This may be my favorite selfie ever. The joy of spit-filled cheeks – better than Botox! Not bad for bedhead, right?
I’m trying oil pulling. Oh, hello Internet bandwagon! Mind if I jump on? Yes, yes, clearly you’re very crowded what with EVERYONE talking about it this weekend but you know me, I’m always game for a good round of Spin-the-Wheel-of-Health-Fortune!
Oil pulling, for those of you not yet initiated to this weird right of health-blogger passage, is pretty simple: You put a teaspoon or two of oil (sesame, olive and coconut are all popular) in your mouth and swish it around. After 20 minutes or so, you spit it out and the oil takes all the toxins out of your body with it. Congrats, you have ostensibly cured yourself of every possible ailment known to mankind including but not limited to: plaque, gum disease, bad breath, cavities, AIDS, cancer, depression, liver failure, warts, acne, cracked heels and hepatitis.
(I swear I did not make that list up but if I sound a little tongue in cheek it’s because my tongue has been all over my cheeks all friggin’ weekend and, as you may have guessed, 20 minutes is kind of a long time to be a-swishing. Also, I’m grouchy because I have an insane headache. More on that in a minute.)
Confession: I actually tried oil pulling a few years ago, gagged on the oil, retched, made faces like a cartoon character and only managed it for maybe a minute max before heaving it into the sink. (Which, by the way, you’re never supposed to do. The sink part. Because it clogs the pipes. Not the heaving part. Oil pulling makes lots of people heave. At least at first.) Despite whatever got in the Internet water this past week, oil pulling has been around a very long time. It started as an ancient Aryuvedic practice but was introduced to the mainstream in Western cultures around 1996.
But for me, while I’d been hearing about it ever since I got into health stuff, I didn’t really take it seriously until Carla Birnberg (Mizfit, at the time) wrote about it on her site. She’s a sane, reasonable person and she loves it so I figured I ought to at least give it a whirl (ha!). And then tried it once, hated it, and promptly forgot about it. So what changed my mind? For starters, this past week Gym Buddies Allison and Jeni decided to try it and I got a zillion e-mails from you guys (I think mainly because of this Jezebel article). But the real reason is all vanity.
A week ago I had my bi-annual dental checkup and was upset to find out that not only do I have one-and-a-half cavities but since my teeth are super sensitive I’m not a candidate for any tooth whitening stuff. Considering my teeth are roughly the same size and color as corn niblets this disappointed me very much. BUT! While I find it immensely difficult to believe oil pulling cures cancer, it does seem plausible that it could have a positive effect on surface tooth and gum stuff and according to lots of people, it whitened and de-sensitized their teeth! Perfect – just what the doctor (didn’t) order!
My first mistake was starting my oil pulling after lunch. I’d read that you oil-pull first and then brush your teeth so that’s what I did. Let me tell you, you do not realize how much crap is stuck in your teeth until you start swishing coconut oil around in there. It was like change in a washing machine. A greasy carrot-filled washing machine. Twenty minutes seemed completely nuts but I was determined to go the whole time this time. (Mostly because Allison did it and even though we now live four states apart I still have to do everything she does!) In retrospect, I think I could have spit out the chunkified oil and put some new stuff in and kept going but at the time that didn’t occur to me so it just got grosser and grosser.
Jelly Bean was super confused as to why I couldn’t talk to her all of a sudden. “Just SHOW ME what’s in you mouf!!!” Oh honey, I love you way too much to do that!
I finally expectorated that mess, gleefully, after the timer went off. My teeth definitely felt really clean! But an hour or two later, this massive headache set in. This was weird for me because I never get headaches. Not even when I’m sick. I’m just not a headache-y person I guess? And it was like someone had driven nails into my forehead. I texted Jeni and she told me that she’d gotten the Hannibal headache too, which was why she quit pulling after one time. I slept on it, felt dandy as a peach the next morning, so this time I decided to try oil pulling again, the “right” way. I did it before breakfast, on an empty stomach, and then rinsed my mouth out with water after. No spit confetti this time so that was nice. But again, after a couple of hours the headache set in. And lasted alllll day. Which really sucked since it was my son’s birthday party and the last place you want to be incapacitated is at a movie theater with a gaggle of kidlets. My head hurt so much I slept through 75% of the LEGO movie (but hey, everything is awesome! Everything is cool … when you can’t stop singing this song!)
I’ve done four rounds of pulling and have got the $*(%& headache every single time.
So I googled it. According to some people, the headache is normal if your body is expelling a lot of toxins. (Um excuse me Internet? I’d like to introduce you to my liver. Yeah, she’ll be taking over the detoxifying from here, Kthx.) Another theory was all the jaw movement can bring on a headache but it didn’t feel like that kind of soreness/pain to me. Lastly, some people said that raw, virgin coconut oil like I used is the big gun in oil pulling and that the effect is so powerful that newbies can’t handle it. I would have rolled my eyes but my head hurts too much. But what do I know, really? Pretty much everyone said your body will get used to whatever’s happening within a few days and you’ll be pain free in no time. Here’s hoping.
That’s me, making mouth mayonnaise, first thing this morning!
When I posted about this on Facebook, I got a bunch of questions.
1. Where’s the research? (This, from my mother the pragmatic nurse. I love her so hard.)
I honestly didn’t expect to find any serious studies looking at oil pulling but it turns out some research has actually been done! Here’s a summary:
– Oil pulling was found to cause a “statistically significant” reduction in halitosis (bad breath) and the microorganisms that cause it. The researchers said it was equally effective as chlorhexidine, an antiseptic antibacterial.
– A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study found that oil pulling reduced plaque on teeth and gingivitis as much as an antibiotic. It also significantly reduced strep bacteria counts in the mouth.
– This study found that oil pulling reduced the ability of the bacteria to adhere to the tooth and thereby reduced cavities (caries). “There is a remarkable reduction in the susceptibility of a host to dental caries. 50% of the case study persons were converted from marked dental caries susceptibility to slight dental caries susceptibility [the other 50% were downgraded to moderate risk.] This alone makes me want to do it since I swear I have Swiss cheese teeth. Even though I brush and floss twice a day religiously and eat a mainly healthy diet (very little refined sugar/grains), I still end up with cavities every single time I see the dentist. Every time. It sucks.
2. Are you giving up toothbrushing/flossing?
Nooooo! And from what I’ve read oil pulling is not really meant to be used in place of good oral hygiene but rather in addition to it. If you poke around on health blogs you’ll find some people using it instead of tooth brushing but the majority of folks still brush their teeth with regular toothpaste or a homemade flouride-free paste.
3. Wouldn’t this work if you swished anything, even water?
The most common response from medical professionals seems to say that the oil isn’t anything special and rather it’s the act of swishing a liquid around that is doing the good. I don’t think this is true, actually. Coconut oil has been proven to have some natural antibiotic properties and since a lot of the benefits people attribute to the pulling is a consequence of less bacteria in the mouth I’m guessing using oil (coconut and sesame are the two most studied) does make some difference. In addition, it is purported to have antiviral and antifungal properties as well – handy if you’re prone to thrush?
4. Don’t your cheeks hurt?
No actually. And now that I’ve done it four times, the 20 minutes isn’t so daunting. First, I’m careful to NOT do it after a meal. Ugh. Second, I do it right when I wake up and then get my kids up, get them breakfast and get dressed. By that point the 20 minutes has flown by. The hardest part is not being able to yell at, er instruct, my kids. They’ve gotten used to my sign language though.
5. Are you going to keep doing it?
I’m committed to at least a week. But if I’m still getting the headaches after that, I’m quitting. And unfortunately today two of my back teeth started aching as well. I don’t know if this is a result of the oil pulling or just an unfortunate coincidence? So far, my teeth aren’t any whiter or less sensitive but four days hardly seems long enough to make any conclusions. I’m aiming for a month. Either way though, as far as health trends go, this one is relatively easy and cheap to try!
What’s your experience – I know some of you have tried this! Got any advice for me on the headaches? Any other questions?