You can learn a lot just by opening your mouth.
(reprinted from: womenshealthmag.com)
Pain, itching, funky spots and odors—your body is always dropping you clues about what’s going on with your health. But there’s one body part you probably don’t consider when you’re trying to get a hold on your overall wellbeing: your tongue. Diagnosing illnesses and conditions based on the color and texture of the tongue is a staple of Chinese and Western medicine, and it’s not for nothing that M.D.s ask patients to open up and say ahhhh.
With this in mind, a team of researchers made the tongue the focus of a new diagnostic system designed to help people who live in remote areas. This computerized system can answer user questions about symptoms and take a digitized image of the tongue, then offer a diagnosis, states a new study outlining the system recently published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.
Luckily, if you’re reading this, you probably do have some sort of access to a medical professional. So grab a hand mirror, open wide, then read the info below to find out what your tongue is trying to tell you—and if you recognize any of these symptoms, check in with your M.D. or dentist for a proper diagnosis.
1. A smooth, pale surface. Tongues are supposed to be a little bumpy, but if yours is smooth, it could be a sign of a B12 or iron deficiency, says Steven Lamm, M.D., an internist and clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
2. Black discoloration or a hairy tongue: As revolting as this term sounds, it doesn’t actually mean your tongue is really sprouting hair follicles; it just looks like it because secretions have accumulated on the surface and turned dark, says Lamm. It’s a tip-off that your oral hygiene needs an upgrade. “Poor oral health sets you up for a higher risk of heart disease,” he says. Shore up your mouth-care routine with these tips. Also worth noting: A black tongue can be a sign of a fungal infection, says Lamm, possibly brought on by an underlying condition messing with your immune system, such as diabetes.
3. A too-big tongue. If your tongue feels swollen or looks kind of large, it could indicate that you have hypothyroidism, says Lamm. This means you’re not producing enough thyroid hormone, which also slows down your metabolism and sinks your energy.
4. A fissured tongue. If you notice deep cracks or grooves on the surface or sides, you may have an autoimmune disorder, says Lamm.
5. A white tongue. “This could also be a sign of a fungal infection, which is a clue that something else is going on that has upset the natural levels of fungus-fighting bacteria in the mouth,” says Lamm.
6. Frequent canker sores. Doctors aren’t sure why these super annoying, painful sores pop up, says Lamm. But they tend to show when you’re stressed, have consumed spicy food, or are battling a cold or flu and your immune system is working overtime. These you can take care of yourself: Soothe them with an OTC ointment, and stick to bland foods that won’t irritate the sores. Here’s more info on these mysterious (but luckily not serious) canker sores.