Can coconut milk cause diarrhea? 

In this article, we will answer if coconut milk causes diarrhea, and what are the other side effects of coconut milk.

Can coconut milk cause diarrhea?

Yes, drinking coconut milk can cause diarrhea in some people and constipation in others. Read on if you want to know why coconut can upset the stomach.

Why can coconut milk cause diarrhea?

Coconut milk can cause diarrhea because it contains carbohydrates and a high quantity of fats, which are not readily digested by some individuals.

Carbohydrates vary in their digestibility and subsequent absorption. Those that are poorly absorbed exert osmotic effects in the intestinal lumen increasing its water volume, and are rapidly fermented by bacteria with consequent gas production or other gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhea (1).

A cup of canned coconut milk provides 48g of saturated fat. If taken in moderate amounts, coconut fat is healthy. But it can provoke a reactive response in people with GI problems, such as impaired nutrient absorption and impaired digestive function (4). People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may experience diarrhea. This is either because of the malabsorption of fat from the digestive tract or an insufficient release of bile acid to digest the fat (5).

Besides, coconut contains an exceptionally high content of fructose and other fermentable carbohydrates (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols). A high fructose level can pass undigested through the digestive tract resulting in increased bacterial growth in the gut. 

The bacteria in the large intestine break down these carbohydrates to produce alcohol, sugars, and gas. This can lead to abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, and nausea in sensitive people, with IBS and FODMAP intolerant people (1).

According to studies, the removal of FODMAPs from a person’s diet has demonstrably improved distressing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease (1,9).

What can you do to reduce risks of diarrhea?

If you experience a negative effect after drinking coconut milk, you should ingest a probiotic-rich food, such as yogurt or kefir.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been proven beneficial when consumed appropriately and its ingestion has been reported to alleviate significantly of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and FODMAP intolerance (10).

Probiotics are believed to help prevent excessive growth of bacteria in the gut by enhancing the barrier function and interactions of receptors. They also produce various protective substances, such as short chain fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory actions.   

Another option is to consume coconut milk in the form of yogurt, in which the carbohydrates (which are the cause of diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort) are fully fermented by lactic acid bacteria, and thus not probable of causing further damage (11).  

What are the other risks of drinking  coconut milk?

Other risks of drinking coconut milk include the development of allergic reactions, in the case of allergic individuals and the additives (or residues) present in the common coconut beverages, which may cause negative effects to health. 

Allergic problems

Coconut is categorized as a tree nut. The meat of this fruit has proteins that provoke allergy but coconut milk may have traces of this protein and can lead to unpleasant results. 

Reports of immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated coconut allergy are rare and only a handful of cases have been reported in the literature in adults and children. However, despite the low prevalence of coconut allergy, reactions tend to be systemic and all cases reported so far have involved anaphylactic reactions (2).

In addition, some commercial coconut milk drinks contain guar gum. It is a polysaccharide obtained from guar beans. Canned coconut milk provokes an allergic response in guar gum intolerant people. A study reported a case of a life-threatening, immediate type reaction after mucosal contact to a guar derivative which was used as a local anesthetic (6).

High sugar content

Canned coconut milk may have added sugar in it. If you take this high sugar-sweetened canned coconut milk as a lifestyle habit, it can lead to weight gain, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases (9).


Many studies of experimental animals and human research have reported an association of Bisphenol A exposure with a variety of health problems including infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, early-onset puberty, prostate and mammary gland cancers, cardiovascular effects, and diabetes.

This is a synthetic compound added to the lining of canned products and is able to pass into the contents of the can if they are highly acidic or fatty or exposed to heat processes. Canned coconut milk should be avoided to reduce exposure. A study showed that canned coconut milk contained Bisphenol-A in concentrations considered high in the Japanese market (7).


In this article, we answered if coconut milk causes diarrhea, and what are the other side effects of coconut milk.


  1. Shepherd, Susan J., Miranda CE Lomer, and Peter R. Gibson. Short-chain carbohydrates and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Off j Am Coll Gastroenterol, 2013, 108, 707-717. 
  2. Anagnostou, Katherine. Coconut allergy revisited. Children, 2017, 4, 85.
  3. Bharti, Binod Kumar, Jahangir Badshah, and B. S. Beniwal. A review on comparison between bovine milk and plant based coconut milk. J Pharmaceut Innov, 2021, 10, 374-378.
  4. Juckett, Gregory, and Rupal Trivedi. Evaluation of chronic diarrhea. Am fam phys, 2011, 84, 1119-1126.
  5. Altomare, Annamaria, et al. Diarrhea Predominant-Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D): Effects of Different Nutritional Patterns on Intestinal Dysbiosis and Symptoms. Nutrients, 2021, 13, 1506.
  6. Gultekin, F., and D. K. Doguc. Allergic and immunologic reactions to food additives. Clin Rev Aller Immunol, 2013, 45, 6-29.
  7. Kawamura, Yoko. Bisphenol A in Japanese canned foods. Food Add Pack. Am Chem Soc, 2014, 155-166.
  8. Syed, Kunzah, and Kadirawelpillai Iswara. Low-FODMAP diet. StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
  9. Get the Facts: added sugars. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2021.
  10. Selvaraj, Shabnam Mohajir, et al. Role of low FODMAP diet and probiotics on gut microbiome in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Progr Microb Molec Biol, 2020, 3.
  11. Ladokun, Olusola, and Sarah Oni. Fermented milk products from different milk types. Food nutr sci, 2014.

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