Coconut water has become a popular health drink in recent years. Some people drink it for its hydrating properties while others believe it has additional health benefits like aiding digestion. But can coconut water actually act as a laxative? Here’s a comprehensive look at the evidence.
What is Coconut Water?
Coconut water is the clear, nutritious liquid found inside young, green coconuts. It should not be confused with coconut milk, which is made by blending coconut meat with water.
Coconut water is naturally fat- and cholesterol-free. It contains electrolytes like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. It also provides antioxidants, amino acids, vitamin C, and phytohormones.
Because coconut water is low in calories and sugar compared to fruit juices, it has become a popular beverage marketed for hydration and other potential health benefits.
Does Coconut Water Have Laxative Properties?
There is some evidence that coconut water can help relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
In traditional medicine, coconut water has been used as a home remedy for constipation. It is sometimes called “nature’s sports drink” because the electrolytes help replenish fluids and prevent dehydration, which can cause constipation.
Here are some of the ways coconut water may help regulate bowel movements:
- Hydration – Staying hydrated is key for keeping stools soft and bowel movements regular. Dehydration can lead to constipation. Coconut water is 95% water, so it can help hydrate the digestive tract.
- Electrolytes – Coconut water contains electrolytes like potassium and magnesium which are important for muscle contractions in the digestive tract.
- Fiber – A 100ml serving of coconut water contains about 0.72g of fiber. Fiber adds bulk to stools and helps them pass more easily.
- Osmolality – Coconut water has a similar osmolality to the body’s natural fluids. This may allow it to be absorbed quickly and hydrate the digestive tract faster than plain water.
Scientific Research on Coconut Water and Laxative Effects
There have been a few studies investigating the effects of coconut water on constipation and irregular bowel movements:
|2018 study in rats
|Rats with induced constipation were given coconut water or a laxative drug for 14 days.
|Coconut water improved bowel movement frequency and stool consistency similar to the laxative drug.
|2015 study in rats
|Constipated rats received coconut water, pulp, or an olive oil laxative agent daily for 3 days.
|Coconut water and pulp improved bowel movements and loosened stool similar to the olive oil agent.
|2012 study in rats
|Rats received coconut water for 7 days prior to induced constipation.
|The coconut water prevented constipation symptoms and reduced intestinal fluid loss.
Overall, these animal studies suggest coconut water can help improve bowel movements and prevent constipation. However, more research is needed to confirm effects in humans.
Anecdotal Evidence on Coconut Water and Laxative Effects
In addition to animal research, many people report coconut water having positive effects on their digestion and bowel movements:
- Some people say drinking coconut water first thing in the morning helps stimulate bowel movements.
- People suffering from constipation may find coconut water loosens stool and promotes more regular bowel movements.
- Athletes report coconut water improving hydration and preventing constipation during intense training.
- Those following low-fiber diets or recovering from diarrhea say coconut water helps add bulk and regulate their digestive system.
- Overall, many people find drinking coconut water improves regularity and prevents constipation.
While anecdotal, these reports from consumers suggest coconut water may help relieve constipation for some people.
Is Coconut Water a Diuretic?
Some sources claim coconut water has diuretic properties and increases urine output. However, research indicates coconut water is unlikely to significantly increase diuresis.
Studies in rats have found coconut water does not have pronounced diuretic effects. And human studies show coconut water only marginally increases urine output:
- A 2002 study found coconut water caused a slight short-term increase in urine output in healthy adults compared to plain water. But the results were not statistically significant.
- A 2006 study in women with high blood pressure found coconut water had mild diuretic effects. But the increases in urine output were minor.
- Overall, evidence suggests coconut water does not have significant diuretic effects for most people.
While coconut water may contribute to hydration and fluid balance in the body, it likely does not directly flush out the colon or have pronounced effects on urine output.
Does Coconut Water Cause Diarrhea?
Some sources claim drinking too much coconut water can cause diarrhea. However, there is little evidence that coconut water causes diarrhea in most people.
Coconut water contains vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and phytohormones that can benefit digestion. There are a few reasons it could potentially cause diarrhea if consumed in excess:
- Sorbitol – Coconut water contains sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that can be difficult for some people to digest, causing gastrointestinal side effects.
- Fructose malabsorption – Coconut water has about 2.6g fructose per 100ml. Those with fructose malabsorption may get diarrhea from too much.
- Osmotic effects – The electrolytes and sugars in coconut water can draw water into the intestines, potentially causing loose stools.
- Allergies – Some people may be allergic or intolerant to coconut products.
However, most people can consume moderate amounts of coconut water without an issue. Drinking too much too quickly may cause temporary diarrhea. But there is no evidence coconut water causes diarrhea for most people when consumed in normal quantities.
Tips for Drinking Coconut Water as a Laxative
Here are some tips if you want to try using coconut water to help relieve constipation:
- Drink 8-12 ounces first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to help stimulate bowel movements.
- Choose plain coconut water rather than flavored varieties which may contain added sugars.
- Mix coconut water with prune juice or lemon juice to enhance laxative effects.
- Combine coconut water with probiotics to promote gut health.
- Drink coconut water throughout the day to improve hydration.
- Slowly increase intake to allow your body to adjust to coconut water’s effects.
- Avoid over-consuming extremely large amounts which could cause diarrhea.
Coconut water is generally very safe, even in larger quantities. But moderation is recommended when using it as a laxative.
The Bottom Line
Research suggests coconut water may have mild laxative effects and help relieve constipation. It contains hydrating electrolytes, fiber, and nutrients that may support regular bowel movements.
While more human studies are needed, coconut water’s traditional use and anecdotal evidence indicate it can aid digestion. Drinking a glass first thing in the morning, paired with a healthy diet and lifestyle, may help get your bowels moving.
However, coconut water is not a powerful laxative. It’s effects are likely to be mild compared to strong stimulant or osmotic laxatives.
Overall, coconut water is a safe, natural beverage that may benefit digestion when consumed regularly. But it’s important to keep your intake in moderation to avoid possible diarrhea.