Have you ever paid attention and looked at your tongue and wondered why it has white stuff on it towards the back, or maybe you have a deep crack in the middle or scalloped edges on the sides that look like teeth marks? To you, the way your tongue looks may not bring up a lot of concern or questions or may have just simply gone unnoticed, but believe it or not, these physical characteristics are often a reflection of what’s going on inside your body. The tongue is a highly metabolic muscle structure with a rich supply of blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic, and mucin secretory glands. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic practices, diagnosticians and doctors have used tongue mapping as a tool to identify key imbalances in organs and areas of the body, while functional medicine has adopted this ancient diagnostic tool to target gut and cardiometabolic system issues and track progress.
Here are some important insights you could gain by evaluating the tongue through tongue mapping:
1. A Roadmap to Identifying Toxins, Circulation Issues, and Inflammation
Different areas of your tongue can correlate to different areas of the body, hence “tongue mapping.” From the color, markings, cracks, to the formation and texture, the tongue can signal clinical red flags for the presence of toxins, circulation concerns, and general inflammation. Using tongue mapping has become an essential diagnostic tool to act as a roadmap to question major deficiencies or imbalances that may require further advanced laboratory testing.
2. A Valuable Diagnostic Tool
If your tongue has a coating that ranges from white to yellow, this is often a sign of biofilm development – a group of microorganisms that stick together and build up on the surface of your tongue. This imbalance in the bacteria, or dysbiosis, is rarely just isolated to the mouth and tongue, but can be a massive clue into the health of your digestive system, such as hypochlorhydria – which is low stomach acid, gut inflammation, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The coating can worsen with carbohydrate-dense diets and may go away with antibiotics or natural antimicrobials. But if you don’t do post-antibiotic repair, it will most likely come back. Scalloped edges, where it looks like the teeth indentations, are often linked to leaky gut, liver detox impairment, B12 deficiencies, and an increased risk for autoimmune conditions.
3. A Window Into Your Body’s Language
While tongue mapping may not provide all the answers, it is an incredibly useful diagnostic tool that can provide insight into your overall health. So don’t be afraid to take a look at what your tongue is saying about your health! Your body gives us wonderful information and is always communicating with us. We just need to learn how to pay attention to it and listen to the body’s language, and by working with a trained functional medicine doctor, you will receive greater insight and interpretation to what your body is trying to tell you.
4. A Way to Prioritize Your Wellbeing
As a functional medicine expert, it’s my passion to guide you on your journey to optimal health, equip you with tools, and take agency in your health. Let’s prioritize our well-being together! By taking steps to improve your health, you can transform the quality of your life. Evaluating your symptoms and discovering the root cause is the core of functional medicine, but what elevates your care to be transformative is the deep work that is required to experience true, resilient, vibrant well-being.
The tongue is a fantastic window and physical exam tool for metabolic activity. If you notice something worth questioning with your tongue, seek guidance from your doctor or functional medicine practitioner. Remember, you have the power to take control of your health. Listen to your body and invest in your long-term well-being. Listen to your body when it whispers to avoid dealing with it when it screams.