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Is your tongue normal or is it trying to warn you of disease?

POSTED: October 4, 2017 9:01 a.m.
Gina Van Luven/

Your tongue can be a warning sign of possible disease. Here's what you need to watch out for.

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Your tongue does more than help you speak. It can actually be an important tool to determine imbalances in your body and a warning sign for impending disease. So open up and say, “Ahhh,” and take a closer look at it.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), different parts of your tongue correspond to different internal organs. The tip of your tongue reflects the health of your heart and lungs; the middle represents your spleen and stomach; the root (back) represents your kidneys and bladder; and the sides of your tongue represent your liver (left) and gallbladder (right).

Here are three things to look for when assessing your tongue:

1. Color

In TCM, your tongue is an extension of your heart, and its color represents the health of your blood. Because the blood is what nourishes and maintains your body, its color reflects the overall health of your body and organs. The ideal tongue is pale-red (or dark pink), indicating good blood circulation.

A pale tongue may indicate insufficient blood circulation, and even digestive issues. If there is a thick, white coating, you may have a condition called “Candidiasis,” which is an overgrowth of yeast in the body.

If the coating is yellow, it could indicate major digestive stagnation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or liver/gallbladder disease. A bright red tongue may indicate chronic inflammation or infection, especially if the taste buds are red and raised. Red on the sides may indicate over-consumption of alcohol or spicy or greasy foods. A purple hue may indicate long-standing inflammation or blood-clotting.

2. Shape

The shape of the tongue should be full, but not swollen. A thin tongue may indicate anemia or chronic fatigue, while a swollen tongue may indicate a body’s overall weakness and declining health. A swollen tongue may also be a result of excess alcohol consumption. Scalloped edges on the side of the tongue may indicate a weak spleen (immune function), malabsorption or an under-active thyroid (metabolism).

3. Texture

Your tongue's texture should be fairly smooth, with a thin coat of saliva. Cracks all over the tongue (known as a fissured tongue) indicate long-term deficiency, which could be from overall dehydration or lack of B-vitamins. Cracks on the sides indicate spleen (immune) deficiency, while a crack down the middle/center indicates digestive deficiency. If the center crack runs all the way to the tip, this may indicate some serious current or future heart issues, whether emotional or physical.

If you feel you have tongue abnormalities, it is best to get them checked out. Because conventional medical doctors are not generally trained in TCM, and, therefore, may not recognize these abnormalities as a problem, it may be best to work with a Naturopath or Chinese Medical Doctor, like an Acupuncturist, to diagnose and treat your condition.

While the tongue is not the only diagnostic tool available, it may provide a good picture of what is going on inside your body; and it's something you can analyze for free! So, take a closer look at your tongue and see what messages it is trying to convey about your health.

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