As one of her New Year resolutions, TV host Karen Pamintuan decided to try oil pulling, the ancient Ayurvedic practice of swirling oil in the mouth. Nowadays, oil pulling is done by organic-obsessed celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley to naturally whiten their teeth, keep their breath fresh, and improve their oral health. Here are Karen’s notes from seven days of oil pulling.
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 1
Apparently, the Gwyneth Paltrow way to oral hygiene is the only way to go. So today, I decided to take the leap and see what all the fuss was about with oil pulling. I got myself a bottle of The Souq Oil-Pulling Mouthwash, which is basically organic coconut oil. According to my research, Gwyneth swirls her oil for 20 to 30 minutes, and I was determined to do the same. So I took out a small cup and poured myself some fancy (oily) mouthwash.
First impressions: it was like drinking oil, ladies and gentlemen. Let me just say, for the record, that oil is not the easiest thing to put in your mouth. The lesson I learned today was that you’ve got to swish it—and swish it good.
But honestly, the swishing is actually the hardest part! Any other day, ten minutes might sound short, but when you’re oil pulling for the first time, it seems to last forever. Swishing the oil around and around in my mouth took some getting used to, and it was so tedious on top of that. My advice is to think of everything else but the oil in your mouth. Listen to a few songs, watch some TV, wash the dishes, just occupy yourself.
HOW LONG I LASTED: Two minutes. Yikes. I will say though that even with that paltry record, I experienced this interesting breath of menthol that felt like it was coming from my stomach.
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 2
You have to remember to do oil pulling on a completely empty stomach, first thing when you wake up. Even before you drink water. Yes, with that dry, cotton-mouth feeling. Pour the oil right in. You have to remember, because I almost forgot!
Today, I kept myself motivated by thinking about all the other benefits this Ayurvedic practice supposedly offers beyond oral health. According to my research, oil pulling is supposed to draw out any toxins in your body, which then stick to that oil in your mouth. When you spit it out, the rest of the bad stuff goes down the drain with it.
I kept that in mind as I swished and swirled and swished and swirled again, trying not to track how much longer I had to keep the oil in my mouth. Honestly, my cheeks were already starting to hurt.
HOW LONG I LASTED: Seven minutes. We’ve moved up in the world! Tomorrow is another opportunity.
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 3
I’m trying to form a habit. I’ve been staring at my bottle of oil-pulling mouthwash for longer than I swished it yesterday. It really is a commitment, and I am absolutely determined to complete my seven-day challenge and give myself a real chance. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, swirl, swirl, swirl.
This is supposed to give me whiter teeth and sweeter breath. I still haven’t noticed any immediate whitening effects, but I must say that the no-bad-breath bit is true. I’ve noticed extra freshness for the past two days! Five-one-thousand, six-one-thousand, swish, swish, swish.
Apparently, oil pulling is also known to alleviate sinus problems (of which I have many), headaches (of which I have few), and hangovers (I’ll tell my drunk friends). Besides strengthening the teeth, it’s even said to improve the skin! Eight-one-thousand, nine-one-thousand, swirl, swish, swirl.
HOW LONG I LASTED: 10 minutes. YES. Let’s keep going!
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 4
I felt the signs of a sore throat approaching this morning, so I quickly dove into my oil pulling. If there’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it’s a sore throat. Also, I was really looking forward to the lovely menthol freshness I’ve been experiencing immediately after these sessions. I was certain that if today’s swirling didn’t fix my sore throat, it would at least make me feel better temporarily.
Today’s swish-a-thon gave me a bit of a sore jaw because I was doing it too aggressively. My suggestion is to always take it easy: swirl the oil slowly, breathe evenly through your nose, and pause to rest your jaw and cheeks. Otherwise, I doubt you’ll be able to keep going for the prescribed 20 minutes. That is a long time!
After I slowed my swirling pace, I decided to surf the net and casually watch a TV show. Then I noticed something strange—parts of the oil solidified in my mouth! Ew! I did a quick Google search to find out what was wrong, and it turns out that everything was right. When the oil solidifies, that means it’s pulling more than the usual amount of toxins from your body.
My sore throat? Gone. So weird! It didn’t bother me at all after this morning’s swirling session.
HOW LONG I LASTED: Still on 11 minutes and 50 seconds. Darn! So close!
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 5
Captain’s log: the alien entity I’m swirling in my mouth tastes better than it did the first day (more familiar, I guess). But the swishing motion really demands a lot of effort. Not to mention,the oil mixes with my own saliva, which kind of makes it double in volume? Sorry, TMI.
I grossed myself out thinking about my spit (I am very squeamish when it comes to saliva). It was a challenge keeping my mind relaxed and focused, so eventually, I spat everything out way before I should have.
HOW LONG I LASTED: Six minutes. Ayayay.
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 6
After yesterday’s poor showing, I was determined to redeem myself. Honestly, after a while, my mind categorizes the taste and smell of the coconut oil as not pleasant, so the gross factor goes away. The hard part remains the same: the discipline to keep the oil moving around for an eternity.
Again, always remind yourself that you’re doing this for your own good. You’re doing this for your own good. You’re doing this for your own good. Cheers!
HOW LONG I LASTED: 10 minutes!
KAREN THE OIL PULLER: DAY 7
Spoiler alert: I never did make it to 20 minutes. But I sure as heck tried!
It’s Day 7: D-Day for my one-week oil-pulling challenge. I am proud of myself for making it this far, but also relieved that it’s finally over. As I swirl my seventh shot of coconut oil, around and around, over my teeth and under my tongue, I consider my options. Am I going to continue doing this? YES—but I’ll have to cap myself off at about 10 minutes as it seems to be my threshold. Maybe I won’t get all the benefits that Gwyneth is obviously raking in. Maybe it’s just psychological. But I honestly did see an improvement in my breath and the way I felt during the days I’ve been oil pulling. And let’s not forget the disappearing act my sore throat pulled the other day.
You know who actually adores oil pulling now? My fiancé! I had to pry the bottle out of his greedy hands to get my share of the coconut oil today. He has been oil pulling alongside me this whole time, and he loves the results so much. Go figure.
HOW LONG I LASTED: 10 minutes. Guess I’ve peaked.
Selfies courtesy of Karen Pamintuan