It really is amazing how people can be so naïve and gullible. Despite convincing evidence, or the lack thereof, many believe that connecting seemingly unrelated dots can provide the answers they are looking for. Oil swishing has been proven by science to be effective in improving the overall health status of the oral cavity, including the teeth. It is believed that it removes the toxins present in the mouth. Now, people say, it is also effective in losing weight. Because it removes toxins? The question now is, does removing toxin automatically make you lose weight?
Before we answer this question, let us first try to understand what this oil pulling is all about.
A Look at Oil Pulling
Aside from traditional Chinese medicine, the other more popular folkloric healthcare system is Ayurvedic medicine in the Indian subcontinent. Many of the practices in Ayurveda have been either supported or rejected by modern science. For those practices that have been proven by science, many of these have been fully integrated into western medicine. Unfortunately, it should be understood that not all indications of such practices are fully backed by science.
Oil pulling, for instance, has been a prominent therapy in Ayurvedic medicine primarily as a means to improve oral health by minimizing the occurrence of gingivitis and periodontal diseases or gum diseases. We all know the risk of having gum disease. If the gum abscess reaches the bloodstream, the microorganisms can get to other body organs and wreak havoc in such parts of the body. This is one of the mechanisms behind rheumatic heart disease where the heart valves stiffen because of an inflammatory attack from a bacteria that may have originated in the oral cavity. Science has proven that oil pulling can indeed, be an effective method for improving oral and dental health. However, they do warn that oil pulling is not a substitute for good old tooth brushing, dental flossing, and regular trips to the dentist.
Now, people are saying that it can help with weight loss. Many believe that since oil pulling removes the microorganisms and toxins from the oral cavity, it should be able to remove the toxins from the rest of the body. Unfortunately, there are no solid evidence of the effectiveness of oil pulling in this regard. We will deal more with this later.
Oil pulling is the process of putting a few spoonfuls of oil – usually coconut oil, although sesame oil and olive oil have also been used – in your oral cavity, letting it stay there for 10 to 20 minutes before spitting it all out. Modern oil pulling methods recommend the swishing of the oil inside the mouth to improve its effects. It is believed that this will naturally draw out the toxins and other microorganisms that may be present. Just think of oil pulling as gargling with your mouth rinse except that you will be using oil and doing it for a full 15 to 20 minutes every single day.
The Logic of Oil Pulling
If Ayurvedic medical records are to be believed in, oil pulling can treat at least 30 health conditions or diseases such as diabetes, migraine, and asthma. Unfortunately, the only scientific evidence that was, ironically, carried out in India, showed only one possible benefit of oil pulling – improved oral health by reducing the number of dental plaques and some species of bacteria that can cause gum disease. There is no evidence of benefits on asthma, diabetes, headaches, and certainly not weight loss.
Let’s try to look at the logic used by people to say that oil pulling can be effective in losing weight.
- Oil pulling removes toxins from the oral cavity so it should also remove toxins from the rest of the body.
There are several questions about this line of thinking.
First, if indeed detoxification of the oral cavity can lead to a detoxification of the rest of the body, why do we still have plenty of detox programs that require a person to consume large amounts of fluids meant to “flush” the colon? Does this mean that the detox programs are not effective? Additionally, there is no convincing evidence that detoxification can lead to significant weight loss. You don’t detoxify today and expect that your weight will be in its ideal range the following day.
Second, how can toxins from other sites of the body be removed by the oil that is present in the mouth? Toxins are naturally rendered harmless by the liver. Blood goes to the liver to have everything detoxified. The toxins that are present in the small intestines also go to the liver. These substances are detoxified and integrated into the bile where it is secreted back into the intestines for elimination via the digestive tract. Some detoxified substances also pass through the kidneys for elimination as urine.
If this is the case, how can the oil present in the mouth pull these toxins from the liver and the colon? Some say this is because of the lymphatic system. But the lymphatic system actually moves towards the heart where it drains in the right side of the heart before it travels to the liver. The lymphatic ducts don’t drain into the oral cavity. If any, the toxins from the oral cavity are also drained via the cervical lymph nodes and then dumped in the liver for detoxification before they go to the kidneys for removal.
- Oil pulling reduces the workload of the liver in detoxification, leading to enhanced metabolic activity by the liver and help burn fat.
Proponents of oil pulling believe that since toxins are already being removed from oral cavity, the liver will not have to work so hard. This helps improve the efficiency of burning fat. But we say, leading a healthy lifestyle allows the liver to function in a very efficient manner. In fact, if you’re not into heavy drinking – drinking every waking hour of your life – your liver can handle anything. It is the most efficient organ in the body.
It is true that the liver can get stressed and this can significantly reduce its ability to burn fat more efficiently. Taking some of the load off the liver may help in improving fat burning efficiency. But, the point is that, if you keep on eating high calorie foods and not exercising, no amount of detoxification will lead to weight loss. Just because you removed the toxins from the oral cavity doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to lose weight already because you improved the fat burning efficiency of the liver.
- Coconut oil used in oil pulling is a known fat burner and appetite suppressant.
Very true. Coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids that provide for a more efficient way to burn fat while also suppressing the appetite so you don’t eat that much, reducing your overall calorie intake. But there’s a problem. In oil pulling, you’re not supposed to swallow the oil. You’re supposed to let it sit in your mouth, swirl and swish it if you must, and then spit it out after 15 to 20 minutes. It does not recommend swallowing the oil for the belief that it is full of toxins. If this is the case, how can you take full advantage of the benefits of coconut oil if it’s only in your oral cavity and not in the small intestines where it can be absorbed? If you’re saying it can be absorbed by the blood vessels in the mouth, then it’s not only the coconut oil that’s being absorbed but also the toxins it’s supposed to remove.
The Possible Explanation for Oil Pulling Effects on Weight Loss
There is some placebo-effect of oil pulling and many believe this is the most likely reason for the so-called observable weight loss effects.
Oil pulling has been shown to improve oral health which includes the improvement of the appearance of the teeth. This has also been proven by science. Oil pulling can really provide a sparkle in the teeth, making it look whiter.
Because of this, it is plausible that people who have already their teeth looking pristine using oil pulling techniques simply don’t want to lose this dental aesthetic. As such they will try to minimize their food intake and attempt to be choosy in their food. Technically, you are reducing your calorie consumption. And whenever a reduction in calorie intake is observed, weight loss, even modest decreases, tend to follow.
If this is the case, then we can safely say that oil pulling can help in weight loss but not because of detoxification but more so because of the fear of losing the improved dental aesthetics.
The Bottom Line
Oil pulling is proven effective in improving overall dental and oral health by reducing plaque as well as the number of certain bacteria. This leads to a reduction in the risk of gingivitis or gum inflammation. Oil pulling has never been proven, not yet anyway, to produce the kind of weight loss that people are talking about. Again, the only way to lose weight is to increase your metabolic rate through exercise and to decrease your calorie consumption.
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