Our bodies don’t like to surprise us. The body communicates with us in many ways when we are out of balance, and often before sh*t hits the fan when it comes to serious illness or disease. But one place in particular that we often forget to check is our tongue.
Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are both ancient Eastern modalities that make sure to check this area first and foremost, and utilize it as an intricate map that can indicate much nuance when it comes to our health. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an Eastern practitioner to see if some things are clearly wrong. Here are a few more obvious things to look for on your tongue when it comes to assessing your health.
If you see: white patches
A healthy tongue is a soft pink color, with a thin, white-ish pallor that doesn’t scrape off with a tongue scraper or brush. But a milky, creamy, thick white coating on the tongue could be a clear indicator of an overgrowth of candida, which is a type of yeast infection in the mouth known as thrush. It requires professional treatment.
If your tongue is a little sore and appears more vibrantly red than pink, this could mean there is a deficiency in the body of a vitamin such as folic acid, b12, or iron. It could also mark the beginnings of fever due to an infection like strep throat, which should be treated with antibiotics once diagnosed.
If you see: dark, fuzzy coating
We used to hear people say that smoking causes the tongue to grow hair. While that is not exactly true, smoking does harm the healthy microbiome inside the mouth, making proper oral hygiene a challenge. Poor oral hygiene can result in a dark, fuzzy, or almost hairy-looking coating on the tongue. Make sure to oil pull, floss, use a tongue scraper, and brush thoroughly.
If you see: stripes or streaks
When the white coating on the tongue isn’t even—like it would be in a candida overgrowth situation—and is more striped or striated, it could be an overgrowth of cells in the lining of the mouth known as leukoplakia. This happens when cells group together with the protein known as keratin and form a white, raised patch or stripe. Alcohol and tobacco can cause or irritate this condition. In and of itself, it is benign, but it has been linked to pre-cancer, so it’s best to get it examined ASAP.
If you see: inflamed bumps
Ulcers or inflamed sores can be a sign of something more common and less harmful, like overeating your favorite acidic fruit when it comes in season, or eating too much spicy food. Ulcers on the tongue can also happen when you have a minor injury—like if you eat something sharp or if you bite your tongue. Sometimes they occur when we are suffering chronic stress. On rare occasions, ulcers can be a sign of oral herpes. If ulcer-like bumps often occur on the tongue, it’s best to seek a medical examination.
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