Your Tongue Can Talk: Important Clues About Your Health From Your Tongue

In Chinese medicine, it is believed that looking at the tongue can tell you what is going on everywhere in the body.

Your tongue can tell you a lot about your health. So grab a mirror and stick out your tongue, and see what your tongue has to say.

A healthy tongue has a uniform pink shade. If your tongue looks white, there’s a good chance you either have thrush or a bacterial infection. Thrush is an overgrowth of candida albicans, commonly called yeast.

You may be able to treat thrush yourself using probiotics and garlic, or you may need a stronger antifungal.

Yellow spots or a yellow tint to the tongue also indicate a fungal or bacterial infection, or possibly gastric reflux.

If your tongue looks unusually pale and smooth, you may be suffering from anemia. Anemia is a condition where the red blood cells do not have enough iron to help them carry needed oxygen to all of your body’s cells.

Iron deficiency anemia can be mild, just making you feel tired and run down, or it can be very serious, even causing damage to the heart muscle. Increasing the amount of iron in your diet can help your tongue return to its normal, healthy pink coloring.

If you open your mouth and your tongue looks unusually dark, don’t panic. If you have recently taken a bismuth medication—Pepto Bismol is a common brand—your tongue can turn black temporarily.

Your tongue can also be stained dark from drinking coffee, smoking, chewing tobacco, or taking certain antibiotics. The good news is that usually all it takes is a good brushing or two, and your tongue will usually be back to normal.

Canker sores, sometimes called mouth ulcers, can appear on the tongue or anywhere inside the mouth. These small crater-like sores can be extremely painful.

Usually a canker store will heal up on its own in about 7 to 10 days. During that time, avoid acidic foods and beverages, smoking, and anything else that can further irritate your mouth.

An old home remedy for canker sores is to apply milk of magnesia to the sores, either by holding milk of magnesia liquid in your mouth, or purchasing milk of magnesia tablets and placing one on the store and allowing it to dissolve.

Your tongue is covered with little finger-like projections. Usually they are not noticeable, but occasionally one becomes inflamed and painful. Like canker sores, usually these will heal on their own.

But if you have one that is especially inflamed or that does not heal in about a week, you may need more care than you can provide at home.