A client recently ask me to write about this topic (thanks, Gloria ) and I must say after researching it a bit I was sufficiently intrigued. There are plenty of testimonials online and as Gloria says, oil pulling certainly is “trending.”
So what exactly is oil pulling? Well…..it’s the opposite of oil pushing (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But seriously, the term is somewhat vague and even misleading and has nothing to do with pulling oils out of the body. It is the ancient practice of swishing dietary oil around in your mouth to “pull” the bacteria from in and around the teeth and gums. The claim is that it penetrates oral plaque and neutralizes the bacteria that lie beneath and beyond the gum line.
The practice is rooted in Ayurvedic medicine, which started in India thousands of years ago and was recently introduced in this country in the 1990’s. Dr. Bruce Fife wrote a book about the benefits of oil pulling entitled: Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing. Dr. Fife attributes a variety of health claims to the practice, going so far as to say it can heal skin conditions, detoxify the liver, cure arthritis, reduce migraines, and prevent heart disease.
While there is no peer reviewed science I could find to back up these claims, it does makes sense that eliminating or reducing the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth could address some of these other issues and even improve overall health. The idea is that all disease starts in the mouth. Now I happen to believe that most disease begins in the gut, but that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge that most of us could benefit from better oral hygiene. After all, even the medical community has acknowledged there is a link between oral health and heart disease. And I’ve heard enough horror stories from clients about complicated, painful and expensive oral surgery that, frankly, I will do just about anything to avoid going through any of that. I’m quite the wuss when it comes to the dentist.
I guess the point is oil pulling is essentially a simple, inexpensive, and seemingly no-risk thing you can do to improve your health so I don’t see any harm in trying it out. I don’t really see any potential downside.
So here’s how it works:
- 1. Place 1-2 teaspoons of organic, unrefined oil in your mouth. I recommend coconut oil, but sesame or sunflower oil will do as well. The added benefit you get from coconut oil is that it has natural anti-bacterial properties. Another difference is that sunflower and sesame oil are predominantly polyunsaturated oils while coconut is a saturated oil. This means that coconut oil is solid at room temperature so if you place it in your mouth it takes 30 seconds or so to liquefy. Some people may find this unpleasant. I say it’s a minor sacrifice and worth the hassle.
- 2. Swish the oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes. According to Dr. Fife, it takes at least this long for the oil to penetrate any plaque and get into the spaces it needs to access the bacteria. Much longer than 20 minutes may result in reabsorbing the toxins now floating around in your mouth.
- 3. Spit the oil out into a baggie or trash can. You don’t want to spit the oil into your sink or disposal if you are using coconut oil because it can coagulate and contribute to a clogged drain. And you definitely don’t want to swallow the oil because this would defeat the purpose of pulling the toxins out of your body.
- 4. Rinse your mouth with warm water or brush your teeth and gums immediately after swishing. This will remove any remaining oil and bacteria.
I must warn you that the first time I began swishing that oil around in my mouth, I couldn’t imagine going the full 20 minutes. Besides getting past the “oily” consistency, the volume began to increase rapidly after just a few minutes because my saliva glands were sent into overdrive. This may fall under the category of too much information for some, but I thought you’d rather know what you are getting into. After a few minutes, I just accepted this discomfort and it did get better (like anything else I guess).
So give it a try and let me know what you notice after a few weeks by commenting below or “liking” and checking in on my Facebook page. According to Gloria, this will make you part of the “in crowd.”