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Pulling Out Toxins


February 2015

Oil pulling or oil swishing is an ancient Ayurvedic practice whereby sesame seed or coconut oil is placed in the mouth and swished or pulled through the teeth. The practice dates back 2,500 years but has recently become more popular. The technique is simple. A tablespoon of oil is placed in the mouth and swished around for 20 minutes. Spit it out and thatís it. According to Ayurvedic practitioner Jamie Durner, oil pulling should be done first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach for best results.

Proponents claim that the practice has numerous health benefits. "Oil pulling is just one of the daily techniques we use to rid the body of toxins," says Durner. "Oils are lipophilic, meaning they attract oils and fat-soluble toxins and basically they pull them out. This is what oil pulling does, and it is especially helpful because the mouth is where digestion begins. Oil pulling helps to gently wake our digestive system. Since the tongue is seen as a receptacle that connects to all the organs of the body, oil pulling can also encourage organs to remove toxins as well. Ancient Ayurveda text say that it can help anything from migraines, diabetes, asthma, skin conditions and allergies."

Dr. Mark Crego says that although there have been no formal studies done by the American Dental Association, there may be something to it. "Itís a natural ingredient that probably helps to keep the mouth clean and prevent the proliferation of bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It coats the teeth and can help to prevent plaque buildup. It works a lot like tarter control toothpaste," he says.

Crego has a few patients who are "pullers," but he has not noticed a significant difference between their dental health and anyone who does a good job of brushing and flossing. "Itís a different way to get the same results," he says. "If a patient asked me what I would rather have them spend that kind of time on, I would have to say brushing and flossing."

Dr. Tiffany Mullen not only has patients who practice oil pulling, but she has done it herself. "I am not a regular puller, but I have tried it. We all know that when something is dissolved it is easier to remove. Bacteria has a fatty outside that the oil will dissolve and thus pull out more easily. Most systemic conditions like asthma have an inflammatory component. There is the idea that the mouth drives systemic inflammation. If you decrease the bacterial load in your mouth, you decrease systemic inflammation. That is why people who floss have better cardio vascular health. If you decrease mouth inflammation by removing bacteria, you are giving yourself a break on inflammation in the body. Then any inflammatory condition would respond more positively," Mullen says.

It sounds good in theory, but Durner warns that oil pulling is not a magic bullet to better health. "Ayurveda takes a holistic approach, and this is just one of the tools we use to rebalance a personís health," she says.

The Miracle of Coconut Oil

If you thought coconut oil was bad for you, youíre not alone. Many people remember the bad press coconut oil received for its use in movie theater popcorn. That oil, however, was hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, a process that gives food products a longer shelf life. In turn, it became a trans fat, which can lead to higher cholesterol levels and heart disease.

Today coconut oil has risen to near miracle-drug status. Thereís been a lot of hype about coconut oil, and it seems almost every day someone comes up with a new use. Either as a skin cream, hair conditioner, to lighten age spots, bath oil, cold sore cure, a way to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of Alzheimerís, or even a bubble gum remover ó it appears thereís nothing this oil canít do.

According to Ron Sjoquist of Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee, sales of coconut oil have doubled in the last two years. "We carry a lot of brands. Some of the best are Dr. Bronnerís, Spectrum and Nutiva. Ziggy Marley even makes flavored coconut oils for cooking," says Sjoquist.

Jack Green, owner of The Natural Food Shop on S. 13th St. also recommends Nutiva, Wilderness Family Naturals and Now, but he says that the method of extraction is more important than the brand. "Basically, there are three kinds of coconut oil. The highest quality and most expensive is raw centrifuge extracted oil. Sixteen ounces of this oil sells for $16.95. The next best is cold pressed and unfiltered, which costs $8.99 for 12 ounces. Finally, we have the ultra-clean expeller-pressed coconut oil, which costs $9.50 for 16 ounces."


This story ran in the February 2015 issue of: