Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oil Pulling, Fad or Fabulous?

I've been receiving a lot of questions about oil pulling lately.  People want to know what the health benefits are, what type of oil to use and if it is truly effective.

While oil pulling is becoming a modern practice it originated from an Ayurvedic tradition.  Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine that evolved in India around 3000-5000 years ago and is now practiced in other parts of the world as complementary medicine.  Ayurveda recommends oil gargling to purify the entire system.  The theory is each section of the tongue is connected to a different organ such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine. 

Health claims for oil pulling include clearer skin, better controlled diabetes, reduced inflammation, improved dental hygiene and whiter teeth.  This practice has been used primarily for promoting oral health.  Oil pulling is essentially swishing around a spoonful of plant-based oil in the mouth for 3 to 5 minutes.  Suggested oils include coconut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil. 

The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine notes one study in which oil pulling was linked to a reduction in plaque index and gingivitis among adolescent boys.  The American Dental Association however does not recommend oil pulling as a supplementary dental practice or in the place of regular dental care due to lack of research. 

If you decide to incorporate oil pulling into your lifestyle it is imporant to choose quality products, follow the practice correctly and inquire about any possible interactions.  Many believe that if a therapy is herbal or natural it is free of potentially adverse effects; this is incorrect.  To date, there have been few negative side effects associated with oil pulling but diarrhea or upset stomach has been reported and lipoid pneumonia has appeared in literature regarding oil pulling.

Although there is a lot of support for oil pulling, from an evidenced-based standpoint, more research is needed to verify it's effectiveness.  We recommend gathering as much information as possible and speaking with clinicians you trust in order to decide for yourself if a health practice is right for you.

Stay healthy friends!

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