Monday, December 28, 2009

Oil Pulling

I mentioned oil pulling at the end of my last post and feel it needs an explanation. I am always willing to try new things healthwise if they don't cost much and have no side effects. And I find that many of my fellow musicians are likewise more open to alternative medicine practices than others. The name oil pulling intrigued me and also the claim that it could help arthritis so I searched the web and found that Bruce Fife had just written a book on the subject called, Oil Pulling Therapy. I have read several of Fife's books on coconut oil, palm oil, and a good compendium of detox therapies and knew him to be a reliable source of information, not that I agree with everything he says. After all, he is a vegetarian.

Let me preface any further remarks with the fact that a low-carb diet a la Eades, Protein Power Life Plan with a dash of Paleo (no grains or dairy except butter) from Loren Cordain are the basis of any other attempts to improve my health. Low-carb is a given as far as I am concerned and anything else is extra.

So what is oil pulling? Sounds wacky, but it is actually an ancient Ayurvedic practice going back over 2000 years. You simply put 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil in your mouth (I use coconut oil, natch), swish it around for 20 minutes, then spit it out (not down the drain but into a plastic bag for disposal). Rinse your mouth out and that's it. What could be easier? The oil will mix with your saliva and the resulting solution will be milky white. If it gets to be too much, just spit some of it out and keep going or spit it all out and take a new teaspoon or so of oil. Swishing for the full 20 minutes is important.

So what's it doing? There are other websites and people promoting oil pulling with various explanations of how this can help to relieve all kinds of symptoms, but I like Fife's.

The oil acts like a cleanser. When you put it in your mouth and work it around your teeth and gums it “pulls” out bacteria and other debris. It acts much like the oil you put in your car engine. The oil picks up dirt and grime. When you drain the oil, it pulls out the dirt and grime with it, leaving the engine relatively clean. Consequently, the engine runs smoother and lasts longer. Likewise, when we expel harmful substances from our bodies our health is improved and we run smoother and last longer.
He explains that the reason the oil has this "pulling" effect is because the fatty membranes of the tiny organisms, bacteria and viruses, are attracted to it (oil to oil). Our mouths are full of bacteria all the time and some of it gets deeply imbedded in our teeth and gums. These are "sucked out of their hiding places and held firmly in the solution." Even antibiotics may not get at these hidden bacterias in the tubules of your teeth.

How does it help something like arthritis? "Mouth bacteria, once they get into the bloodstream, tend to collect and cause infection in the weakest areas of the body. Certain bacteria apparently have an affinity for the joints. Joints that have already been weakened by disease or trauma are primary locations for secondary infections... Mouth bacteria readily attack these locations."

The most obvious result of oil pulling which almost everyone who tries it relates is that their teeth get noticeably whiter and their breath smells fresher. Tongue and gums turn a healthy pink and incipient periodontal disease is stopped in its tracks. Many also report a tightening of loose teeth. Loose fillings can fall out, but Fife says this is a blessing in disguise because the filling probably needed to be replaced anyway. Another almost universal effect is clearing of the nose and sinuses—good news for asthma sufferers. The nose-only breathing that Buteyko recommends is a lot easier to do if your nose is clear!

I have experienced all these effects (except for losing a filling) and have even been enjoying freedom from my severe arthritis symptoms. Only time will tell if this is a premanent change or just one of those times when my arthritis isn't flaring.

I do have walking pneumonia right now which I have no idea where I got or exactly when. But I am pretty sure it started before I started the oil pulling. I have had no symptoms except for a slight cough and shortness of breath when climbing uphill. The cough I thought was do to my asthma starting up again although that should have been a warning since the only time I have a problem with asthma now is when there is an infection somewhere like bronchitis. I even went on a great vacation to Morro Bay and spent two days hiking in Montana de Oro State Park (another post) giving new meaning to the term "walking pneumonia" and felt better at the end of the week! The walking and the salt sea air seemed to do me good. Did the oil pulling keep the infection from getting worse? I think so although I was swishing only once a day in the morning. If I had known I was sick, I might have done it twice or even three times a day. I do know that the oil pulling has kept the thrush due to the antibiotic I am taking under control.

If you search the web, you can find demonstrations on how to do this technique and many sites with first-hand experiences. Your effects may be different than mine because as I stated earlier I have been a low-carber for several years. Carbs increase the bacteria in your digestive system and even the good bacteria enters the digestive system through the mouth. Not only can oil pulling help with oral hygiene, asthma, sinus problems, and arthritis but some people have found it helps with diabetes, digestion, headaches, skin problems, and sleep and energy issues. Sounds amazing doesn't it?


  1. Day 2 of oil pulling and my nose is clearer.

    When you wrote about it, I had a "doh" moment. We used to do oil extractions in analytical chemistry. Why didn't I think of this before?

  2. Glad to hear it is working for you. You can use any oil, but coconut oil also has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal properties. BTW, Canola oil is a no-no for cooking. It's highly processed and made from rapeseed which is poisonous (mustard gas). They have genetically engineered it to make it "safe." Yeah... Check out this site:

  3. Interesting. not sure I could tolerate swishing around oil in my mouth though (strong gag reflex.)

    And I'm not sure that link you have about Canola oil is very reliable. Just my 2 cents. Happy swishing!

  4. oops. Not sure why the post above said it was by David. It's by Julie. :o)

  5. You are right "David," that is a bad link. I did it in a hurry and didn't check thoroughly. Here is what Mary Enig and Sally Fallon have to say about canola oil. It still isn't good.

    You have to read all the way to the end of this rather long article for their conclusions.

    "Most interesting of all is the fact that many studies show that the problems with canola oil are not related to the content of erucic acid, but more with the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of saturated fats."

    I should probably write a whole post about the omega-3/omega-6 balance. And then there's the processing...

    "The standard deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids. Although the Canadian government lists the trans content of canola at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville, found trans levels as high as 4.6 percent in commercial liquid oil. The consumer has no clue about the presence of trans fatty acids in canola oil because they are not listed on the label."

    And then there's the problem with monounsaturates...

    "At least it can be said that canola oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat--like olive oil--and therefore not harmful. . . Or is it? Obviously monounsaturated fatty acids are not harmful in moderate amounts in the context of a traditional diet, but what about in the context of the modern diet, where the health-conscious community is relying on monounsaturated fats almost exclusively? There are indications that monounsaturated fats in excess and as the major type of fat can be a problem."

    The problems include inhibiting prostaglandins and heart disease. Read the whole thing for all the details. Finally, canola is a highly processed oil made from genetically altered seeds. Something I don't want to eat.

  6. Re gagging: If mucous forms in the back of your throat making you feel like gagging, just spit the oil out, clear your throat and take another spoonful for the full 20 mins. Don't gargle.

    You can also flavor the oil with a few drops of cinnamon oil or peppermint oil if the taste of the oil bothers you.

  7. Thanks for a good article about Oil Pulling