It’s clever that the tongue can tell us what’s going on in our bodies without us even uttering a word. And, for once, this is something that both holistic and Western medicine agree on. How many of us have been to the doctor’s office, stuck out our tongues, and sheepishly mumbled “Ahhhh”? Most likely all of us. By why on earth do our doctors make us do that? It may be better than having a blood test or having to disrobe and flash a body part we’d be much happier keeping covered up, but many of us still wonder what’s so useful about sticking our tongues out.
In truth, our tongues tell us a lot about the inner workings of our bodies. I’m not talking about a gateway to our inner soul or anything like that, but rather a gateway to our general health. Before we begin, run a fingertip over your tongue. Feel those tiny little nodules? They’re called papillae and they are in fact minuscule hairs that surround our taste buds. I know what you’re thinking: “Hairs? In my mouth?” It’s strange, I agree, but that’s how our bodies roll.
If you asked me to look at your tongue, these are the nuggets of information I could detect from how it appeared.
You’ve run your fingertip over your tongue, but it felt smooth. If it’s pale as well, and if you’ve been feeling like you’ve been running on empty lately, your tongue’s condition could be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia or a lack of B vitamins.
I like to think of these patches as being like the globe. Not only do they appear like a map on your tongue, but they also move around your tongue. They could be another indicator of a B vitamin deficiency, but they could also be due to irritation from alcohol or certain foods.
Grooves, wrinkles or furrows
A tongue with grooves, wrinkles or furrows has the best name—a scrotal tongue. Who thought it was a good idea to call it that? On the plus side, this appearance is just down to genetics. However, make sure you brush your tongue to keep all those indents clean and clear.
A bump on top of the tongue
This could be a warning of a bacterial or viral infection, or it might indicate an allergic reaction to food or medication.
Black, yellow or white hairy tongue
Let’s face it, a hairy tongue is not exactly what you want, but the good news is it’s harmless and it will go away. It develops when the papillae have multiplied and catch bacteria, so you may also have a metallic taste in your mouth. Make sure you’re hydrated, brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, try to avoid antibiotics, and give up the cigarettes!
A white tongue could be a sign of oral thrush so you’d need to visit your pharmacist for this one.
Red and sore
Again, we’re looking at a B vitamin deficiency, namely a deficiency of niacin. If your tongue is red and sore, you should start thinking about eating lots of tuna, chicken, and turkey.
Just as we should be wary of brown spots on the body, brown spots on the tongue might be a sign of melanoma.
Now, please, whatever you do, don’t turn up somewhere and start your conversation with “Let me look at your tongue for a minute!” before your friend or colleague has even had a chance to take off their jacket. Nor am I saying that tongue inspection is a great way to scan the health of potential partners.
However, it is a good (not to mention easy way) to gather clues as to why you’re maybe not feeling the best, and to generate ideas that will help you start feeling better.