They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. But when it comes to your gut, it is the tongue that matters. The fleshy muscular organ in your mouth actually does a lot more than help you articulate speech perfectly, and serve as the holder for your tastebuds.
But since it plays a key role in the gustatory system–which is the sensory system responsible for the perception of flavours and taste–how your tongue looks and feels can say a lot about your health, especially about your digestive system.
So, on World Oral Health Day, we show you just how your tongue might be sending you warning signs about your health.
1. White coated tongue
If your tongue has a white, creamy coating, you might be suffering from a condition known as Oral Thrush. This is basically a yeast infection in your mouth caused by the Candida albicans fungus. While it is a fungus that is naturally found in the mouth, if it spreads all over your tongue, then the roof of your mouth and throat, it can indicate a weakened immunity, as well as other untreated diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer. Oral Thrush is treatable, so it’s best to see a doctor if you find anyone showing this symptom.
White coated tongue.
2. Red tongue
The colour of a healthy tongue is rosy pink. So, if your tongue looks as red as a cherry, it might be because of one of two reasons. You could have a lack of B vitamins and iron in your body, and this issue can be treated easily with a proper diet that includes foods rich in these nutrients. But if your throat is scratchy along with a red tongue, you could be suffering from strep throat. This, again, can be treated with proper medication and care.
3. Bald tongue
A healthy tongue is supposed to have bumps on it because of the many papillae on it. In case you didn’t know, it is these papillae that hold the tastebuds, and can help distinguish between the five tastes–sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. So, if your tongue feels too smooth or bald, and looks pale too, it could indicate a major lack of B vitamins and iron in the body. If this goes untreated, you could lose your tastbuds completely. The best way to deal with this issue is to have a diet rich in vitamins and iron.
4. Cracked tongue
Yes, the tongue is supposed to look and feel rough. But if you can see cracks and fissures on it, that is definitely not a good sign. A cracked tongue is an indicator of a problem with your immune system, and needs immediate medical attention. Even when they don’t indicate a major issue with your body, a cracked tongue can serve as an ideal place for bacteria to set up home. It’s best to go to a doctor and get the issue treated.
5. Bumpy, painful tongue
A little bump or sore on the side of your tongue is usually nothing to worry about, even if it is painful. It can happen when you bite your tongue accidentally, or in your sleep, or if something rough is stuck in your teeth and rubbing against the tongue. Painful sores can also result from the irritation caused by food that is too hot or spicy. But while these sores are mostly harmless, if they last for more than a week, your should get them checked by a doctor.
6. Black, hairy tongue
Looking in the mirror and finding out that your tongue has a black, hairy-looking coating can be quite disturbing. While it might look absolutely horrifying, a black, hairy tongue indicates excessive bacterial growth, and can be easily treated. Stop consuming high-sugar foods, and maintain better oral hygiene. This condition can also be caused by smoking excessively, so you might want to control the habit as well.
The tongue actually sends us a number of signals about the state of our health, and if you can identify the problems early on and treat them, you will feel the better for it. So, learn to read your tongue, and you’ll be healthy and happy.