In certain traditional medicines, one of the main tools practitioners use for determining the cause of someone’s illness is through tongue diagnosis or evaluation of the tongue. The tongue is the first step on the digestive tract, which stretches for about 30 feet. By scanning the tongue, we are able to determine what is happening under our inner digestive skin.
Inner digestive skin refers to the skin that lines our digestive tract. It is also the most important factor in determining our overall health. Here is a short list of some of the most important things our healthy inner digestive skin is responsible for:
- Hosting of trillions of beneficial microbes
- Where 95% of the serotonin for mood health is derived
- Where 80% of the immune system is found
- The protective barrier to ward off environmental toxins
- The delivery of all vitamins, minerals and nutrients
- Regulates genetic and epigenetic changes to the human genome
The problem with diagnosing the inner skin is that we cannot see it – or can we? The tongue can give us quick and useful indications about the status of our digestion.
Based on the normal variations between body types, a perfect tongue will be:
- Pink – not pale, scarlet, or red.
- The pinkish color would be consistent across the entire tongue.
- You would be able to see small cylindrical taste buds on the entire top surface of the tongue.
- It would be not too wet and not too dry – it would be just right!
- You would not see any cracks on the tongue.
- There would be a very thin white coating of mucus on the tongue.
- There would be no teeth marks on the sides of the tongue.
Looking For Imbalances: Tongue Diagnosis
The part of your body most directly connected to the appearance of your tongue is the epithelium of the stomach. After all, that’s the next step for food after it passes your mouth. Often the quality of the mucus lining is seen on the lining of the tongue.
Movie Star Tongue
The movie star tongue looks red, smooth, and moist – almost perfect when actually it isn’t. When there is excess acid in the stomach, the tongue will reflect this by turning red. Your tastebuds will retract as well, giving it the smooth appearance. Your tongue becomes moist because of the amount of mucus your body produces to protect the lining of your stomach.
The IBS tongue looks smooth, wet, and pale reflecting intestinal irritation and stress. We’ve already covered why the tongue looks smooth and wet, but the paleness reflects the stomach actually stopping the production of stomach acid to protect the intestinal wall from further irritation.
Acid tongue represents the symptoms of occasional heartburn. When stomach acid builds up and begins moving upwards, it irritates the stomach, esophagus, mouth and tongue. This leaves your tongue looking very red, dry, and smooth.
Boggy tongue is usually representative of a digestive problem that has been solved. The result is a pale, wet, coated, and even swollen tongue depending on your body type.
This tongue usually has teeth marks on the sides of the tongue. It will also look discolored, reddish in one area, pale in another, and pink somewhere else.
This tongue will have many small cracks on it and is very dry.
Spinal Or CNS Stress Tongue
When there is a deep crack running down the centre of the tongue, it can represent chronic stress in the central nervous system or spinal stress caused by injury.
Ama, in Ayurveda, refers the the accumulation of improperly digested food that clogs the intestinal tract. The tongue builds up a thick coating that covers it completely. If there is a build up on the back of the tongue, that could represent a buildup of toxins in the large intestine.
A pale tongue suggests a lack of good stomach acid and digestive enzymes needed to properly digest food and deliver the minerals, vitamins and nutrients needed for optimal health. Sometimes this can also be a sign of anemia.
A dry tongue shows a that the stomach does not have the proper hydration it needs to properly digest foods. Without adequate hydration, the stomach will not produce acid and the tongue often becomes very dry and slightly pale.
A wet tongue can be due to excess kapha (mucus) from a severely irritated stomach lining, intestinal wall, undigested proteins like casein or gluten, or from excessive stress.
A swollen tongue may suggest a congested lymphatic system backing up into the cervical lymph nodes, tonsils, adenoids, and tongue. Look for other signs of lymph congestion to confirm this.
Next time you’re feeling under the weather or off balance, just take a look at your tongue. You might be shocked at just what it’s trying to tell you!