Chances are, you’ve been to a doctor at least once or twice in your life. During those times, he/she has probably asked you to stick out your tongue and say “ahhh”. It’s one of those times that seems unusually awkward, but you do it anyway because it’s the doctor. Some people believe that this is a way for the doctor to see down your throat. If you are one of those people, then you’re half right. Saying “ahhh” does open up the throat passage way and enables the doctor to see if there is any inflammation. But that’s not the only thing that the good ole’ doctor wants to see: He’s also checking out your tongue.
The tongue is so much more than a way for kids to tease one another. It’s actually an extremely good indicator of one’s health. Conditions that may have otherwise gone untreated or misdiagnosed can be properly identified with a quick glance at the tongue.
Checking the tongue is very common in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, one of the main beliefs of TCM is that the tongue is a small-scale version of the entire body and can bring to light what the body is lacking and perhaps has an unhealthy overabundance of.
If you think about it, the notion isn’t too far out in left field. The tongue is has pretty clear access to the stomach and can be a good indicator of how healthy the digestive system is in. If there is some sort of issue with your stomach, the tongue is going to know about it. Think about how when you’re nauseous, you have that undeniable nausea taste in your mouth. And where are the taste buds? That’s right, on the tongue.
So, what’s a normal tongue look like?
A normal tongue that is healthy is a light pink in color and has a slight white coating on it. In addition, it’s proportional to the mouth it’s in. From a doctor’s standpoint, they will look at four different diagnostic areas in order to determine one’s health. They look at the color, the shape, the coating, and the moisture level on the tongue.
The size and shape of the tongue:
For example: If your tongue is enlarged with teeth markings from apparent scraping on the side (an obvious sign that the tongue is swollen and pressing on the teeth), then it’s an indicator that the body isn’t properly receiving the nutrients that it needs. This is commonly seen in someone who is athletically training and has pushed themselves beyond a healthy limit.
If the tongue is extremely small and thin, the doctor will start to examine whether or not the person is dehydrated or if their source of nourishment is being depleted due to some sort of chronic condition.
The color of the tongue:
The actual color of the tongue is a very telling diagnostic tool. A number of things ranging from whether there is heat in the body or even lacking nourishment can be diagnosed just by looking at the color. Yes, all tongues come in a variety of different shades of “healthy”, but an extreme range in color can be very indicative of underlying conditions:
A Red Tongue: If a tongue appears to be very red, this is a pretty good indicator that there is excess heat in the body. This could be a result of a fever or sudden temperature change that is usually related to hot flashes or menopause in women. The tongue can also become red from stress, and someone with a red tongue may be experiencing high levels of anxiety. If the tip of the tongue is red, which is the area of the heart and lungs, then someone may either have asthma or even suffered through an emotional breakup or significant loss. Heat in the body is very apparent on the tongue.
A Purple Tongue: If the tongue has a purple color to it, this is a sign that the circulatory system isn’t working properly. This could be due to either a major injury or chronic pain condition. It’s indicative of central nervous system stress which then leads to muscular tension. When your muscles tense up, this creates excessive pressure on your arteries which slows the flow of blood, and explains the purple color of the tongue. You’d also see a purple tongue in those suffering from some sort of inflammation or infection within the body.
A Pale Tongue: After you do a workout, check the color of your tongue, you may notice that it’s has a white color to it. This is due to a lack of energy. It’s also common to see a white tongue in women after their menstrual cycle. Those who are anemic may also see a white tongue along with those who have an immune system disorder where the body has a difficult time fighting back to health. The term “lack of energy” is all encompassing and can result from a workout where you are physically tired, or after a sickness in which the body had to work hard to replenish health.
The Tongue Coating + Moisture Levels
A number of tooth brushes now come with a tongue scraper to get the bacteria off of the tongue. Yes, this is a good thing to get rid of, but by doing a tongue scrape and looking at the coating, doctors can tell the severity of your condition. A thick coating on the tongue can suggest that there is a level of phlegm in your body and can indicate a more serious condition.
A thin coating on the tongue is completely normal, however if the coating is too thin, then there is a good chance that your body has a lack of essential fluids and could be dehydrated.
The color of the coating is also very telling.
A yellow coating is a clear sign of infection.
A thick white coating also suggests that there is a bacteria or common cold in the body. The thick white coating may also indicate that there could be some abdominal pain, cramping, and/or premenstrual pain.
If any of these coatings are very dry, this is a sign of excessive heat or fever. Too much wetness and it usually shows that the body is not efficiently using its fluids.
The Areas of the Tongue:
Finally, doctors take a look at the area of the tongue where the abnormality may exist. If the discoloration or change in normal visual condition is on the tip, it’s a sign of either heart or lung distress.
In the center of the tongue is the area that the stomach and spleen make their statuses known.
The back of the tongue, closes to the stomach, usually show the abnormalities in the kidneys or bladder.
On the left and right sides of the tongue, the gallbladder and liver’s health are represented.
Who would have thought that the tongue could literally speak to doctors?