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Oil Pulling: Twenty Minutes is a Long Time

March 31, 2014 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

I'm not saying that oil pulling isn't for me. I'm saying I'll do what I always do and try it but with shortcuts and little enthusiasm, cutting off time and frequency, then be disappointed when it doesn't live up to expectations.

Because that's worked so well for me in the past.

Have you heard of oil pulling? It's the newest health thing. It's also the oldest health thing, something the ancient Mayans or some such health-conscious group practiced, and it's being brought back for modern day man and woman to try for a week and discard like we tend to do.

You swish oil in your mouth every morning and the oil pulls lots of nasty toxins out of your body through your mouth and after 20 minutes, when you spit the oil into a baggie (or in my case, a crumpled up water bottle in the bathroom garbage can), you're literally throwing your body's wretchedness into the trash.

The claims on this are hefty: Eliminates bacteria not only in your mouth, but throughout your body; whitens your teeth; fights a bunch of horrible diseases; reduces arthritis; relieves sinus congestion; improves vision; clearer skin; no more hangovers; better sleep; and more; much more. One woman said it made her eczema clear up and the whites of her eyes get brighter. You name it and it can get pulled right out of your bod just because it's so enamored with the oil in your mouth.

The skeptics weigh in, too, as you would expect.

"We don't believe you," one website said to a claim that oil pulling turned a guy's gray hair back to brown. "False," barked Snopes, slapping a big red ball on my screen.

So of course I had to try it. I knew from the get-go, it wasn't going to be for me. I am a ball of skepticism when it comes to these things. I don't believe any claims that seem surprising. If you start out saying to me, "You're not going to believe this," you're probably right. I'm not going to believe that.

Enter Facebook, that little troublemaker. Two of my friends said they were going to try it and one of them is the wife of a dentist. So naturally I was blinded by the promises. I bought a $8.99 bottle of Organic Naturally Pressed Coconut Oil. I figured, how hard could it be to swish tropical Crisco around in my mouth for 20 minutes in the morning? Especially if the results were fresher morning breath banishment of any lingering cancers, hemorrhoids, and stretch marks.

Twenty minutes is an eternity. Not when you're engrossed in a People magazine story of celebrity thigh cellulite while in the doctor's waiting room. But when you can't use your mouth for anything, it's a very long time. I went through all the stages of grief, labor and mitosis in that 20 minutes.

The online testimonials I had read made it sound easy. One woman said she spent that 20 minutes on Facebook (probably touting the benefits of oil pulling). Another girl said she got back into bed and cuddled with her cat. Someone else took a 20-minute shower.

None of those were going to work for me. It has to be done first thing in the morning and I can't take a shower first thing. I was afraid to read or get too engrossed in social media because I was afraid I'd forget what I was doing and swallow. The instructions are very clear on the not swallowing thing. And I don't have a cat.

So I tried to spend that 20 minutes doing nothing but swishing. Kind of a daily cleansing of the mind along with the mouth.

Minute one-half: Mmm! Coconutty! Tropical goodness . . . the beach . . . Gilligan's Island . . . Pina coladas . . that one time at the beach . . .

Minute 2: Ew. Oily, Filmy . . . that one time at the Williams-Sonoma samples table when that guy bullied me into drinking a shot of straight olive oil . . .

Minute 3: Did I read the instructions right? It did say 1 tablespoon, didn't it? Because this seems like a lot.

Minute 6: Did I read the instructions right? Twenty minutes? Really? That seems like a lot.

Minute 7: Oh my god I almost swallowed. Now I'm afraid to swish too much. Must concentrate on the swishing. Now concentrating too much on my throat and the swishing and the possible swallowing. I don't see how it can't go down my throat now.

Minute 9: Bored. Bored, bored, bored. Bored. Bo r ed. B ore d Bor e d

Minute 13: If my contractor comes into the house, I'm going to have to hide in the closet. Pretend I'm not home. If he asks me a question or shouts, "I'm here!" what will he think of me if I don't answer. "Mmmm! Mmm-Mmm!" means god knows what in his language.

Minute 15: Wonder if I did it for five days a week instead of seven? Or maybe every other day? That would still be good, right?

Minute 16: I have produced more saliva in the past 16 minutes than I have in the past 16 years.

Minute 17: One Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4 Mississippi queen, you know what I mean . . .

Minute 18: What the hell. This is stupid, what am I, an idiot? Who needs good breath anyway? And I understand there are lots of advancements being made in curing cancer. Now that I think of it, I don't have a single symptom of any disease. Why am I doing this?

Minute 19: There is no way I'm ever doing this again.

Minute 20: That wasn't bad. I could've gone another eight minutes. Broken some kind of record or something.

I'm going to try to keep up oil pulling for at least a few more weeks. I'll probably shorten it to 15 minutes, wait until mid-day, and skip weekends. As soon as this patch of eczema clears up, and I can sing the praises of oil pulling, I'm done.

~ ~ ~

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is the author of Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. Her Just Humor Me column runs here on her website at


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