Last updated September 10, 2019 by Lisa Richards, CNC   Reviewed by Katie Stone, ND.

Caprylic Acid: Benefits for Gut Health, Candida, and Immunity

Coconut oil

The natural health world has been buzzing about coconut oil for some time now. No doubt you’ve heard that it’s great for the hair, skin, and on salads. But did you know it also contains a potent antifungal?

Coconut oil is made up of three important fatty acids: caprylic acid capric acid and lauric. Of these, caprylic acid is its prized active ingredient.

Caprylic acid is renowned for its ability to kill Candida cells, and also for restoring normal acidity levels in the stomach. Taking caprylic acid during your treatment can get your intestinal tract back in shape and help to prevent cells from growing again.

How Does Caprylic Acid Work?

Here are a few of the benefits of caprylic acid:

  • It kills yeast like Candida albicans
  • Studies have shown its potency to be similar to prescription antifungals
  • It helps to regulate the acidity in your stomach and gut
  • It boosts your immune system

Natural antifungals like caprylic acid work best in combination with other natural ingredients. This creates a more powerful, multi-faceted approach to killing off Candida yeast, as well as reducing the chance for the yeast to adapt to a single agent. For maximum effect, natural health practitioners recommend combining caprylic acid with other antifungals such as oregano oil, garlic, and grapefruit seed extract.

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For lots more information on how to choose between antifungals like caprylic acid, black walnut, and garlic, take a look at my Ultimate Candida Diet treatment plan.

Although the main objective of your treatment is to kill Candida cells, remember that the more effective it is, the more likely you are to experience a Candida Die-Off reaction. To reduce the chance of this happening, you can take a liver-protective supplement like milk thistle or molybdenum.

How Does Caprylic Acid Help With A Candida Overgrowth?

Yeast Killer

Like other antifungals, caprylic acid works by interfering with the cell walls of the Candida yeast. Thanks to its short chain length, caprylic acid is able to penetrate the cell wall of the yeast relatively easily. It’s then able to inhibit the growth of the yeast by incorporating itself into the cell membrane and causing it to rupture. This effectively destroys the yeast cell.

High Potency

Repeated studies have shown caprylic acid to be an effective treatment against Candida. A study conducted by Japan’s Niigata University found that the fungicidal effect of caprylic acid on Candida Albicans was “exceedingly powerful”. (1)

More recent studies have found that oral supplementation with caprylic acid reduces the symptoms of Candida more quickly and efficiently than some pharmaceutical drugs such as Diflucan. It’s also much more affordable! (2)

Acidity Regulator

By helping to normalize the acidity in your stomach, caprylic acid allows your body tissues to become more alkaline.

Candida dieters are often confused as to whether they should be trying to make their gastrointestinal tract more alkaline or more acidic. In order to break down food properly, the stomach and gut are naturally more acidic than the rest of the body.

An acidic environment in the stomach and gut is also required for the immune system to function properly. This helps you to fight back and prevent infections from opportunistic pathogens like Candida albicans. Caprylic acid helps to restore a natural, acidic environment to your stomach. You can read more about this on our Acid or Alkaline page.

Immune Booster

Caprylic acid is also known for its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, and can help treat skin disorders and acne. It’s also useful for treating urinary tract infections, bladder infections, STIs, and even gingivitis.

The Health Benefits of Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid and its two derivatives monocaprylin and sodium caprylate, are beneficial for treating a wide range of conditions. An interesting fact about caprylic acid is that most of us are accustomed to it already due to its presence in breast milk. For most of us, side-effects are not generally a concern.

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a blended oil that consists of caprylic acid, capric acid, and sometimes other oils. It is scientifically proven and is used in some cases as medicine due to its incredible range of effects. It can be even be used to support critically ill patients.

Caprylic acid may be beneficial for the following:

  • Yeast infections
  • Gut health
  • Skin conditions and acne
  • Weight loss
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy

Yeast infections

You can use caprylic acid to treat all forms of pathogenic Candida yeast infections including skin, genital and digestive system infections. Caprylic acid works to inhibit the virulence or infection-causing power of Candida. It does this by several different mechanisms:

  • Candida can change from its standard yeast form to the hyphal form, which is much more capable of causing infections. Caprylic acid interferes with morphogenesis, which is the name of this process. (3)
  • Candida can adhere to the surfaces in your body, which increases its infectivity. Caprylic acid affects the adhesion properties of Candida. (4)
  • Caprylic acid combats biofilms. A biofilm is a colony of microbes that exude sticky material which forms a matrix or grid. That nasty coating on your teeth in the morning? That’s one example of a biofilm. It’s estimated that almost 70% of all infections that require treatment are due to biofilm formation. They can form on a medical device, an organ, or on a surface tissue. (5) Caprylic acid is a small molecule. It is electrically uncharged, which means that it is attracted to other lipid molecules and able to disrupt and penetrate the biofilm and the microbial cell membranes. Ultimately this affects how well Candida can cause disease. (6)

Caprylic acid creates a more challenging environment for invasive pathogenic Candida. In addition to this it promotes a healthy environment for probiotic, or friendly bacteria which support a balanced microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome means improved health all over your body.

Gut health

Caprylic acid is a supplement that can support gut health even if you do not have candidiasis. Is it a probiotic? Well, no. Caprylic acid isn’t a probiotic, but it can help to support the health of your digestive system through its anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are types of inflammatory bowel disease that can occur in different parts of the digestive system. The inflammation results in pain, intense diarrhea, bloating, bleeding, lethargy, weakness, weight loss, and malnutrition. It can even advance into the underlying layers of the bowel, which can lead to lethal complications.

A mucus-covered tissue called the epithelium lines your digestive system. It acts to defend your gut from potentially dangerous toxins and micro-organisms. Individuals with inflammatory issues in their digestive systems lose this healthy mucus-covered barrier, and when stimulated, the epithelial cells begin to secrete interleukin 8 and other proteins that cause inflammation.

Caprylic acid has been shown to help to treat Crohn’s disease by preventing tissues from releasing interleukin 8 and thereby reducing inflammation in the gut. Treatment with MCFAs resulted in reduced symptoms of Crohn’s (7)

Skin infections and acne

Your skin microbiome consists of bacteria, yeast, and fungus that generally are harmless. However, if your immune system is compromised, and this microbiome becomes out of balance, they can sometimes cause infections and skin issues.

A study in mice has shown that caprylic acid decreases the amount of swelling and pustules in mice infected with Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium that causes acne. The effects are due to the bactericidal and anti-inflammatory effects of caprylic acid. (8)

Dermatophilus congolensis is a gram-positive bacterium that can cause a severe, and irritating skin condition called dermatophilosis, not only for humans, but also for wild and farm animals. The result of this infection is crusts and pustules that can be stubborn to clear. Caprylic acid has shown great promise as a treatment for this condition. (9)

Weight loss

Studies have shown that caprylic acid can help you to burn excess calories, which in turn leads to weight loss. The liver finds it easy to break down, or oxidize, MCFAs such as caprylic acid. This faster rate of oxidation leads to a higher rate of energy expenditure. You burn calories faster if you add caprylic acid to your diet and you will deposit less fat. Caprylic acid is proven to help in weight control. (10) Further studies are examining its potential as a treatment for obese patients. (11)

In addition to increasing energy expenditure and affecting fat deposition, caprylic acidimproves satiety. This means that caprylic acid makes you feel fuller for longer, so you naturally eat less and consume fewer calories.

In 2016, researchers used ice-cream containing either sunflower oil or caprylic acidin the form of coconut oil, to determine the effect on satiety. Before eating a meal, participants were given ice-cream containing different levels of sunflower oil or coconut oil. The people who had the coconut-infused ice-cream ate significantly fewer calories during their meal. (12)

Diabetes

A study in China showed that caprylic acid, when blended with other oils to form MCT oil, could be helpful in managing diabetes. Participants with type 2 diabetes showed lower levels of blood sugar due to increased insulin sensitivity. They also lost weight and decreased their waist circumferences. (13)

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Caprylic acid MCT oil also demonstrated capability in improving glucose metabolism in a study of individuals with and without diabetes. (14)

Epilepsy

Research has shown that a ketogenic diet combined with supplementation with caprylic acid can help to control the seizures that are an unpleasant feature of epilepsy. Ketogenic diets are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The liver breaks down this fat into ketones which the body then uses for fuel; this metabolic state is called ketosis. Studies have combined a ketogenic diet with caprylic acid, and this has reduced the number of seizures, or the severity of seizures that someone with epilepsy experiences. Caprylic acid has anticonvulsant properties. (15)

Chronic malnutrition

Doctors use caprylic acid as an energy source in patients that are suffering from chronic malnutrition because it is readily absorbed and digested. It is ideal for patients that have disorders such as chronic diarrhea, steatorrhea a condition that affects fat digestion, those undergoing stomach and bowel surgeries, and other conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients.

How Do You Take Caprylic Acid?

Caprylic acid is best taken in concentrated capsule form. Here is a good example from Pure Encapsulations. You should take these capsules with meals, twice daily. These gel capsules are particularly effective because they slow the release of the caprylic acid, allowing its antifungal properties to take effect in your intestinal tract.

Gel capsules have been shown to be more effective than taking caprylic acid in liquid form, as there is less chance of the active ingredient being delivered straight to the liver and flushed out of the body before it can exert its antifungal effects.

Another effective antifungal supplement is Candida Support. Candida Support contains a combination of anti-fungal ingredients, including Caprylic acid, oregano oil and black walnut. As explained above, it’s advisable to take two or three anti-fungal supplements at any one time in order to maximize the anti-fungal effect. This also reduces the chance of the Candida yeast building up a resistance to a single agent.

Of course, it’s also possible to get your dose of caprylic acid straight from the natural source: coconut oil. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid, three potent antifungals that work great in combination. It’s advisable to start by taking 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil each morning, then building up the dosage to 5 tablespoons per day if you don’t experience any Die-Off symptoms.

Who Should Not Take Caprylic Acid?

In general, caprylic acid is safe and well-tolerated for most people.

It has been reported to cause mild side-effects that include nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. In those who take high levels of this supplement, there have been more severe side effects reports that include stomach pain, vomiting, drowsiness, and heartburn. In the case of some medical conditions, it is best to avoid this fatty acid altogether.

Those who have certain conditions should limit or avoid their intake of caprylic acid:

  • Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Not enough is known about possible effects in this group.
  • People with liver disease do not have the ability to break down caprylic acid properly. Some studies have indicated that this is not the case, but further research is needed.
  • People with hypotension, because caprylic acid acts to lower blood pressure.
  • If you have ulcerative colitis or another inflammatory bowel condition.
  • If you suffer from a rare, inherited condition which is called medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency. Most babies are screened for this condition at birth. Those with MCAD deficiency cannot process caprylic acid, which can increase the level found in the bloodstream. In extreme cases, this can lead to comas.
  • Patients who are prescribed warfarin, NSAIDs, and certain blood pressure medications. There are also herbal supplements that should not be used with caprylic acid that include L-arginine, coenzyme Q10, and fish oil.

If you are in any doubt, consult your doctor.

Filed under: Antifungals
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