Surely you’ve all heard about oil pulling by now, right? It’s the latest natural health trend that has blown up over the last several weeks. You’ve probably seen the images all over Facebook as so many have been experimenting with this seemingly odd practice of swishing cooking oil in the mouth to improve a myriad of symptoms. The technique is ancient, but does that mean it’s effective?
For starters, oil pulling is a simple procedure. You choose a vegetable based oil, like coconut, sesame, sunflower, or olive oil, you take anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon, put it in your mouth and swish it around for up to 20 minutes.
Depending on the source, people claim the art of oil pulling whitens teeth, strengthens gums, improves the pain associated with sensitive teeth, prevents cavities, eases the symptoms of migraines, detoxes the body, clears out the sinuses, improves sleep, improves halitosis, and even aids in the recovery of a hangover. The list could go on and on…
The practice of oil pulling is believed to be about 3,000 to 5,000 years old. The technique falls under the blanket of Ayurvedic medicine, referring to ancient Indian medicine created in India.
Being a granola-head with loads of skepticism, I was anxious to try oil pulling and research the validity of it’s claims at the same time. So, that’s what I did. I swished organic coconut oil around in my mouth for several evenings, while I read articles and reached out to experts.
Personally, I didn’t love the process. It was tricky for me to breath and to resist the swallowing reflex. I can’t say I had any major revelations, however, I did like the fresh feeling after I had finished. I’ll be anxious to hear what my dentist thinks at my next appointment. Curious if he’ll notice any difference.
While I joyfully jumped on the oil pulling bandwagon, I also asked Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas MD his opinion on the matter.
“My first problem is that it claims to fix too much,” says Umbehr. Umbehr hates seeing patients fall for what he calls gimmicks.
But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely bogus. He pointed me to the research that could back up a few claims. Studies support claims that oil pulling could help with halitosis and it’s been well accepted that coconut oil can serve as an antifungal and antibacterial agent.
Additionally, there are some extensive studies referring to the impact of coconut oil, once digested, and it’s relation to preventing tooth-decay. So, there’s clearly some power in these oils, but perhaps not as much as the internet has touted over the past few weeks.
Dr. Umbehr concluded that he’s essentially neutral on the claims that have some evidence backing them, meaning there’s no harm and some chance it may help the issues such as halitosis. However, he’s stating he’s against the claims such as detox, sinuses, headaches, and hangovers saying it’s silly and not based in any fact.
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