The tongue has been recognized as an important diagnostic tool for millennia, dating back to ancient Chinese medicine. Even modern Western doctors will ask you to stick out your tongue when you go for a check-up. As discussed in this article, the color of your tongue, as well as the appearance of any bumps or lesions, can tell you a lot about your health. So find a mirror, stick out your tongue, and see if any of these common tongue indicators say anything about your health.
A White Tongue
One of the most common tongue issues that can signal larger health problems is a white coating, or white spots. Generally, the cause of a white tongue is bacterial. You may be suffering from an oral yeast infection, also known as thrush, or an infection of the throat, such as strep. Or, because your mouth is connected to your digestive system, a white tongue may indicate an overgrowth of bacteria in your gut.
While doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, oral lichen planus is another concern indicated by a white tongue. Experts believe that improving oral hygiene, staying away from cigarettes, and avoiding acidic and spicy foods might help get rid of the white coating if this is the case. A less common, but potentially serious, cause of a white coating on the tongue is leukoplakia, an excess of cell growth in the mouth that can sometimes act as a precursor to oral cancer.
A Bright Red Tongue
If your tongue is a bright cherry red rather than its usual pinkish hue, you may be suffering from a vitamin deficiency. A bright red tongue can indicate anemia, which means you should up your iron intake. Alternatively, you may be short on B vitamins, which you can pack into your diet with nuts, shellfish, and lean meats.