MCT Oil and Stomach Upsets: The Problem and Prevention

Deseré Davis
By Deseré Davis
Kirsty Mac Dougall
Edited by Kirsty Macdougall

Published August 8, 2022.

A woman laying on a couch with her knees pulled up towards her chest and hands pressed against her stomach.

MCT oil is derived from coconut and palm oil, as well as some dairy products. It has recently gained popularity due to its health benefits—particularly for those following a ketogenic diet.

Although more scientific studies are required, some of its main benefits include increased energy levels, weight loss, and aiding chronic health conditions like insulin resistance and memory disorders.

However, unpleasant side effects are frequently reported by those taking the supplement, with an upset stomach being the most common.

Can MCT Oil Upset Your Stomach?

MCT oil can upset the stomach, especially when taken in large amounts.

Gastrointestinal side effects, including diarrhea, cramps, bloating, nausea, and vomiting, may be experienced after taking the oil.

Because everyone reacts differently to medicine and supplements, you may not experience an upset stomach at all. Or you may suffer the symptoms associated with an upset stomach even when you don't take a lot of oil.

In addition to an upset stomach, MCT oil can have other side effects, such as:

  • Fat buildup in the liver
  • Increased levels of bad cholesterol, which can lead to heart-related health problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weight gain. Although this oil is associated with weight loss because it helps you stay fuller for longer, it can also stimulate the release of hormones that make you feel hungry.

Due to these potential side effects, it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor before including MCT oil into your daily diet.

Why MCT Oil Upsets Your Stomach

MCT oil, which consists of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), is not digested the same way as other fats. It gets absorbed much faster, which means it has less time to be digested by enzymes than regular fats.

This process can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, especially if you consume too much oil. Taking too much can lead to more water being secreted into your stool, and that's when diarrhea becomes a problem.

Symptoms are usually worse when you first start taking MCT oil as your body hasn't had time to adjust to MCTs and their rapid absorption.

Can MCT Oil Be Taken on an Empty Stomach?

You don't have to eat before you take MCT oil, and it can be consumed on an empty stomach. Unfortunately, side effects may be experienced regardless of whether you have eaten or not.

Many people add this odorless and tasteless oil to their morning coffee to boost their energy. It also helps to suppress their appetite and is often used as a meal replacement for breakfast.

How to Avoid an Upset Stomach When Taking MCT Oil

To maximize the benefits of MCT oil, there are several ways you can take it. These methods will help to minimize your chances of experiencing side effects.

  • Mix MCT oil into your smoothies, juice, tea, protein shake, or coffee.
  • Add the oil to your favorite nut butter (almond butter, peanut butter, etc.).
  • Mix MCT oil into your favorite salad dressing.
  • Add the oil to guacamole or other dips you enjoy.
  • Don't take more than the recommended 15 to 20 ml at a time.
  • Start with 5 ml and work up to a higher dose over time.
  • Don't exceed the total recommended daily dose of 100 ml.
  • Take a probiotic in conjunction with MCT oil.

MCT oil is especially popular with people following a keto diet, and you can add it to any low-carb meal.

Is MCT Oil Worth Taking?

Choosing the best MCT oil and adding it to your diet can positively impact your health. A good quality MCT oil can improve physical and mental vitality, promote weight loss, and manage health conditions like epilepsy, dementia, and insulin resistance.

Side effects often subside with time and can be avoided by not exceeding the recommended dosages. However, should you experience any severe or persistent side effects, it is essential to consult a medical practitioner immediately.