The tongue contributes quite a bit to the functioning of the human body including the ability to taste food and to speak clearly. Without the tongue we wouldn’t enjoy the many flavors of our cuisine, including sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (savory) tastes. When the tongue is healthy-light red or pink in color with a thin white coating-all is well. However, there are times when the tongue does seemingly weird things to get our attention. What is it trying to say about our health?
Perhaps the most common signal that something is awry will be a thick white coating on the tongue. We’ve all felt it. Your tongue feels like it’s stuck to the roof of your mouth, and when you talk it makes that smacking sound. A thick white coating can mean an infection from an overgrowth of candida yeast, also known as thrush. There are tests and treatments for candida; you can ask your natural health practitioner for guidance.
If the tongue is very dry and pasty this can mean that you simply aren’t drinking enough water and the body is dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water in the morning before you have coffee will help alleviate a dry mouth.
If your tongue is stained black or dark brown it may be caused by medications and certain foods/drinks. Drinking several cups of coffee or tea per day may stain the tongue; some people who supplement with green drinks containing chlorophyll may notice a very green tongue. In this case, the stain may be removed from brushing the tongue or reducing the amount of coffee/tea consumed. Medications may cause the tongue to turn a dark color, so you can ask your doctor if this is a side effect. A yellow tongue can indicate acid reflux or an infection that interferes with the tongue’s natural balance of flora. Tongue brushing is a common practice to maintain oral health. Talk with you dentist or health care practitioner if you're not already cleaning your tongue daily.
Small ulcers in the mouth that appear on the tongue as a bump with a pink color and often feel sore and tender are known as canker sores. Certain foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes and coffee may trigger the occurrence of canker sores. With recurring outbreaks, the underlying cause may be connected to impaired digestion (with Crohn’s or celiac disease), lowered immune system or nutritional deficiencies. Avoiding trigger foods and gentle tongue brushing can reduce the chances of getting a canker sore. If the sores persist past a ten day period or reoccur frequently, it’s best to tell your doctor or health care practitioner.
If your tongue appears very smooth with a pale hue, this could mean that you are low in iron. Anemia or very low iron will disrupt the healthy pink tones of the tongue because the body will not have the oxygen necessary to maintain healthy red blood cells. Other symptoms of anemia include, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, pale skin and dizziness. A blood test from your doctor will indicate your iron levels.
Word to the wise: Regular dental visits, twice per year, will help ensure that your mouth and tongue are healthy and happy!