In ancient times a doctor would use your tongue as a diagnostic tool. The first thing they would do is ask you to stick out your tongue. They believed that the condition of your tongue was the primary indicator of your health. But since the advent of modern diagnostic equipment, doctors have gotten away from this natural indicator and rely more on expensive high-tech tests.
Today only time a doctor asks you to stick out your tongue is to see if you have strep throat. Does that mean that your tongue doesn’t indicate the condition of your system? No! Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, more doctors are finding that your tongue is actually a more sensitive and accurate indicator than many modern tests.
A healthy tongue should be pink, clean and covered in papillae which contain taste buds.
What A Healthy Tongue Vs. Scalloped Tongue Looks Like
Recently, Dr. Oz had a show dedicated to tongues. Of course, being the consummate showman he had an audience member put on rubber gloves and pull up tongue out of a jar. He also showed some pictures of some really nasty looking tongues. Audience members made faces and pulled out their languages. However, after all the fluff, he did provide one actual factual tidbit of health information.What Dr. Oz Says About Tongue Health:
The tongue is unique to everybody. It is like a fingerprint. It shows us all about the subtleties of our health.
Tongues have the obvious purpose of helping us to eat and speak, but they can also be indicative of our health. The tongue can be used to spot real health deficiencies such as a white tongue indicating a lack of iron. Even mainstream doctors agree that your tongue can be an indicator of your overall health. Another well-respected doctor, Dr. Brownstein, has written several books on health and extensively about thyroid issues, finding that most Americans are deficient in key nutrients that promote good thyroid health. This may be one reason that Americans have weight issues, since your thyroid helps regulate your metabolism. But even Dr. Brownstein points to your tongue as an indicator of your health.
Dr. Brownstein talks about “tongue swelling” as well which is related to:
- beefy or enlarged tongue (microglossia)
- scalloped tongue (hypothyroidism)
- tongue with teeth marks around the edges
All three of these issues are really the same condition. Dr. Brownstein says:
And what you can see is on outer edges of the tongue there’s little grooves where the tongue is banging into the teeth because it is too big for the mouth. Many times patients will tell me that their tongue feels too big for their mouth, and they are tripping over it as they try to talk. But all of these problems usually go away when patients are treated with thyroid hormones.
The Tongue, Thyroid, and Iodine Deficiencies
The major deficiency related to thyroid is iodine. So boosting iodine can often help a beefy scalloped tongue. Some people with severe thyroid problems require a synthetic thyroid hormone that can be taken as a small pill. For more information on thyroid problems you may want to check out Dr. Brownstein’s books. And per Dr. Wiggy,
Sometimes the tongue gets too big for the mouth and actually pushes up against the sides of the teeth and that can suggest the tongue is too large because there are too many toxins. A lot of times that is from having low thyroid.
If your tongue is not only scalloped, but also swollen and fissured, spleen qi deficiency could be behind it, i.e. according to traditional Chinese medicine. When this happens, a scalloped tongue, your spleen will unable to do its digestive functions especially transforming food to energy. You will be fatigued, have a pale tongue and face, lose weight, and have poor appetite in addition to a crenated tongue. Now it’s your turn. Do it. Stop and go look in the mirror or pull out a mirror from your purse. This is the one time sticking out your tongue is OK. Examine it and ask yourself
- What is the shape of my tongue and is it smooth?
- What is the color of my tongue, pink, white?
- Does it feel dry or is it nourished and moisturized?
- Does it have any fissures or cracks?
- Does it fit in my mouth or is it too big (does it touch the sides of my mouth)?
- Does it have any indentions or scallops on the edges?
- Is there a coating on top of my tongue?
- How far can you stick your tongue out?
- Can you touch the roof of your mouth?
The key thing to remember is: your tongue is an indicator of your overall health. Trying to treat it as a separate disease is shortsighted in the long run. For instance if you have a pale tongue due to anemia you would’t think that swishing red dye around in your mouth was going to solve your problem would you? Your tongue would no longer be pale but you would still be anemic, right? If you have a beefy enlarged tongue, you need to address the weak thyroid issue through either iodine supplements or thyroid hormone. (Always working with your healthcare practitioner) Don’t just treat the symptoms – get to the underlying, root cause. In the same way if you have geographic tongue, is not a disease it is a symptom just like white scalloped tongue or a pale tongue. And the amazing thing is when you stop treating symptoms and get to the underlying cause geographic tongue goes away. Of course, just like anemia, the geographic tongue can come back if the underlying condition comes back. That is actually a good thing because it reminds you that you need to take care of yourself and not just let yourself go.
So we’ve learned 3 things:
- Treat your tongue like the “health meter” of your body
- Don’t stress about your tongue. Use it to help track down the underlying problem. Once you find it your tongue will take care of itself so fast you’ll be absolutely amazed.
- One of the major causes of a pale tongue is anemia. It is a nutritional problem that can often be treated with iron and/or B-12 supplements.
- One of the major causes of a beefy scalloped tongue is thyroid issues. It is often a nutritional problem (that is an iodine deficiency) but in more serious cases it can be a hormonal deficiency because of an underlying problem with the thyroid.