new neuron growth to replace or repair damaged cells!
So this is where the healing begins. Coconut oil is one of the very few dietary sources of the ketone-producing MCTs. Additionally, coconut oil is rich in them. Breast milk is also an excellent source of MCT’s…and one more reason breastfeeding is so important. Boosting ketone levels, specifically for those suffering from auto-immune disorders like autism, can have a profound effect on brain reparation…which is a vital ingredient in getting on the road to healing.
Also important to note. Studies have shown that people with autism have higher amounts of bad microflora (like yeast, ecoli, tetanus etc) than normal people carry in their intestines. When the microflora are left unbalanced (bad vs good) the intestinal wall becomes weak and permeable allowing toxins into the bloodstream…not good. Coconut oil is naturally antimicrobial…meaning, it kills bacteria and helps to reestablish a healthy gut flora. It also stimulates repair of the intestinal lining tissue, sealing off that permeability, thus keeping the bloodstream and body free of toxins.
So how can you incorporate coconut oil into your child’s diet (or all of us for that matter, because it’s really great for everyone and the treatment/prevention of a vast array of auto-immune disorders)? We use coconut oil when we pan-fry anything, eggs, chicken, sausages…you name it. Coconut oil is a very stable high-heat oil, which is awesome! You can pop (non-gmo) popcorn in it. I plop a whole bunch in my coffee every morning or in the kids’ hot chocolate in fall/winter (immersion blenders work great to emulsify the oil into hot liquids and gives you a wonderful foam in the process). I have melted cups of it into soups as well. Coconut butter (different from coconut oil) also has oil in it naturally that works great in cake icings or smoothies…or even just spread on a banana. You can make coconut oil chocolates that taste just like almond joys without the shredded coconut or chocolate dipped strawberries. Regular coconut oil melts at 75 degrees, so it’s a great oil to use for chocolates that harden up. Use it to replace the oil in all of your baking, breads, cakes etc. Honestly, the sky is the limit…what it really boils down to is trial and error. Figuring out how much of the taste of coconut everyone can deal with.
So how much should someone take? The recommended amount is 8TB a day, per person. Which doesn’t seem like a lot…but it’s a lot. You want to build up your tolerance slowly..and USE CAUTION. Start with a half a teaspoon if you haven’t done coconut oil before. It can bother your stomach initially, especially as it begins pulling toxins from your body. This is nothing to be afraid of (it’s actually a good thing), but too high of an amount at once can give you gastrointestinal upset. So, if you don’t want to be sitting on a pretty white throne all day, go slow. Build up your tolerance a teaspoon or even half a teaspoon at a time..on a weekly basis. Anytime it feels like too much, back off to your previous amount and try again in another week. It can make you feel crappy the first few days. I dealt with a little bit of that myself when I first started. Again, it’s because it is eradicating toxin buildup from your body. When I had started my autistic son on coconut oil, his pooped diapers were just straight-up rancid. So be prepared! =)
Last bit of advice, find a good coconut oil…one preferably packed in glass. Organic, virgin, unrefined, non-gmo, cold pressed, are all good words to look for. Make sure it’s not extracted using hexane or any other chemical solvents. You also want to make sure that it has not been bleached. We use Spectrum and Tropical Traditions. You can actually find some great deals on good brands at stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, etc. The reason glass is preferable is because they have to heat the oil to melting point to pack it. If it cools in plastic containers, all that heat is warming up the chemicals in the plastic and leaching into the food you are using for the purpose of health and healing, it’s counter-productive. BPA-free or food grade really means nothing like they would like us to think it does. Plastic is plastic, even though it’s convenient it is still a petroleum product…which is toxic, even more so when heated (which is why they tell you not to be drinking out of plastic water bottles that have sat in the sun). We want to keep it as healthy as we can, for them especially! =)
*No books, products or brand names etc, ever suggested on any part of my blog am I being compensated for. They’re just personal preferences that I like or have found helpful/worthy of passing on. Thanks!