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Is Oil Pulling for Real?

Advocates claim that swishing oil around in your mouth can whiten your teeth and detoxify your body. Is there any truth behind this wacky fad? Nutrition Diva tells all.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
March 14, 2014

 

Q. "I keep reading about 'oil pulling.' It sounds like a miracle,  promising to do everything from whitening teeth to detoxifying the body, so naturally I'm skeptical! What's your take?"

A. I've gotten tons of emails about "oil pulling," a sure sign that this health fad has reached critical mass. And I'm glad that tales of "miraculous" effects aroused your skepticism. 

For those who haven't run across it yet, oil pulling involves taking a mouthful of oil and swishing it around your mouth for several minutes, "pulling" it through your teeth, and so on, before spitting it out. Advocates claim that this practice will do everything from pull toxins from your body, to whitening your teeth. Often, the "magic" depends on using a specific type of oil, such as coconut oil. (This, by the way, almost always comes from folks who are selling the oil in question.) 

I don't think that oil pulling is going to hurt anyone but most of the claims are sheer nonsense. Oil pulling might cleanse the mouth of bacteria and other debris, thereby improving oral health. (So will brushing your teeth.) Oil pulling might also improve bad breath and treat gingivitis--especially if your current oral hygiene is poor. It certainly will not pull toxins from your body, alleviate pain, PMS, or allergies, nor will it cure cancer, diabetes, or AIDS (and, yes, some have claimed that it will).

That's as much of my (or your) time as I'm willing to spend on this silliness, but if you'd like to read further, I recommend this article by Mike Rothschild.

One last thing: if you decide to make oil pulling part of your routine, be sure to spit the oil into the trash and not into the sink. Pouring fats and oils down the drain can clog your plumbing. 

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