Can MCT Oil Cause Stomach Pain?

MCT Oil Stomach Pain: Woman holding her stomach in pain

Posted on August 31st, 2020

If you have ever taken MCT oil, then you know that ingesting it may lead to stomach discomfort or pain. MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides), a type of fats, have received a lot of attention from the public as well as researchers in recent years. The main reason behind this interest is the fact that MCTs are quite unique from other types of fats. 

For starters, MCTs are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Then, they are delivered to the liver where they are converted into ketones. Ketones are used as a source of energy in the body, and especially in the brain. 

Consuming MCT oil is also linked with a variety of potential health benefits. Some of these benefits may include aiding weight loss, fat burning, and the treatment of various health conditions including insulin resistance and various neurological disorders. 

Read on below to find out more about MCT oil stomach pain, and what you can do to avoid this common, but unwanted, side effect.  

MCT oil in clear containerWhat Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil is a saturated fat that is made by processing kernel palm oil and coconut oil. It is important to note that you should not confuse coconut oil with MCT oil. This is because the former is made up of both MCTs and LCTs (Long Chain Triglycerides) while the latter is mainly composed of MCTs, with a low composition of LCTs, if any. MCTs are also present in a number of dairy products in lower concentrations. 

The main difference between MCTs and LCTs is that the former is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. It then moves through the small intestines where they are then transported to the liver to be broken down into ketones. Unlike LCTs, medium-chain triglycerides are shorter in length. They can, therefore, make their way along the digestive tract without triggering the release of digestive enzymes from the stomach, pancreas, or gall bladder. 

MCT oil is mainly made up of capric and caprylic MCTs. However, there are four types of MCTs in general. 

Why Do People Take MCT Oil?

There are many reasons why people add MCT oil to their diet, with the main ones being: 

Making You Feel Fuller for Longer

MCTs are known to reduce the production of an important hunger hormone, leptin when ingested. This means that they may make you feel fuller for longer, thus helping you reduce your food consumption levels. 

Burning Fat and Calories

Since MCTs are rapidly absorbed into the body and converted into ketones, a source of energy, they may enhance the rate at which the body burns fat instead of storing it away. Ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier effortlessly, making them a great source of energy for the brain. In fact, some people claim that consuming these fats can help make your mind sharper; however, more research is required to support this claim.

Weight Loss

Consuming MCTs may help you achieve your weight loss goals in a number of ways. For starters, using MCTs could help the body burn more fats instead of storing them away; something that is common with LCTs and can lead to weight gain. Furthermore, consuming MCTs may help keep you fuller for longer, thus reducing your chances of snacking unhealthily. The energy supplied by the ketones from the breakdown of fat can also help you power through workout sessions. And in turn, burning even more fat and helping you move closer to your weight loss goals.


MCT oil is considered to be a major part of the Ketogenic diet. This is due to the fact that the body shifts to burning fats for energy, ketones when very low amounts of carbohydrates are consumed in the diet. For those following the keto diet, consuming MCT oil may help you add more vegetables and fruits to your diet. 

Other Health Uses

MCT oil may also be used to help the symptoms of a variety of health conditions. MCT oil may be used for managing conditions such as insulin resistance, seizures, and a variety of neurological conditions. People who suffer from digestive issues that make it hard for them to digest other types of fats may also be required to use MCTs instead. 

MCT Oil and Stomach Pain 

Now that you know what MCT oil is, as well as some of the main reasons behind its growing popularity, you are ready to dive into one of the most commonly mentioned side effects of using this supplement, stomach pain or discomfort. 

MCT oil can cause stomach pain when consumed in large amounts. Those who are new to the use of this supplement may also suffer the same effect. Some people consider this to be a small price to pay for the many benefits of using this supplement. However, it is important to have an idea of why this occurs in the first place; and if possible, how to prevent it from happening. 

To understand why MCT oil causes stomach pain, you will need to understand how other fats are digested and absorbed into the body. Regular fats, or LCTs, usually follow a long and drawn out breakdown process before they are ready to be broken down into ketones. When ingested, LCTs trigger the release of various digestive enzymes as they make their way through the digestive tract. These digestive juices, produced by various organs including the gall bladder and pancreas, play a huge role in the emulsification, or breakdown, of long-chain fats.

Unlike LCTs, MCTs are directly absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestines without the need for any digestive processes. In fact, MCTs do not trigger the release of digestive enzymes along the digestive tract. This is something that the body is used to when dealing with ingested fats. The absence of a digestive process during the absorption of MCTs may cause stomach pain or cramps. 

This pain, or cramping, is usually worse when you consume MCT oil on an empty stomach, as the above described passive digestive process is bound to occur. As previously stated, consuming abnormally high doses of MCT oil is also bound to cause stomach pain as the shock to the digestive system is more pronounced.   

Older woman in pain from MCT oilHow to Avoid MCT Oil Stomach Pain  

At this point, it is clear to see just how the consumption of MCT oil can lead to stomach aches. However, you need not resign yourself to suffering this unwanted effect just to get the associated benefits. In fact, you will be happy to know that there are things you can do to avoid any stomach discomfort every time you ingest MCT oil. 

It is recommended that you avoid ingesting this supplement on an empty stomach. This may help prevent triggering a passive digestive process and the resulting stomach pain whenever you consume MCT oil.

Adding MCT oil to smoothies, salads, or other types of food, before you eat will help prevent the occurrence of a passive digestive process. Even though the MCT oil will still be absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, this process will be slowed by the digestive process triggered by the consumption of regular food. The release of all the necessary digestive enzymes will be triggered as the food containing the MCT oil makes its way along the digestive tract. 

It is important to remember that MCT oil has a low burning point. Therefore, it should not be used to fry food. 

MCT Oil Dosage Instructions 

As previously mentioned, consuming too much MCT oil can cause stomach pain or discomfort. More importantly, as a saturated fat, MCT oil can lead to an increase in cholesterol and/or weight gain. This is more common when consumed in large doses for an extended period. As such, it is important that you use the right dosage amount. This will ensure you enjoy all of its benefits without any unwanted effects. 

To get enjoy its benefits, it is recommended that you consume between 15ml and 74ml (or 1 to 5 tablespoons) of MCT oil per day. This is the amount used in most of the studies investigating the benefits of MCT oil.

Furthermore, you should not exceed a maximum daily dose of 60ml to 100ml (or 4 to 7 tablespoons) of MCT oil, even though the supplement’s upper intake level (UL) is yet to be defined. 

One of the best ways for you to know how much MCT oil is right for you when starting out is to pay close attention to how your body reacts after each dose. Start with a low dosage amount and then increase it gradually, as your body gets used to it. 


The use of MCT oil is growing in popularity as more and more people learn about its many health benefits. It’s true, the use of this supplement does not cause any severe side effects. However, most new users normally experience stomach pain after consuming the MCT oil. 

Fortunately, you can avoid any cases of stomach discomfort by following the above-mentioned tips on the consumption of MCT oil. Avoid ingesting MCT oil on an empty stomach, and always ensure that you do not exceed the recommended dosage amount. 

Last but not least, be sure to consult your physician before you add MCT oil to your diet.

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