Have you heard of oil pulling yet? Actress Gwyneth Paltrow (who also recently coined the now famous term " conscious uncoupling" ) and Shailene Woodley from Divergent are both behind the latest health trend. What exactly is oil pulling? Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic practice (or Indian traditional medicine), says Toronto naturopath Bronwyn Hill. In ayurvedic medical texts, oil pulling or gargling is referenced in the treatment of oral disease, she says. The idea behind oil pulling is that the oil helps pull toxins out of the body, positively affecting everything from oral plaque build up, to diabetes and heart disease. A lot of toxins are fat-soluble, so one might assume that oil (a fat) will bind the toxins and pull them out, says Hill, however the process of detoxifying such toxic compounds is more complex than this technique alone and she's skeptical that it will have the benefits it claims.
"The only clinical studies done involving oil pulling are specific to its use in treating oral health issues like gingivitis and plaque build up—and the studies are small," says Hill. "I think oil pulling is really quite safe, obviously cost effective, and worth a try but I would not promise all the health benefits."
Besides health benefits, oil pulling is also supposed to whiten your teeth naturally by removing plaque.
How do you do it?
The general recommendation is to swish a spoonful of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth for up to 20 minutes first thing in the morning and then spit it out. You don't want to swallow it because it's allegedly pulling the toxins out of your body so you don't want to re-ingest them. Does it work?
I decided to take this trend for a test drive. I've been trying oil pulling for a few days and I like the results so far. I use coconut oil because it has great benefits for your hair, skin and diet and it has antibacterial properties. Plus, I like the taste. Once you put it in your mouth, the oil takes a few seconds to go from solid to liquid. So far I'm not sure whether it's actually doing anything (and I rarely last the full 20 minutes) but I figure, if there's no harm in it, why not? It's not really an inconvenience—I make my breakfast and prep my lunch while swishing. Whether the oil actually works to pull toxins out of my body or it's merely the oil residue that's giving my teeth a lovely white sheen is hard to say.
Here's my advice:Try the trend if you like coconut oil but don't ditch your toothbrush. Make sure to floss and brush twice a day in addition to this routine. For a full body detox, Hill reccomends seeing a naturopath who can recommend a safe, effective and individualized plan for you.
Photography courtesy of thinkstockphotos.ca