So the other great difference I have noticed as well as an increase in productive viral activity, and warmer body temperature, is far less inflammation in my back and joints. After my pregnancy all my joints were painful and stiff- I couldn’t bend down, had to implement a complex series of movements in order to get down onto the floor and get up again. I sprained my right wrist pushing the pram and had to wear a support, then my left wrist suddenly flared up. It was tender to the touch and at night I had to rest it on a pillow. If I knocked it accidentally, the shooting pain was enough to take my breath away. I felt about ninety years old.
I knew the problems were probably related to my thyroid and adrenals. I wasn’t the only one- in fact amongst my small circle of friends in Holland there were a few of us suffering from unusual aches and pains, stiff joints and decreased flexibility. My problems were historic. At the age of 24 I’d injured my sacroiliac joint and slipped a disc in a gym accident. I spent the next few months in agony, mostly lying on a mattress on the floor with a bag of frozen peas under my pelvis. I had to give up work. I tried every treatment going- physio, chiropractic, osteopathy, massage, acupuncture, rehabilitative exercise, yoga- but at most I received only temporary benefit. It seemed as though a pocket of inflammation had set up residence in my lower spine- initiated by injury but sustained by a lifetime of weak adrenal function, which causes muscle instability in the pelvis.
Over the next fifteen years I learned to deal with the pain but was enslaved to its whims: every time I wore a pair of shoes with a different heel size I suffered the consequences. At night I slept with a cushion under my hips, and if I accidentally rolled onto my back in the night, the next day I was crippled with stiffness. I always had pain upon waking, and because it made me feel so vulnerable, I carried my body as if it were a board, inflexible and tight. On a holiday in Greece, a bumpy ride on a scooter triggered such a bad episode I couldn’t walk for the rest of the week and had to have physio from a burly Croatian man who spoke no English and cracked me as if I were a fortune cookie. Basically, to misquote Orwell, if I imagined a picture of the future, it was of a boot stamping on a human back- forever.
When I started oil-pulling, I had no real expectations. After all there are very few health interventions I’ve not done and been disappointed by. Over my lifetime I’ve spent probably tens of thousands of pounds on alternative treatments and supplements. I’ve never shied away from self-experimentation- from liver cleanses to fasts to urine therapy (oh yeah) I’ve done it all- so that my clients would know what worked (not much of it) and didn’t work (most of it). I never expected that one of the most powerful self-help measures would also be the cheapest.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, within a few days of starting oil-pulling, several things occurred. My dizziness vanished, my anxiety diminished and my back and joint pain just seemed to melt away. I felt flexible for the first time in years… I did several downward dog poses to celebrate and it felt easy! Five months in and it’s still working. In the mornings I roll out of bed without even thinking about it, and if I want to sleep on my back, then I can. I reckon I’ll be oil-pulling for the rest of my life; it’s part of my routine now. I never miss a day and I always do it first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else (to eliminate the bacteria that accumulate in the mouth overnight). SO how is it done? (see Bruce Fife’s book if you want to be more of a geek about it :-))
- Take a small mouthful of an unrefined oil into your mouth (most unrefined oils should be refrigerated after opening as they are vulnerable to heat and light). You need to leave room for the saliva that will build as you swish or ‘pull’ the oil, so don’t take a huge mouthful of oil. I prefer extra virgin olive and seem to get the best results with this, but you could also try sunflower or virgin coconut oil.
- Swill it gently around the gums and teeth, ‘pull’ it from the front to the back and side to side. Don’t be very vigorous otherwise your mouth will get tired.
- If you’re a beginner, aim just to get used to sensation of having oil in your mouth, which for some can feel unpleasant. Do something else while pulling, like get dressed or take a shower. I get little O out of bed and feed him while I’m doing these… he’s got used to me mumbling away to him in oil-pullese.
- Aim to do it for 10 minutes and over a week or so, build up to 20 minutes.
- The oil should be a white or yellowish colour when you spit it out. This is due to the emulsification with saliva.
- Rinse your mouth out thoroughly with something like warm salt water, or cold water with something antibacterial added, such as lemon juice, tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract (Citricidal).
And that’s it! If you’re going to do it however, please do commit to doing it for at least a couple of months, as although you may experience immediate benefits, some take longer to emerge. Also you may need to prepare yourself for some detox symptoms- whether that’s a cold, skin break-outs, or even brief ‘retracing’ of old health issues (however these tend to be less intense than their original manifestation, and usually pass swiftly).