Besides dentists, only naturopathic doctors are interested in the appearance of the tongue itself. Although, as doctors in East and West have known for millennia, hardly any other organ can express changes in health as clearly as the tongue!
There is a simple reason for this: four large nerves run through the tongue. And are responsible for the ability to taste, heat, cold or pain sensation as well as the mobility of the tongue. All four nerves are so-called cranial nerves that start directly in the brain and at the same time also supply the internal organs. The tongue is thus directly connected to both the brain and internal organs. That is why many diseases leave their mark on the tongue. Often because the nerves give modified growth impulses to the tongue tissue and the mucous membrane. Then there is, for example, soft cornification (coating on the tongue), increased blood flow to the tongue (red color) or other changes.
- Dry tongue Often occurs with high fever and illnesses with severe fluid loss (e.g. severe diarrhea)
- Wrinkle tongue Folds in the front third of the tongue give it the appearance of a tire tread or leaf ribs. This is almost always hereditary and not a sign of illness.
- Hair tongue The tiny protuberances of the mucous membrane (“papillae”) in the middle third of the tongue are enlarged and blackened. This is more common in middle-aged men. Causes: Prolonged use of antibiotics or vitamin B deficiency.
- Raspberry tongue (Strawberry tongue) Fungus-like enlarged tongue papillae with reddish discoloration. This is a sign of infectious diseases like scarlet fever.
- Map tongue Pink to deep red spots with a light border create the impression of a map. The tongue often hurts when eating spicy foods. The cause is unknown.
- Smooth, lead-gray tongue (Lacquer tongue) Due to the regression of the tongue papillae, the gray discolored tongue appears completely smooth. This occurs in certain forms of anemia (“pernicious anemia”), but it is also a sign of severe iron deficiency. Digestive diseases can also produce this symptom, for example when gastric juice is no longer formed or there is severe food intolerance (“sprue”).
- Lateral furrowed tongue Occurs in Down syndrome (“trisomy 21”) or sometimes in vitamin A deficiency.
- Fleshy, red inflamed tongue Causes: Vitamin deficiency (niacin), antibiotic intake, anemia, diabetes and other health disorders. Often associated with burning and pain.
- Diphtheria tongue Whitish-gray, membrane-like coatings on the tongue, often smelling sweet and rotten, are a typical sign of the serious infectious disease diphtheria.
- Brown tongue If the tongue is covered with brown lumps, often swollen, there may be severe kidney weakness.
- Thrush tongue Whitish, membrane-like and hard-to-wipe spots with red edges are typical of the fungal disease thrush. Often with severe immune deficiency.
- Black tongue For severe cholera intestinal infection, including scarlet fever
These typical signs often appear together with acute, serious illness. Other tongue coatings, on the other hand, are often signs of more chronic disorders in the digestive system. Depending on where they occur on the tongue, the affected organs can also be assigned. General rule: the tip of the tongue marks the throat, followed by the stomach, pancreas and small intestine. The middle third of the tongue shows the spleen, liver, gall bladder and part of the large intestine. The back third of the tongue (“base of the tongue”) mirrors the rest of the colon up to its exit. The tongue coloring can provide additional information about the diseased organs.
- Chronic gastric inflammation whitish-yellow coating
- acute gastric inflammation Swollen tongue with indentations on the edges and a thick gray coating
- Gastric bleeding pale and moist tongue (before: coating and dryness)
- Liver and gallbladder diseases thick, yellowish to brownish coating
- Inflammation of the small and large intestines dry, brown in the middle, damp and red edges
- Intestinal ulcer dry, tongue base as if covered with clay
- healthy digestive tract pure tongue without abnormalities