Claim: Coconut water stops diarrhea.
Our findings show this claim is misleading because coconut water is only used in relation to diarrhea for rehydration.
Coconut water has become a trendy beverage, not just because it is sweet and hydrating but also because it has several nutritional value. Coconut water comes from the juice found inside coconuts. It is mostly water but contains important nutrients not found in ordinary water.
Recently, a Facebook post by Aduramingba herbal remedies claims coconut water stops diarrhea.
This post directs that babies below six months of age be given two spoonfuls of coconut water every six hours while babies above six months be given four spoonfuls of coconut water. For children between one to two years of age, the post recommended a quarter of coconut water and half a glass cup for children above two years.
“Administer Cocos nucifera (coconut) water to a child to stop frequent stooling, diarrhoea and dysentery,” part of the Facebook post read.
Diarrhea, a term for having loose and watery stools, usually three or more times in a day can occur due to illnesses like stomach flu, gastrointestinal diseases, food poisoning, medications, etc.
Diarrhea causes significant fluid and electrolyte loss from the body which can lead to dehydration. Although it is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old, it is preventable and treatable.
Its potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium content act as electrolytes that help maintain fluid balance in the body. The number of electrolytes in coconut water, however, depends on whether it was obtained from young or mature coconuts and may vary across brands. Mature coconuts tend to have higher amounts of electrolytes than young ones.
It is, however, important to note that coconut water can also contribute to diarrhea in some people in case of consumption of excess potassium.
Having seen the relationship between diarrhea and coconut water, we sought to know if coconut water is appropriate and safe for babies or not.
This article which highlights some benefits of coconut water warns against giving babies under six months coconut water because of the risk of allergic reactions. Another article by parenting.first cry.com concurs with this, noting that coconut water is beneficial but should only be given after the first six months of life.
What are experts saying?
A senior registrar at the National Hospital Abuja, Jeremiah Agim, explained that coconut water is one of the home remedies for diarrhea disease with the aim of replacing fluid lost through stooling.
He identified other home remedies to be garri water and rice water but noted that all these remedies including ORS are not used solely for the treatment of dysentery.
“Antibiotics are required if a diagnosis of dysentery is made,” he said.
He added that the dose recommended by this post is wrong, noting it should be administered like the ORS:
“The dosing as stated here, using coconut water is also not right. The water should be administered like ORS based on whether the child is dehydrated or not, which the pediatrician will prescribe.”
He, however, warned that this is not what would be recommended at the hospital unless that is the only thing the patient can afford.
“Don’t go to the hospital expecting the doctor to ask you to give your child garri, rice or coconut water. Like I said, they are home remedies, not what a paediatrician will offer to a child. This can only be advised if they can not afford ORS.”
Alabi Olukayode, a paediatrician at Cedarcrest hospital Abuja, said there is no scientific basis for this remedy and it can delay the proper management of diarrhea and dysentery.
“There is no scientific basis to use this herbal remedy. Most common causes of diarrhea in children are viruses and cases of dysentery which are caused by virulent bacteria.
“Coconut water as a natural remedy to diarrhea and dysentery is not encouraged. This method of treatment will delay the proper management of diarrhea and dysentery leading to life-threatening complications,” he said.
Also, a medical officer at Rehoboth Specialist Hospital in Lokoja, Okpanachi Achile, said he can’t say if coconut water stops diarrhea but he knows it is prescribed as an alternative to Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS).
“I’ve not done any research on this but it’s prescribed as an alternative to ORS,” he added.
Our findings and experts’ comments show this claim is misleading. Coconut water is only used in relation to diarrhea for rehydration, not as a cure or something that can stop it.
Also, we found no study or report that identifies coconut water as a solution to diarrhea.