When you think of mighty muscles in your body, you might think of your leg muscles or your biceps. But who thinks of their tongue? Probably no one! Yet our tongues are one of the strongest muscles in the human body. Although not top dog when it comes to brute force, its stamina is undeniable!
Our tongue is constantly working while we swallow, eat and speak. Have you ever noticed your tongue feeling tired? My guess is probably not. The tongue is an amazing muscle that works overtime, doing basic mechanical functions that allow us to survive.
How our tongues relate to our wellbeing
Yet the tongue is not limited to mechanics and tasting. It is actually a huge signifier, of your overall health and digestion.
If something is wrong in the way of the digestive system, the signs may be on the tongue. This is because your tongue is intimately connected with your digestive organs. Through the process of taste, it detects and distinguishes different types of food molecules and then signals the appropriate digestive enzymes and secretions to break them down.
This knowledge is not necessarily new; physicians have been looking to the tongue as an indicator of health for centuries, from ancient Greece to Indian Ayurvedic practice and Chinese medicine.
When observing one’s tongue for clues to health conditions, the ancients took into account the following aspects:
Tongue Body – The tongue itself: what does it look like?
The tongue body is thought to exhibit the overall condition of the organs and primary tissues. It also indicates blood health. The name of the game is color and texture. Different colors and textures on the tongue body will point to a variety of illnesses, from the common cold to anemia. Lesions and sores usually reveal the presence of bacteria, viruses, or a weakened immune system. In general, attributes observed on the tongue body point to more deep-seeded and chronic conditions.
Tongue Coat – The film on top: what does it look like?
The appearance of the coating on the tongue explains what’s going on in the digestive system. It can warn of imbalances in the gut, metabolic abnormalities, and the presence of toxins. Again, various color and textures are indicators here. Whereas the appearance of the tongue body is related to long-term health, the tongue coat shows more temporal issues that are in flux.
So what’s your tongue trying to tell you?
Let’s take a look at how this ancient practice, now confirmed by modern medical science, can educate you on what’s going on inside your system.
Grab a mirror. Stick your tongue out, and be on the lookout for these warning signs:
1. Thick tongue coat
If you notice your tongue coat is super thick in texture, it’s pointing to one place: YOUR GUT. Empirical science on gut health is relatively new, but the evidence keeps stacking up that your immune system, and general well-being, largely stems from your gut.
A thick tongue coat is indicative of an unhealthy gut, meaning harmful bacteria have outnumbered the beneficial bacteria that live down there. This imbalance can cause digestive problems, skin disorders, and even psychological issues like depression. Make sure to take an effective daily probiotic and avoid processed food, one of the sworn enemies of beneficial bacteria.
2. Thick white or yellow tongue coat
While we’re talking about probiotics and the gut, let’s discuss a particular gut problem called Candida. Candida is a specific type of yeast bacterial overgrowth, and a sure-fire sign of it is thick white or yellow tongue coat. Millions of people are affected by Candida overgrowth every year (including yours truly, which on for years before I became aware of it!).
Many will experience the condition chronically and are misdiagnosed. Candida is in essence, a body-wide yeast infection that can result in flu-like symptoms and of course, an array of digestive problems. If these you see any of these warning signs, do not fear. Candida can be treated with diet and a steady probiotic regimen.
3. Cracks on the tongue body
If you see little fault lines on the tongue body, your body is trying to tell you chill out. A cracked tongue is usually a sign of persistent stress and tension. Most cracks are located around the centerline of the tongue, thought in Ayurvedic medicine to represent the spinal column, another place where stress resides.
As long as you practice good oral hygiene, tongue fissures are largely harmless and shouldn’t cause you any problems. So if you’re overly-stressed and you see these, it may be time to get your stress under control.
4. Black hairy tongue
I know what you are thinking… hairy tongue, is this for real!? YES. It sounds beyond gross. Yet, this is the actual clinical name and it’s exactly what it sounds like, an overgrowth of bacteria, or yeast, in the mouth compound on the tongue’s papillae.
These are miniature protrusions on the tongue that shed regularly in a healthy person. In the case of black hairy tongue, the papillae grow abnormally long and gain a hair-like appearance, most often turning black in color, but sometimes turning yellow or green.
Smoking, excessive coffee drinking, poor gut health, and chronic dehydration are all risk factors for developing black hairy tongue. If you’re a smoker and you see this, needless to say it’s time to quit.
Or perhaps you need to kick a different addiction to caffeine (maybe try this instead). Whatever the cause, this is a condition you’ll want to say goodbye to and fast.
5. Bright red tongue
If your tongue is the color of a ripe strawberry, something is probably amiss. For one, if the tongue is inflamed, it is likely infected, and you should consult a physician ASAP. Yet the most common reason is a vitamin deficiency, specifically that of B12 (more on that here), niacin or folic acid.
Now that you know why your tongue is vibrantly red, be sure to begin taking a proven, organic supplement, and your tongue should be back to normal in no time.
A Healthy Tongue
According to holistic health traditions, a healthy tongue suggests a healthy body and mind. A healthy tongue color is a pinkish-red hue with a whitish clear coat. When you check out your tongue in the mirror, remember three of the five above warning signs point to problems with gut health. To maintain your gut health, be sure to:
- Take the right kind of daily probiotic.
- Avoid processed food and refined sugar.
- Give yourself a boost with digestive enzymes and fermented foods.
- Take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
Lucky for you, if your gut is in need of a reboot, your tongue won’t hide it from you. So open up your mouth and say, “Ahhh.” Take a look at your very own ancient health gauge today.
In love and health,