What does a healthy tongue look like

What the tongue reveals about health

03.08.2017

The appearance of the tongue says a lot about a person's health. Changes in the strong muscle can also be a harbinger of serious illness in the body.

The appearance of the tongue has been used to diagnose diseases for thousands of years - also because people used to be ashamed to take off their clothes in front of a doctor. That has long since changed. But even conventional doctors are still tracking down diseases through the condition of the tongue.

The tongue is optimally networked with the brain and organs via nerve tracts. Therefore, if something is wrong in the body, it can also be seen in the tongue. It reflects the state of health of a person, as Prof. Dirk Eßer, chief physician of the Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Medicine at the Helios Klinikum Erfurt explains.

The tongue is usually pale pink, lightly coated, and a little rough on the surface. If it looks significantly different and not just for a few hours, this can be an indication of an illness.

A tongue that is not only temporarily black can indicate leukemia. If the tongue has a permanent yellow coating, there may be a disease in the liver and gall bladder area behind it. If the tongue is brown, there may be digestive problems. A grayish colored tongue can indicate anemia, a blue colored tongue indicates a lung disease. A cold or gastrointestinal disorder often shows up as a thick white coating on the tongue.

"The exact biochemical processes involved in tongue coloring in the body have not yet been scientifically clarified," explains the naturopath René Gräber from Preetz in Schleswig-Holstein. According to him, the acid balance in the body could play a role the digestion of fat is important, out of balance due to illness, then the acid balance is also upset. "This could be an explanation for a yellow coating on the tongue, which is connected to the bile." According to a study from 2015, changes in the structure and breakdown of amino acids could contribute to the appearance of a brownish coating on the tongue in gastritis.

But there are other changes as well. We speak of a lacquer tongue when the surface of the organ is shiny and smooth. "This occurs when there are deficiencies in vitamins or minerals," explains Prof. Andreas Filippi, dentist for oral surgery at the University Center for Dentistry in Basel.

A burning sensation or inflammation on the tongue can also indicate a vitamin deficiency. If the tongue is permanently red in color (raspberry or strawberry tongue), then the person is likely to have scarlet fever.

There is also a one-sided coating on only one half of the tongue. It can be related to a nerve disease or otitis media. A swollen, brown-discolored tongue may indicate kidney weakness. The so-called map tongue - an uneven coating on which dental prints can be seen - indicates disorders in the digestive tract, explains Gräber.

In contrast, a short-term visible coating is usually not a cause for concern. Blueberries, for example, discolor the tongue blue without any disease being behind it. A coating on the tongue can - but does not have to - indicate an illness.

A daily tongue check at home in front of the mirror helps to find clues about possible illnesses. Everyone should watch the appearance of their tongue regularly, advises Eßer. This is best done in daylight, ideally right after getting up. Then the tongue has not yet been discolored by food or drinks. If something is noticeable, it should be discussed with the family doctor first.

Sometimes the tongue can also be attacked by fungi. Mostly people are affected whose defenses are weakened. Fungal infections sometimes also occur during antibiotic therapy. This can be treated with lozenges. Certain mouthwashes that are available in pharmacies can also help, Eßer reports.

Filippi recommends cleaning the tongue regularly: "This is best done with a tongue brush and not a tongue scraper." Since most of the bacteria in the oral cavity are on the tongue, cleaning it helps prevent tooth decay and bad breath. The tongue brush should be with you A special paste or toothpaste can be used. Gräber gives another tip for cleaning the tongue: oil pulling. A teaspoon of coconut and sesame oil are mixed for a mouth rinse. "This is gentle on the oral flora and helps with inflammation in the oral cavity."

Source: dpa