Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a powerful anti-microbial fatty acid that protects the immune system of the fetus and newborn. Pregnant and nursing mothers should eat coconut oil to increase the quality of the womb environment and breast milk.
There has been a lot of research lately discussing how the environment of the womb can affect the long term health of the baby with respect to autism, allergies, asthma, food sensitivities and other chronic conditions. In past blogs we have talked about the health benefits of coconut oil but not specifically its protective properties for pregnant and nursing mothers.
A healthy diet contains mixtures of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The unique composition of human breast milk contains about 45 to 50 % saturated fat, about 35% unsaturated and 15-20%polyunsaturated. Lauric acid and capric acid comprise about 20% of total saturated fatty acids found in breast milk. Lauric and capric acid have potent antiviral, antibacterial, and parasiticidal (kills parasites) properties that support the immune system. These fatty acids offer the nursing infant protection from illnesses, viruses such as herpes and HIV, protozoa such as giardia lamblia, and bacteria such as chlamydia and heliocobater.
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat (but not cholesterol since it is from a plant) containing about 50% lauric acid. Other components of coconut oil include capric acid, caprylic acid, tocopherols and tocotrienols. (Vitamin E lipids that act as potent anti-oxidants that can help maintain healthy cell structure and function). A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that lactating mothers who eat coconut oil and other coconut products, have significantly increased levels of lauric acid and capric acid in their breast milk, creating milk rich in health promoting nutrients. Coconut oil is easy for an infant's immature digestive system to absorb and utilize. It also provides energy in the form of medium chain fatty acids to help the baby grow and develop properly.
According to the research, when a lactating woman adds foods rich in lauric acid to her diet, the amount of lauric acid available in her breast milk increases substantially to levels three times the original level and nearly double the amount of capric acid. A single meal of coconut oil can significantly affect the breast milk fatty acid compositions for 1 to 3 days with the maximum increase occurring during the first 10 hours. This data supports the hypothesis that diet directly affects the quality of human milk and possibly the womb environment.
Pregnant females store fat to assure successful lactation. Any lauric acid and capric acid in the diet becomes part of the adipose stores. The milk fat of a lactating mother is made up of these stores as well as her current diet. Therefore it is so important for pregnant and nursing women to eat a healthy diet- one based on whole foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein and raw coconut oil!