Even when you’re not speaking, your tongue has tales to tell.
Consider, for instance, the research presented in 2020 at Heart Failure Association (HFA) Discoveries, a platform for the European Society of Cardiology. Scientists found that heart patients’ tongues had a different appearance and bacterial community compared to healthy patients’ tongues.
“The tongues of patients with chronic heart failure look totally different to those of healthy people,” explained lead author Dr. Tianhui Yuan in a news release.
Normal tongues are pale red with a pale white coating. Heart failure patients have a redder tongue with a yellow coating and the appearance changes as the disease becomes more advanced.
This might seem surprising to some, but tongue diagnosis is hardly new.
Evaluating the appearance of the tongue has long been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of several practices that form the basis of biological dentistry. Its color, shape, coating, and moisture all provide clues to an individual’s state of health – particularly its color.
The body color indicates the condition of blood, qi, yin, yang, fluids and the yin organs (heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys and liver). As well, it shows any long-term pathological disharmonies in chronic diseases and the constitutional weaknesses. It is a reliable indicator of the underlying patterns of disharmony.
As Dr. Yuan noted, normally, the tongue should be light red in color with a thin white coating, and neither too wet nor too dry. There should be no cracks or crevices. Changes in its appearance can indicate an imbalance or disease condition elsewhere in your body.
Observing changes in the tongue’s appearance can help a biological dentist get a fuller understanding of the patient’s total mouth/body health so a comprehensive treatment plan can be developed, in conjunction with other healthcare professionals as needed.
For example, a reddish-purple tongue may be a sign of poor circulation. A yellow tongue may indicate a liver problem. A white tongue may be a sign that the body is releasing toxins.
The tongue’s shape can also point to a wide range of health issues. A swollen tongue, for instance, can signal an imbalance of fluid metabolism, while curled-up sides may indicate a stagnant liver. A hammer-shaped tongue may indicate problems with the spleen, stomach, or kidneys. Cracks may indicate a nutritional deficiency.
Similarly, a thick tongue coating suggests that the body is dealing with pathogens of some kind, while a lack of coating may indicate deficiencies in the yin organs. (Which organ depends on which area of the tongue lacks coating.)
As Dr. Rehme has noted before, if you notice any of these conditions in your own tongue, it shouldn’t cause panic.
Just be aware that these are warning signs for you to begin paying attention – signs of a deficiency in your body – and take the appropriate action to get the problems corrected. Consult your doctor and together evaluate your current health conditions.
Sure, the eyes are still the window to your soul, but your mouth – from your tongue to your teeth to your oral microbiome – is proving more than ever it’s a window to the inner workings and overall health of your body.
Lightly edited from the original (July 29, 2020)