What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health?

What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health?

The appearance of the tongue can reveal a lot about your health. For example, the colour, texture, and moisture of the tongue can indicate anaemia, dehydration and kidney problems, to name just a few. What does a healthy tongue look like? 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 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 may 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, slightly moist, with visible taste buds.
    • Raised red spots on tongue – these spots are the result of broken veins and capillaries in the tongue. Try taking bioflavonoids, which can be found in vitamin C. These can help to strengthen capillaries.
    • Ulcers on the tongue - 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 triggered by fatigue or stress.
    • Swollen tongue – often the result of allergies, medications or infections. Swelling can affect the visible area, but also at the back of the tongue, mouth or gums. May also 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 tongue – a yellow tongue or coating is often the result of a bacterial or fungal infection.
    • Furry tongue – 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 that 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 centre 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 to Promote a Healthy Tongue

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) so you may want to consider a complete Vitamin B supplement to promote a healthy tongue. Other important vitamins and minerals include:

  • B-vitamins: Each individual B-vitamin has its own specific role to keep the body healthy. Deficiencies in B6 or B12 may lead to a swollen, sore or yellow tongue, along with teeth indentations and fissures on the surface of the tongue.
  • Iron: An iron deficiency can lead to a swollen 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: Promotes healthy capillaries and mouth tissue. Bleeding gums can be due to a lack of vitamin C. This essential vitamin also helps the body to fight off infections and bacteria, 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 impair the body's ability to resist infections and accelerate tooth decay. Try Vitamin D supplements to strengthen teeth and gums.

Poor oral hygiene can result in the spread of harmful bacteria around the mouth, infections, and bad breath. In order to keep your tongue healthy, clean, brush and floss your teeth twice daily and don't forget to brush your tongue too!