Coconut Oil May Benefit And Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Coconut oil, a healthy fat used around the world, is a buttery substance extracted from the coconut. Its unique medium-chain fatty acids have remarkable properties that include antimicrobial effects and specific metabolic benefits.
Does it have a place in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a serious and disabling neuroimmune disease? The answer is yes, with four striking potentials: reducing viral load, increasing energy metabolism, improving energy metabolism in the brain, and enhancing adrenal and thyroid function.
1. Reducing viral load. CFS has long been suspected of having a viral cause. Recent investigations have shown a high rate of infection (up to 97%) with the newly studied retrovirus XMRV. XMRV is only the fourth retrovirus known in humans; the others are HIV, HLTV-1, and HLTV-2. The retrovirus XMRV is unlikely to be benign.
Coconut oil is a natural antimicrobial with a broad spectrum, capable of eliminating "lipid-coated" bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In the laboratory it kills the retroviruses HIV and HLTV-1. In a clinical trial with AIDS patients in the Philippines, many showed reduced viral load. Could this oil reduce viral load in CFS patients?
2. Increasing energy metabolism. Mitochondria are the energy-producing structures contained in every cell of the body. Impaired mitochondria may cause the poor energy levels seen in CFS.
Coconut oil is a way to deliver fuel to the mitochondria. Unlike other fats, the liver uses it to generate ketone bodies. Ketone bodies serve as an alternate fuel for cells and have advantages over the usual fuel of glucose. Coconut oil could help reverse mitochondrial impairment by delivering fuel that can be used when glucose can't.
3. Improving energy metabolism in the brain. CFS is associated with cognitive decline and with brain scans identical to those of AIDS patients.
Areas of the brain are energy deficient in many kinds of neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. It's believed that use of this oil may revive these energy-deprived areas by delivering ketone bodies as fuel for affected neurons. Thus it may also help improve neurological deficits in CFS.
4. Enhancing adrenal and thyroid function. CFS has been characterized as a disease of adrenal function; research shows that in this illness, the adrenals have difficulty producing cortisol. The adrenals, like the thyroid, are glands of the endocrine system.
Coconut oil appears to improve thyroid function, as noted in trials as animal feed. Unlike many thyroid treatments, it is believed to also improve adrenal function. This may be due to improving the body's use of cholesterol to form adrenal and thyroid hormones. The poor endocrine function in CFS therefore might be improved with this oil.
Coconut oil might be unique among widely available foods in producing these benefits: reducing viral load, increasing cellular energy, improving energy use in the brain, and enhancing endocrine function. The help for patients with CFS and other neuroimmune diseases is potentially great.
It is a food, not a supplement or a drug. It is available in most natural food stores, some supermarkets, and online.
Heidi Boudro is the editor of Getting Started With Healthy Eating, a web site at http://www.getting-started-with-healthy-eating.com dedicated to ideas, techniques, and information for beginning and maintaining healthy eating. You can find more information there about coconut oil benefits and other superfoods.
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