Coconut Oil Use #3: Oil Pulling

With all the talk about using coconut oil, people have told me I just need to start my own line already. Now I’ve got another use for you.

If I were to say my #1 use for coconut oil, it’s in my coffee (as I refer to often on Facebook and Twitter).

My #2 use would be in cooking (how most people probably use it frequently I bet).

Now…my #3 use is something I have done a while back, kind of got out of the habit…and then got back into it again. It is used for “oil pulling”!

(insert confused silence or thoughts of “what the heck is oil pulling?”)

Preventing Tooth Decay

A recent report from researchers in Ireland found that only coconut oil (vs olive and vegetable oils) when treated with enzymes was able to effectively stop the growth of Streptococcus bacteria:

Scientists found that coconut oil which had been treated with enzymes stopped the growth of Streptococcus bacteria – a major cause of tooth decay.

Speaking at the Society for General Microbiology’s conference, the Irish researchers say that coconut oil also attacks the yeast which causes thrush.

The research team from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland tested the impact of coconut oil, vegetable oil and olive oil in their natural states and when treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion.

Only the enzyme-modified coconut oil showed an ability to inhibit the growth of most strains of the bacteria.

It also attacked Streptococcus mutans, an acid-producing bacterium which is a major cause of tooth decay.

Excerpts from: “Coconut oil could combat tooth decay”, BBC online Sept 2012

The key being here that it was the coconut oil “treated with enzymes” (much like digestion does) that were the most effective.

Coconut oil seems to have anti-fungal / anti-microbial properties in vitro, but perhaps there is already an old natural practice in place to help with oral hygiene.

History of Oil Pulling

The “swishing” around of oil in a person’s mouth daily seems to be an old Ayurveda (Indian) practice passed down for thousands of years.

In more recent times a Dr. Karach became a strong proponent of using oil (in this case sunflower) as daily treatement for most diseases. He termed it as “pulling oil” (as it could come from the claim of the oil “pulling” out toxins…also from “pulling” the oil through teeth).

Now when I see something that is promoting a “detox”, I already start to question it’s real effectiveness. Just trolling around the internet I came across many sites that have a variety of “claims” in what oil pulling can do.

Anything can be read from helping to treat:

  • Allergies
  • Fatigue
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • Skin problems
  • Asthma
  • Teeth/gum problems
  • Bad breath
  • Joint pain/arthritis
  • Insomnia

and so much more. Perhaps though there is something to the practice of oil pulling that can help to benefit the body’s overall state of health (and I’m not talking about “detox” either).

A Clean Mouth

I’ve mentioned before about how health starts (or ends) in the gut, now perhaps there is a second place…the mouth.

The mouth certainly seems like a good place that bacteria can breed and spread to other parts of the body. That bacteria can also produce more endotoxins and exotoxins.

As you increase bacteria and the toxin by-products through out the body, you will then put a greater strain on the immune system and also likely increase chronic inflammation.

On the flip side by helping to neutralize the amount of bacteria growth you have in your mouth, it may be an important prevention step towards increasing overall immune function and whole body health.

Since I can remember, I’ve always had issues with chronic sinusitis (apparently a deviated septum from a pencil accident in 3rd grade…I’m sure you don’t want the details).

I was good for 1-2 big sinus infections a year. The “fun” kind with sinus pressure, can’t breathe out my nose, then turning into a nasal drip, some sort of bronchial congestion and the fun would go on.

Once I found out about “oil pulling” and gave it a shot, I was amazed at how my yearly sinus infections pretty much went away. So maybe there is something to this after all!

How to Oil Pull

Oil pulling is essentially taking some oil (1 tbsp of coconut oil) in your mouth, and then swishing it around for 15-20 min.

No gargling. No swallowing.

Just move the oil around your mouth (especially “pulling” through the teeth) and let it get to all those places where bacteria can hide out.

As mentioned in the article above, it was coconut oil with “enzymes” that did the best job. Digestion does start in the mouth, as it produces enzymes (hence you are supposed to chew your food more to allow interaction with the enzymes in saliva).

Keeping the oil in your mouth for an extended time allows it to interact with those enzymes (you will see it turn white when you spit it out finally).

Most say the best time to do it is first thing in the morning (after an overnight fast), before you eat or brush your teeth. So to sum up:

  1. Take a tbsp right in the AM before eating/brushing teeth
  2. Swish/move it around and pull it through your teeth for 15-20 min (I do it while I’m in the shower)
  3. Do not gargle or swallow the oil
  4. Once done spit it out and give your mouth a good rinse/spit with water. (Note: I don’t suggest you spit it out down a sink drain. You can spit it in the toilet, garbage can or just a spare bottle to toss when full).

So there you have it. Another great use for coconut oil that may help your teeth (and may even help whiten them) and overall state of health. If you want even more uses for coconut oil…well here are 52 of them to try out.

Warning: I have seen mention of people’s fillings/crowns coming out with oil pulling. A “hypothesis” is that the bacteria built up around the filling/crown once removed makes it come loose, but that’s just a somewhat educated guess.

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