Dear Doctor, Should I use coconut oil as mouthwash?

I love coconut but coconut oil … solid coconut oil… gross! Well, at least at first it was. A hard lump of oil, that doesn’t melt in the mouth quickly, is like the fruit pastille challenge! Anyone remember that advert? But back to coconut oil, I have heard lots of people rave about it’s benefits for oral hygiene, fresher breath and teeth whitening. I’ll admit the prospect of a natural solution to whiter teeth is what really got me interested. So, I decided to give it a try.

From what most people on the internet tell me, the method is fairly simple. First thing in the morning you take a spoonful of coconut oil, put it in your mouth, chew until it melts and swish it around for 20 minutes. Then you spit it out, don’t swallow and don’t spit it in to the sink as it can solidify in the drain. Seems simple enough, right?

Coconut oil is the recommended choice because it is high in lauric acid. Lauric acid is known for its antimicrobial properties, in particular it inhibits Streptococcus Mutans that are the primary bacteria that cause tooth decay. The theory is the longer you rinse the oil around your mouth, the more bacteria are pulled free. Recent studies have also shown the benefit of coconut oil in the prevention of tooth decay, although limited research is available.

So what did I find? Well, after the first time I tried oil pulling, my teeth felt cleaner and smoother. After a week, my mouth felt healthier in general and did look very slightly whiter. After the month, my teeth are much less sensitive and feel cleaner but in all honesty they aren’t whiter.

My final review is… oil pulling is good for you. It isn’t a replacement for your normal dental care. You still need your twice daily toothbrushing with toothpaste and flossing. However, as an extra step I think it’s definitely got a role to play in removing stubborn bacteria, stopping that same bacteria from decaying teeth and being ingested into the body.

Will I continue? Yes I think I will! Realistically not daily, but twice weekly I think I can manage!

Dear Doctor, is fasting good for your health?

We probably all know someone who is observing the fasts during the Islamic month of Ramadan. It’s a common practice in lots of religions. So surely there must be some health benefits to this practice or is it all just purely spiritual?

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Dear Doctor, Is the Mediterranean diet the healthiest diet?

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with adverts and social media posts, it can be hard to know what diet we should be following.

The amount of health foods and body or fitness ideal images we see on social media has massively affected the way we perceive food and health. We are becoming not only more body conscious but also more health conscious too. We have all seen popular diets come and go over the years and can name a few instantly. Now we are seeing things like 30 day challenges and shreds, the ‘superfoods’ and there are always new diet pills on the market.

But are any of these diets actually good for us and more importantly are they actually achieveable?

I want to talk about the Mediterranean diet. A lot of research has shown that the people living in places like Greece and southern Italy who follow the local diet are healthier than the average person. On the whole they have less heart problems, less diabetes, less blood pressure problems and lower cholesterol. So surely they must be doing something right!

The main reason I like the diet is because it’s actually quite simple to follow, it’s not strict and if followed sensibly it is shown to be good for your health.

So what exactly does this sort of diet involve?

In terms of what is allowed in this diet you can eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, whole wheat breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood.

Rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil should be used instead of butter or margarine and herbs in place of extra salt.

Things that should be eaten in moderation are poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt. 

Red meat is to be eaten at most once a week.

Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods are to be avoided completely.

A basic example would be:

Breakfast: Vegetable omelet, Fruit.

Lunch: Cheese salad sandwich on whole grain bread.

Dinner: Vegetable pasta bake or grilled fish with vegetables 

Obviously portion sizes need to be sensible. There’s plenty of information about this diet online and lots of diet plans and ideas freely available. 

So if you are looking for a simple healthy diet, my recommendation is forget the fad diets or quick fixes and stick to the Mediterranean diet!

Dear Doctor, I think I might be a bit bunged up!

Constipation is such a common problem, one that I hear about all the time. I think the biggest issue lies in the fact that British people really can’t talk about Poo! Do we know whats normal? Is normal the same for everyone? And what should we be doing to keep our bowels moving and healthy?…

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