What Your Tongue Is Telling You



By Angelique Johnson

The tongue is an extremely useful muscle in the body. It helps you eat, swallow, taste your food and articulate your words when you speak.

But were you aware that the tongue could also be a window into your health?


As it turns out, the tongue can be a useful tool for assessing your health. Other than telling you when something is sweet or salty, the tongue and certain tongue issues can also be good indicators that something in your body is not right.

Paying attention to both the color and the texture of your tongue is an important part of excellent oral health. Sometimes tongue symptoms could be signs of a vitamin deficiency, infection, or even a stroke.

Here is a list of the most common tongue problems and what they mean about your health.

1. White Tongue

A white coating (that looks like cottage cheese) on the tongue could mean you just need to brush your teeth, but it could also mean something more serious. When candida albicans (a yeast) grows over the surface of the mouth and tongue, it is known as a condition called thrush. Thrush can occur in almost anyone, but it mostly occurs when you have a weakened immune system, have recently been sick, or have been taking antibiotics. Balancing your gut bacteria is important to getting rid of thrush. Try probiotic rich foods such as yogurt, fermented foods, or a good quality probiotic supplement.

2. Red Tongue

A pink tongue is healthy… a red one is not. A red tongue could indicate you are suffering from strep throat, a folic acid and vitamin B deficiency, or even anemia. Either way, if you see your tongue is not the normal pink it usually is, you should see a doctor.

3. Black Hairy Tongue

Yes, believe it or not, the tongue can get black and hairy. Although it is not a sign of a serious health issue, it’s quite alarming. Not practicing good oral health, taking antibiotics, or a fungal infection can all cause a black hairy tongue. Medications that contain bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol) can also trigger the reaction. Scraping your tongue and brushing well will usually get rid of the condition quickly.

4. Webbed Or Striped Looking Tongue

If you look in the mirror and your tongue appears striped or webbed, you could be suffering from a condition known as oral lichen. This occurs when the immune system attacks the cells in the mouth. Talk to your doctor immediately if you notice this on your tongue, as having oral lichen puts you at a higher risk for developing oral cancer.

5. Big Tongue

A big tongue could mean a variety of things, none of which are signs of good health. Inflammation in the body, cancer and even metabolic disorders could cause an engorged tongue. Thyroid disease (such as hypothyroidism) and lymphangiomas (cysts caused by a defective lymphatic system) are other causes for a big tongue.

6. Bumpy Tongue

Bumps on the tongue (and we’re not talking about normal sized taste buds) could be a result of something as simple as eating spicy foods, but could also be a sign of something more serious. Common causes of these bumps are canker sores or even herpes, both which go away on their own. However, any ulcer that sticks around without healing should be checked out, as it could be cancer.

7. Spotted Tongue

A spotted tongue is a mix of red and white spots and is known as a geographic tongue. It’s actually a very common occurrence and is also nothing to worry about, as most people with a geographic tongue were born with it. There is no treatment for it, so if you have a spotted tongue, you will have one for life.

8. Numb Or Tingly Tongue

Medically known as paresthesia of the tongue, numbness or tingling in the tongue most commonly occurs when damage has been done to the nervous system. Food poisoning from certain shellfish, nerve damage from dental surgery (such as a root canal), or a vitamin B12 deficiency could lead to a numb or tingly tongue. More serious conditions include multiple sclerosis, a stroke, hypothyroidism, or a brain tumor.


Angelique Johnson

Angelique Johnson

Nutritionist at Nutrition by Angelique
Angelique Johnson is a nutritionist from Miami, FL. Through her own journey in weight loss, she discovered her love for health and nutrition and realized she wanted to help others achieve a healthier lifestyle. Angelique has been featured as a nutrition consult on CBS4 Miami News and is a published author on many online health sites. She is passionate about debunking diet rumors and showing her clients how to have a healthy, balanced relationship with food.
Angelique Johnson


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