When assessing our own health, we often look to our bodies for clues. We can tell when our thighs are getting more toned and our bellies are flattening — but have you ever looked at your tongue and wondered what it’s telling you about your health? Read on to decode some of the common colors and textures you might see on your tongue.
A bright red or pink tongue indicates that you could be suffering from a deficiency in iron or folic acid. A bright pink or red tongue can also be an indication of vitamin B12 deficiency, a common vitamin deficiency suffered by vegans and vegetarians according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your vitamin needs to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it requires.
While it’s normal and healthy to have a whitish coating on your tongue, if the entire tongue looks white, this could be a sign of poor oral hygiene. The white color is caused by the tiny bumps covering the surface of your tongue becoming inflamed from things like bacteria, food, or fungi. The most common causes of this change in color include poor brushing and flossing, dehydration, fever, smoking tobacco or excessive alcohol consumption.
White patches on the tongue, rather than an overall white color, could be an indication of an overgrowth of candida in the body, resulting in a fungal infection, known as oral thrush. Talk to your doctor if you suspect yourself to be suffering from this, as thrush needs to be treated with anti-fungal medication.
Yes, you read that right. Your tongue can grow what looks like hair for a number of reasons, but the most common is because of poor oral hygiene, a course of antibiotics, or radiation treatment to the head or neck area. It can also happen if you are consuming a lot of coffee, mouthwash, or nicotine, all of which can irritate the tongue and cause this alarming but benign symptom, where the healthy papillae that coat the tongue build up, creating what looks like hair or fur. Thankfully, this scary symptom usually goes away on its own, but if it persists, be sure to consult your doctor or dentist.
While our tongues are covered in tiny taste buds that can swell up when we consume hot food or drinks, other bumps on the tongue can include canker sores and even cancerous lesions. The cause of canker sores is not always known, though scientists have noticed a correlation between their appearance and mouth injuries, food allergies and nutritional deficiencies. Thankfully, these nasty bumps usually fade on their own, though you can get pain relief from over-the-counter ointment. Any bump that does not go away on its own should of course be brought to your doctor’s attention, in case it is a cancerous lesion and needs to be biopsied.
Article written by: Emily Keyes. Follow her here.