By Maureen (Bindu) Shortt
Paying attention to the hygiene of your mouth is important. Of course, you’ve been trained since childhood to brush your teeth and floss daily. You see your dental hygienist for cleaning and polishing twice-yearly. You get regular check-ups by your dentist. Yet from the viewpoint of Ayurveda, there is more to your oral health than cavity-free teeth.
Your gut starts at your mouth. The “tube” of your digestive tract, your gut supports about six cups of bacteria. These bacteria work to keep your immune system strong. They participate in digestion and detoxing. They also produce energy and mood balancing substances. Your mouth has its share of bacteria. These bacteria are exposed to air moving through; food being chewed; liquids passing through. What goes on with the bacteria in your mouth sets the stage for the health through the rest of your digestive tract. And its health is vital to overall wellbeing (see my June 2019 blog).
Oil pulling is a popular Ayurvedic home practice for healthy mouth bacteria. This ancient practice, however, is somewhat misunderstood today. Most people are doing oil pulling are thinking they are killing the “bad” bacteria that would cause gum disease, receding gums, bad breath, tooth discoloration and cavities. Oil pulling does not kill bad bacteria. Oil pulling feeds good bacteria. And it is the good bacteria that keep the “bad” in check.
There is a simple way to do oil pulling. Before or after brushing your teeth, flossing and scraping your tongue, swish one tablespoon of a good quality sesame oil (plain, not toasted) around in your mouth, squishing it between your teeth, for about five minutes. While you swish, you can do other activities such as shower and get dressed. Then spit the oil out in a waste bin. Avoid spitting oil down the sink or toilet, because it can clog your plumbing. Do not swallow it, because it is now full of dead bad bacteria. Rinse your mouth with warm water. Then take a large sip of room temperature or warm water to dilute and flush any residual bacteria.
Make the practice of oil pulling enjoyable, not prescriptive. Daily is good, while even three times a week is effective.
As we are entering the vata season in the northern hemisphere, oil pulling can prepare you for winter. It can be a beneficial winter practice for stronger digestion and immunity. Plus, your oral cavity joins the tissues of your nose, ears and sinuses. Oil pulling benefits them all in the colder months.
Now that you know how to keep your mouth healthy, delight it with energy date balls:
1 cup walnuts
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup of dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
- Spin the walnuts and coconut together in a food processor until just crumbly, not oily.
- Add the dates and vanilla and salt and mix again until the batter is uniform.
- Roll into balls. You can then roll them in more coconut or more chopped walnuts or some cocoa powder — or all three!
- Store your energy date balls in closed container in the refrigerator.