When I decided to blog about the health of your tongue, the first image that came to my mind was the most famous tongue in history. I wish this picture had been taken in color. We might have been able to tell use Einstein’s tongue as an example for some of the possible problems listed below!
The appearance of your tongue can reveal a lot about your health. This, is turn can guide you regarding some lifestyle and/or diet changes you can make to help with your migraine or migraine-associated vertigo. So, think of the look and feel of the tongue as a tool for you to use.
The colour, texture, and moisture of the tongue can indicate anaemia, dehydration and kidney problems, to name just a few.
How should a healthy tongue look? A healthy tongue should be pink in colour, slightly moist, and smooth with no bumps or spots. The tongue should also be layered with visible taste buds that detect the five taste sensations – sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and savoury.
The appearance of the tongue:
Colour: A healthy tongue should be pink in colour. The colour of the tongue also reflects the health of the body’s internal organs and blood circulation.
- Pale – could indicate your blood is lacking haemoglobin, especially if the tongue is also extremely smooth. You may also feel tired and lethargic. Ensure you eat iron rich foods.
- Red – bright red suggests that the tongue is inflamed. This is often due to nutritional deficiencies in iron and B-vitamins. It can also indicate excess heat both in the tongue and in certain organs.
- Purple – can indicate high cholesterol levels and poor circulation that results in stagnant blood in the tongue. This is often the result of lifestyle, diet, and medications. Ginger and garlic can be beneficial.
Texture: A healthy tongue should be smooth in appearance, gently moist, with visible taste buds.
- Raised red spots – these spots are the result of broken veins and capillaries in the tongue. Try taking bioflavonoids, which can be found in vitamin C. These help to strengthen capillaries.
- Ulcers – ulcers are not uncommon and can also appear on the gums and lips. However, if they persist after 10 days consult a doctor. Ulcers are often the result of fatigue and stress.
- Swollen / puffy – can be the result of allergies, medications or infections. Can affect the visible area, but also at the back of the tongue, mouth or gums. Can be due to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Coating: A healthy tongue should have a thin transparent coating. Changes to the coating can indicate acute illness, such as colds and digestive issues.
- Yellow – a yellow coating on the tongue is often the result of a bacterial or fungal infection.
- Furry / thick – a thick coating can represent an infection on the tongue, oral thrush or dehydration. This can impair taste and cause bad breath.
- No coating – if no coating is present on the tongue there may be inefficiencies in the digestive system.
Chinese Medicine and the tongue
The connection between the appearance of the tongue and general health has been studied for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine practitioners believe each area of the tongue is connected to specific internal organs:
- The sides of the tongue reflect the health of the liver
- The tip of the tongue reflects the health of the heart
- The center of the tongue reflects the health of the spleen
- The back of the tongue reflects the health of the kidneys
When examining the tongue see if any of the symptoms mentioned in the previous section affect one area more than others. However, it is important to remember that this is not a definite diagnostic tool. If problems persist you should always consult a doctor. When examining your tongue in the mirror; do so under natural light, and do not extend your tongue for more than 15 seconds. After this time period tension in the tongue can cause the shape and colour to change.
Nutrients that promote good oral health
Nutritional deficiencies can affect the health and appearance of the tongue. The most common deficiencies which do so are B-vitamins (in particular B6 and B12).
- B-vitamins – each individual B-vitamin has its own specific role to keep the body healthy. Deficiencies in B6 or B12 can lead to a swollen and sore tongue, along with teeth indentations and fissures on the surface of the tongue.
- Iron – an iron deficiency can cause swelling of the tongue and painful sores in the mouth. The tongue will also appear pale and smooth due to the lack of haemoglobin in the blood.
- Vitamin C – keeps capillaries and mouth tissue strong. Bleeding gums are often the result of a lack of vitamin C. Also helps the body fight off infections and bacteria’s such as the Candida bacteria that causes tongue thrush.
- Calcium – the jaw and teeth have a high calcium content, and so a deficiency in calcium can reduce resistance to infections and tooth decay. Vitamin D can also have a positive impact on oral health.
Poor oral hygiene can result in the spread of harmful bacteria around the mouth, infections, and bad breath. In order to keep your tongue clean brush and floss teeth twice daily and don’t forget to brush your tongue too!
Take care of your body, and your tongue will be healthy. And don’t forget to take care of your tongue!
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