5 Things Your Tongue Is Telling You

dog sticking tongue out

Your tongue is essential for tasting and digesting food—but it also plays a key role in several bodily functions. As a result, paying attention to its appearance can help alert you to changes in your overall health.

In general, a healthy tongue is pink, moist, firm, and covered in tiny bumps. If you notice that your tongue looks different, here are five things it may be trying to tell you.

1. You need to drink water

If you are dehydrated—meaning your body doesn’t have enough fluid to function optimally—you’ll probably notice that your tongue and mouth are dry. A lack of saliva not only affects your ability to digest foods but also impacts your ability to keep your teeth healthy. Because saliva helps clear away food and bacteria, dry mouth can increase your risk of oral health problems like gum disease, bacteria, and infection by creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

To avoid dehydration, men should consume 15.5 cups of fluid per day, while women should consume 11.5 cups. Keep in mind that these numbers should include your daily fluid intake from both food and liquids. Additionally, circumstances like hot weather and exercise will require you to consume more fluids to stay hydrated.

2. Your immune system is struggling

Through its role in digestion, your tongue is tied to your overall immune health. As a result, if your immune system is struggling—whether it’s from psychological or physiological factors—your tongue will tell you.

If you notice that your tongue is white, this could be a sign that your oral microbiome is out of balance. Some oral health conditions related to a white tongue include leukoplakia or oral thrush, among others.

If white tongue is your only symptom, you don’t necessarily need to schedule an appointment with your doctor. To avoid white tongue, be sure to practice good oral hygiene habits, avoid tobacco and alcohol, and schedule regular check-ups with your dentist.

3. You have a nutritional deficiency

Your tongue plays an integral role in tasting, enjoying, and digesting food. If you’re not eating a balanced diet, your tongue will let you know.

If your tongue is deep red, it’s probably time to adjust your diet. According to Stanford Medicine, common nutritional deficiencies include iron, folate, and vitamin B12. The latter is commonly found in seafood, beef, and eggs, while folic acid (vitamin B9) can be found in legumes, spinach, and broccoli. If you’re looking to increase your iron intake, opt for poultry, beans, and nuts.

4. You’re stressed.

Stress wreaks havoc throughout the body. If left ignored, chronic stress could take a significant toll, manifesting both mentally and physically.

Tongue redness, canker sores, and stress ulcers are hallmark symptoms of chronic stress. If you notice that your tongue is scalloped around the edges, this might mean that you’re constantly biting your tongue to cope with feelings of anxiety.

It’s essential to seek professional help and take extra care of your teeth and gums. Under stress, the risk of developing gum disease or infection increases. Some people also experience burning mouth syndrome in reaction to stress on the tongue, lips, and gums.

5. You need to take better care of your tongue.

Your oral microbiome is a crucial component of your oral health. If you’re wondering how your oral microbiome is doing, take a look at your tongue in the mirror. If your tongue looks normal, you likely have a healthy balance of microbiomes in your mouth.

On the other hand, if you notice a white coating on your tongue, it’s likely time to upgrade your oral hygiene habits with regular tongue scraping, oil pulling, flossing, and brushing.

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Besides eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated, one of the best things you can do for your tongue is to practice good oral hygiene.

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