What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

Tongue analysis is an important part of Ayurvedic diagnosis. Ayurveda interpretation assigns different regions of the tongue to represent different areas of the digestive tract and major organs. Western medicine does not recognize this relationship but instead focuses on colors and shapes. When looking at the tongue, although there may be various items of unfamiliar appearance, the majority of what you see is typical and does not denote a problem.

When a problem does occur, however, sometimes it can be either seen on the tongue as the central focus of the problem, or the problem in other parts of the body can be reflected in the tongue appearance.

For example: recovering from an illness, or during use of antibiotics or steroids could encourage the overgrowth of yeast on the tongue (called Thrush) resulting in white spots or patches that rub off.

If the white lacy areas don’t rub off, that could be a result of an immune imbalance called leukoplakia. This can sometimes be a precursor to oral cancer so should be promptly evaluated.

Darker colors like black or brown are commonly caused by different strains of oral bacteria that can grow in the presences of cigarette or pipe smoke. Sometimes after taking antibiotics, the bacteria that colonize the tongue can produce darker colors than normal. Deeply colored foods and drinks can also temporarily change the tongue color to a darker hue.

Smooth areas next to bumpy areas are usually diagnosed as geographic tongue due to the resemblance to a map of the world. This is not usually regarded as significant.

Less common changes in the tongue can result from systemic disease. These include a strawberry red tongue from Kawasaki disease or from scarlet fever. A smooth tongue can result from inadequate iron, folic acid, or vitamin B3 intake.

Midlife hormonal changes can result in a painful condition known as burning mouth syndrome. Other health problems, like dry mouth from medications, acid reflux, or diabetes may cause it, too. Allergic reactions to certain foods such as pineapple some toothpaste or mouthwash ingredients, or other foods or candies can also make the tongue uncomfortable.

Painful tongue conditions also include canker sores, papillitis, or viral infections. Canker sores are a temporary painful but innocuous condition that is caused many times by food or toothpaste allergies. There are several over the counter remedies for this condition. Transient papillitis is a condition that causes the small papillae on the tongue to become irritated and swell temporarily. This may be frequently caused by trauma. Viral conditions can cause bumps on the tongue and are usually associated with fever. A lump on or under your tongue which lingers however needs the attention of your dentist or physician. Treatment of uncommon oral cancer should not be delayed.

Never hesitate to consult your health provider if you have a question about your tongue or health. The only bad health question is the one that is not asked.