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MCT oil comes from coconut and palm kernel oils. Through various processing methods, these sources yield an oil that consists primarily of saturated fat. The oil is colorless, flavorless, and odorless, and it is best ingested on its own or mixed into food and drink. Sometimes, it also comes in powder form, which you can add to drinks just like protein powder.
MCT stands for "medium-chain triglycerides" with between 6 and 12 carbon atoms. Aside from coconut and palm oils, MCT is also in human breast milk and full-fat dairy products.
This oil has become popular because of the unusual way the body absorbs this type of fat. Most fats require digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile to help break them down for absorption into the bloodstream and processing by the liver.
MCT does not need the aid of the pancreas or bile to break down. Instead, it can be directly transported to the liver to be used as an immediate source of energy instead of most fats stored in adipose tissue.
MCT oils were initially used for people with gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and cystic fibrosis. People with these conditions struggle to digest fats, especially long-chain fatty acids. Because of their inability to properly digest and absorb them, they often struggle with gastric upset and show signs of malnutrition.
Aside from being easily digestible, MCTs are popular because they are an efficient source of energy. Therefore, they are particularly appealing to athletes and anyone who is trying to lose weight. One meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that people taking MCTs instead of LCTs (long-chain fatty acids) had noticeable weight loss and reduced hip and waist circumference. Total body fat also decreased with the consistent use of MCTs.
Some studies also indicate that MCTs may help maintain insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. They can also help people who have gallbladder issues.
Because MCT oil is an efficient energy source, it may also help people with conditions related to low energy and poor metabolic function. Hashimoto's disease is one such condition with several symptoms that may improve with consistent MCT oil intake.
People with Hashimoto's often struggle with difficulty losing weight or weight gain, especially around the waist. Because some studies have shown that MCT oil helps with weight loss, people with Hashimoto's may use it as a supplemental tool for curbing weight gain.
Fatigue, slowed movements, and lack of energy are hallmark signs of Hashimoto's. MCT oil may be a quick, healthy boost of energy because your body readily absorbs it once it enters the digestive tract. Therefore, it may help improve energy levels for people with this thyroid disease.
Autoimmune disorders may originate in the gut. The leaky gut theory suggests that tight junctions between intestinal cells loosen and allow toxins to escape the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to toxins may lead to chronic inflammation and force the immune system to attack its own tissues.
Most people with thyroid conditions have gut disorders as well. Whether it be irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease, digestive challenges are not uncommon. Because of this relationship between the gut and the thyroid, irritating the stomach with hard-to-digest fatty acids like LCTs may not only worsen digestive symptoms but exacerbate inflammation in the thyroid. MCT oils, instead, may help with gastrointestinal symptoms.
While there is some evidence that MCT oil may help with weight loss and boost energy levels, there is still much room for more research, especially when using it with a condition like Hashimoto's.
Before adding anything new to your diet or regimen, it is helpful to check in with your thyroid doctor to see if MCT oil is appropriate for you. If you choose to try MCT oil, keep in mind that it is not a cure-all; it should be only a supplemental tool for supporting your nutritional needs.
MCT is a flavorless oil, so you can add it to almost anything you eat directly. Many people use it in salad dressings or blend it in smoothies. Some people also add it to coffee, but caffeine can interfere with thyroid medication absorption. Hence, it is best to limit coffee when you can, or at least wait several hours before or after you take your medication to drink your coffee.
MCT dosing depends on the brand you are using, so you will want to follow the directions. Typically, most brands recommend adding one tablespoon to whatever you are drinking.
A note from Paloma Health
MCT oil is not a treatment for Hashimoto's. However, it can help improve specific symptoms common in this condition. People with Hashimoto's need careful observation of their thyroid function and often require medication to help increase their thyroid hormone levels. If you want to try supplemental products like MCT, meet with a certified thyroid nutritionist to determine how you can best support your thyroid through dietary and lifestyle measures.