In the hustle and bustle of our modern world, mood disorders and stress have become increasingly prevalent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in every 8 people in the world were living with a mental health disorder in 2019.1 As society grapples with the complexities of these mental health issues, the desire for effective and long-term remedies intensifies.
In recent years, there has been a substantial shift towards a more holistic approach to mental health management. Natural therapies for mood enhancement and stress reduction have attracted an increasing amount of attention. These remedies, which are frequently extracted from nature's abundance, provide a gentler alternative to conventional treatments by working with the body's natural healing systems.
This article aims to delve into a specific natural remedy: coconut compounds. It explores how these compounds can positively impact mood and stress levels and offer a potential solution to some of today’s most pressing mental health issues.
Coconut compounds: an overview
The coconut, scientifically termed Cocos nucifera, belongs to the palm tree family and is revered for its rich content of bioactive compounds. These constituents engage with our body's mechanisms, promoting overall well-being. Notably, coconut is abundant in vitamin E derivatives and antioxidants, essential for physical health and potentially beneficial for mood enhancement and stress reduction.
With its gentle and natural attributes, coconut stands out as a versatile ingredient that fosters holistic wellness, nurturing both the mind and body. The synergy between its bioactive compounds and our bodily systems allows for nourishment without the harsh side effects that are often associated with synthetic treatments. The versatile applications and nutritional richness of coconut underscore its significance, making it a noteworthy resource for numerous health benefits.2
How coconut compounds affect mood
As the command centre of our bodies, the brain is crucial in directing our moods and emotions. It controls the release of neurotransmitters, which connect with other areas of the brain to either stimulate or calm us, affecting our mood, emotions, and behaviour. 3
Coconut oil increases tryptophan levels, an amino acid that functions as a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that aids in mood, social behaviour regulation, hunger, digestion, memory, and sleep. As a result, elevated serotonin levels can aid in the promotion of a positive mood while combating mental health decline.4
The lauric acid in coconut oil can also boost mood by raising dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine, another neurotransmitter, is best known for its role in reward-motivated behaviour. Most sorts of rewards raise dopamine levels in the brain. Lauric acid also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties that help reduce inflammation, which is a major cause of anxiety and depression.5
How coconut compounds affect stress
Stress is our body's natural reaction to challenges. This response is controlled by the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which is an interconnected system of communication linking three areas of the body: the hypothalamus and pituitary glands (both located in the brain), and the adrenal glands (located on top of the kidneys). When we are stressed, this mechanism causes the creation of cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone".6
Coconut compounds may have a role in modulating this stress response. The primary fat in coconut oil is composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are unique because they are easily absorbed and used by the body for energy. This rapid energy source can help the brain function more efficiently and potentially reduce feelings of stress.7
Moreover, coconut oil has been found to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants combat oxidative stress in our bodies, which is often increased during physical or emotional strain. By reducing oxidative stress, coconut compounds may help to alleviate the physiological effects of stress.8
Integrating coconut for a healthier lifestyle
Incorporating coconut into your daily life can be a simple and enjoyable way to enhance your well-being. Here are a few practical suggestions:
- Cooking with coconut oil: replace your regular cooking oil with coconut oil. It’s a healthy alternative that can withstand high cooking temperatures
- Coconut snacks: consider adding unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes to your snacks or meals for an extra crunch and flavour
- Coconut milk in beverages: use coconut milk in your coffee, tea, or smoothies;it adds a creamy texture and a subtle sweetness
These easy and enjoyable practices can pave the way for a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, showcasing the potential of coconut in fostering mental and physical wellness.
Embracing the integration of coconut compounds into our daily routines presents a natural and gentle approach to enhancing mood and alleviating stress. Abundant in bioactive constituents such as vitamin E derivatives and antioxidants, coconut offers a natural approach to potentially mitigate the impact of mental health decline. The interplay between coconut compounds and neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine showcases the scientific potential for positive mood regulation. Additionally, the modulation of stress responses through coconut's medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and their antioxidative properties further emphasises the scientific foundation for utilising coconut as a holistic well-being ally. In the face of rising cases of mood disorders and stress, coconut, as a versatile ingredient, offers a gentle yet impactful solution, showcasing the potential of embracing natural remedies.
- Mental disorders [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
- Coconut | description uses, & facts | Britannica [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/plant/coconut
- World Economic Forum [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. This is how the brain shapes our emotions and moods. Available from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/feeling-happy-sad-this-is-how-the-brain-manages-emotion-and-mood/
- Yeap SK, Beh BK, Ali NM, Yusof HM, Ho WY, Koh SP, et al. Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo. Exp Ther Med [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2023 Sep 22] 9–42. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3892/etm.2014.2045
- Dayrit FM. The properties of lauric acid and their significance in coconut oil. J Am Oil Chem Soc [Internet]. 2015 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Sep 22];92(1):1–15. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11746-014-2562-7
- Harvard Health [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Understanding the stress response. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response
- Chen X, Kim DI, Moon HG, Chu M, Lee K. Coconut oil alleviates the oxidative stress-mediated inflammatory response via regulating the mapk pathway in particulate matter-stimulated alveolar macrophages. Molecules [Internet]. 2022 Jan [cited 2023 Sep 22];27(9):2898. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/9/2898
- Odubanjo OV, Oluwarotimi AE, Ayeni CO, Akingbola HO, Olabisi PT. Fatty acid composition and antioxidant effect of coconut oil in Drosophila melanogaster. Comp Clin Pathol [Internet]. 2020 Dec 1 [cited 2023 Sep 22];29(6):1147–55. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00580-020-03162-4