More than 95 per cent of people in modern society have some form of tooth decay or gum disease. Medical research has shown a clear and direct link between oral health and a multitude of chronic diseases, something ancient healing traditions have known for centuries. Chinese, Tibetan and Indian medicine pay particular attention to examination of the tongue, teeth, gums and oral cavity to diagnose a wide variety of disease states. The good news is that an ancient daily oral practice known as “oil pulling” can promote not only mouth health but general health as well.
Oil pulling, the simple daily routine of swishing vegetable or coconut oil in your mouth, spitting it out and rinsing, has been reported to also prevent, improve or treat chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, headaches, chronic fatigue and colitis.
“Your mouth is a window to your body,” says Dr Bruce Fife, author of the renowned The Coconut Oil Miracle and more recently bestseller Oil Pulling Therapy. Dr Fife has spent years researching and documenting the extraordinary healing benefits of oil pulling, calling it “one of the most powerful, most effective methods of detoxification and healing I have ever experienced in my career as a naturopathic physician”.
Oil pulling gained widespread attention among modern Western health practitioners after Dr F. Karach, an Ayurvedic physician, presented his remarkable results at a Ukraine medical conference to a group of oncologists and bacteriologists. He described numerous case studies of chronic diseases he claimed he had cured with this simple, inexpensive and harmless technique, ranging from migraines to heart disease, to digestive complaints and cancer.
As Dr Fife explains, “The bacteria and micro-organisms that inhabit our oral cavities have a direct influence on our health. Oil pulling essentially ‘soaks up’ disease-causing bacteria and toxins from around our teeth and gums, cleaning the mouth far better than any toothbrush or mouthwash.”
Brushing only partly deals with bacterial presence in the oral cavity, as teeth only comprise 10–15 per cent of the mouth, so 85–90 per cent of the mouth remains filled with bacteria. These bacteria eventually make their way to the rest of the body, where they can overwhelm the immune system and be the cause of serious illness. Oil pulling greatly reduces the bacterial load on the body, strengthening the immune system and allowing it to deal with detoxifying and healing the body of chronic disease remote from the oral cavity.
What’s in your mouth?
Your mouth is an ecosystem of its own with billions of micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) calling it home. Surprisingly, your dog has a cleaner mouth as dogs have antibodies in the saliva not found in humans that kill disease-causing germs, leading some to say you would pick up more germs kissing your partner than your dog. Although some oral bacteria are relatively benign and even helpful, many are the cause of gum disease and may be responsible for other serious chronic diseases. Saliva (we normally produce about one litre per day) helps control the growth of pathogenic bacteria (disease-causing, harmful bacteria). At night when asleep you produce almost none.
The combination of bacteria is unique to each person because your oral environment is a result of your dietary habits, weight, lifestyle, gender, hormonal levels, stress levels, illness and level of hydration. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates found in fast food and soft drinks act as fertiliser in the “garden” of your mouth, leading to massive proliferation of acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Diabetics are three times more likely to have gum disease than non-diabetics, as are those who are overweight. Smoking and alcohol also impact negatively on oral health. Dehydration from poor water intake, excess coffee or alcohol decreases saliva production, which in turn reduces enzymes that greatly affect the oral environment, leading to increases tooth decay and gum disease.
Oral health and chronic illness
According to ancient healing traditions such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine, your tongue is a reflection of the state of your internal health and wellbeing. Interestingly, Ayurveda advises oil pulling “to purify the tastebuds and the entire system”, as explained by Dr Deepak Chopra in Perfect Health. Chopra explains that the tongue is mapped by organ locations, meaning sections of the tongue are connected to the kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver, heart, pancreas, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine (similar to reflexology maps).
Nowadays, modern medicine is reporting what ancient traditions have always known. A comprehensive report, Links between oral health and general health — the case for action, released in December 2011 by Dental Health Services Victoria, explains how dental health is linked to serious chronic and degenerative diseases as well as adverse pregnancy outcomes.
People with tooth decay, gum disease, abscesses and other poor oral health can pass disease-causing microbial organisms into their bloodstreams. Small ulcers or cuts can also do this and, even if you have no obvious dental problems, brushing and flossing, which can lead to bleeding, can also pass these organisms into the blood. Once in your bloodstream, these organisms can end up in any organ or tissue, including the liver, heart, lungs and bones. These may then contribute to infection elsewhere in the body, such as respiratory illnesses, heart valve infections or liver abscesses, or they can also affect your blood chemistry and physiology, leading to conditions and illnesses that seemingly have no connection to infectious organisms, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, adrenal fatigue, stroke and dementia, inflammatory bowel disease, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, kidney disease and cancer.
The power of oil pulling
You may well ask how can swishing some oil in your mouth result in such extraordinary improvements in your health and treat such serious and complicated disease processes? It is not the oil that does the healing. It is your body, with its innate healing abilities, that re-establishes its balance, harmony and health once given the right assistance and opportunity. This comes in the form of healthy diet and lifestyle, good oral hygiene, the correction of nutritional deficiencies and proper hydration.
Add to all this oil pulling, which works by removing the load of disease-causing micro-organisms and toxins so that the immune system is no longer burdened, overwhelmed and overworked, and inflammation is reduced. Chemistry is normalised and damaged tissues are slowly healed. Oil pulling works by attracting the fatty membranes of these organisms, much like a magnet, pulling them from their hiding places and keeping them in solution (that’s why you must not swallow the oil).
Oil pulling technique
Oil pulling can be done any time of the day but, ideally, it should be done first thing in the morning, before breakfast, on an empty stomach. Bacteria are in greatest numbers first thing in the morning. It’s recommended you drink a glass of water before oil pulling as it makes it easier to produce saliva, which is necessary for the process. Saliva also helps to remove disease-causing bacteria and maintain a balanced pH.
About one tablespoon of vegetable or coconut oil should be used, but do not swallow it. A couple drops of essential oil or healing oil, such as oregano oil, can be added if desired. Move the oil slowly and methodically around your mouth, making sure the oil reaches all parts of the oral cavity. Be careful not to gargle or swallow the oil.
As Dr Karach puts it, “Sip, suck and pull through the teeth” for 15–20 minutes. This process makes oil thoroughly mixed with saliva. The oil must not be swallowed, for it has become full of bacteria and toxins. As the process continues, the oil gets thinner and whiter. If the oil is still yellow, it has not been pulled long enough. It is then spat from the mouth and the oral cavity must be thoroughly rinsed with clean water and teeth brushed with natural toothpaste.
Initially, some people may not be able to tolerate working the oil for a full 20 minutes as their mouths fill too much with saliva and they need to spit it out much sooner. Also, you may experience mucus forming in the back of your throat, which also makes you want to immediately spit it out. That’s fine. You may need to do this in two stages or more until able to complete 20 minutes. Less time has been shown to be less beneficial. It is recommended you do it on an empty stomach as some people experience a gag-type reflex, which may make them feel like vomiting. It does become easier as you become used to the technique, and most people have no problems with it at all.
Most vegetable oils are recommended, including sunflower, olive or sesame oil (unprocessed and cold-pressed), but many prefer to use coconut oil, which is by far the healthiest oil. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing properties as well as anti-cancer actions. It has been shown to kill not only bacteria but viruses, fungi and protozoa.
Some people may experience what is known in natural medicine circles as a “healing crisis”, which means the oil pulling is having a powerful detoxifying effect on the body. You may feel unwell and experience some nausea, headaches, diarrhoea or fatigue and some existing health complaints may initially intensify. This will subside in a few days and, depending on your toxin load, may take a few weeks. During and after pulling, you may feel you are draining mucus continually from your throat and sinuses or that you are coming down with a cold. Don’t worry. This is part of the healing and detoxifying process. Not everyone experiences these symptoms, but if you do, don’t give up as you have started your healing and detoxifying journey.
Remember that oil pulling is completely harmless — you don’t even swallow it. Women can do it during pregnancy and lactation, as can children as young as five years of age as long as they can understand how to do it, swishing without swallowing. Oil pulling does not interact with any medications.
Most people who practise oil pulling for some time report astonishing results, from the quick cure of recent acute conditions to the disappearance of long-term chronic complaints. Most people can expect a result since over 95 per cent of people have some degree of poor oral health and all areas of our bodies can be affected by our mouths and the organisms they contain. For a start, you can expect whiter teeth, fresher breath, less plaque, reduced gingivitis and reduced inflammation and infection of the oral cavity.
With continued oil pulling you will notice improvement in energy levels and in longstanding problems and conditions. There are startling reports of people no longer suffering from debilitating arthritis, skin conditions and digestive complaints as well as stabilisation of blood-sugar levels, disappearance of allergies and headaches, and improvement of sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis. There are positive reports for chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia as well as kidney and liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cardiovascular disease.
Some people may not heal their particular complaint — oil pulling is not a “cure-all”. There’s a number of reasons why it may not work for you. First, if you have a longstanding health complaint you cannot expect overnight miracles in a sick, depleted and overwhelmed body that has often been burdened with toxic pharmaceutical drugs and an unhealthy lifestyle. If it took decades to develop a health problem, the body may take some time to re-establish its healing capabilities. Remember, the oil is not the cure — it simply helps the body’s innate and natural healing mechanisms. Second, if an illness is not at all related to oral health, you may not achieve the results hoped for.
Remember that oil pulling can also be beneficial in preventing disease and optimising your wellbeing. It must, however, be used in combination with a number of other key elements summarised in the box ‘Key to Oral Health’. As usual, though, true and lasting health is achieved only through holistic means when the body, mind and emotions are balanced and in harmony and when you maintain a healthy lifestyle in tune with nature.
The keys to oral health:
- Avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates
- Avoid soft-drinks
- Drink adequate amounts of purified water
- Vitamins A, C, D and E
- B-complex vitamins
- Co-enzyme Q10
- Practise good daily dental hygiene
- Practise oil pulling
- Zinc and selenium
- Eat a healthy diet — whole, unprocessed and raw foods
- Replace amalgam fillings
- Visit a dentist yearly
- Use an alcohol-free mouthwash
- Avoid environmental toxins
- Use non-fluoride natural toothpaste
- Have previous root canals checked — they may need to be removed
- Schuessler Tissue Salts calcium phosphate, calcium fluoride and silican
Courtesy: Wellbeing and Dr Valerie Malka MD FRACS MIPH MA is a general surgeon and trauma specialist with a degree in public health, a Master’s degree in journalism and a diploma in humanitarian assistance. She has a great interest in all forms of natural therapies, Buddhism and animal rights. She currently works as a surgeon, freelance journalist and in advocacy, and also completes humanitarian missions overseas.