- Dr. Christa O'Leary
A Window to Your Health: The Tongue
Human beings are complex organisms. One of the many things that make us so fascinating is how our body interacts with the world around it, including other people and even inanimate objects. For example, your tongue can be a window to your overall health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tongue is used as a diagnostic tool, and it can be used to diagnose many different conditions from digestive problems to colds and allergies. This study on the human tongue showed that there are more than 10 times as many bacteria on the tongue as in your mouth. The presence of these microbes on the tongue could have implications for understanding oral-systemic health. So let’s explore this interesting phenomenon!
What is a tongue diagnosis, and why does it matter?
One of the primary components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is something called tongue diagnosis. This involves looking at the tongue under a microscope to see if there are any spots or colors that can be indicative of an illness. There are many different strands in TCM, including herbalism and acupuncture, but tongue diagnosis is one that students often learn early on.
Tongue diagnosis is based upon the idea that there are energy meridians running through the body that branches out into various organs and tissues that help to keep us healthy. Each one of these meridians corresponds to a different organ, including the heart, kidneys, spleen, lungs, liver and more. The tongue is a reflection of the state of these various meridians, organs, and organ systems. For example, a yellow or brown color on different parts of the tongue can be indicative of serious liver problems.
What’s going on?
The human body is made up of trillions of cells that work together in harmony to keep us healthy and functioning. While we may think of our bodies like a machine, it is more accurate to think of them like a community in which the various cells and organs all work together. This symbiosis is achieved via our microbiome, which refers to the trillions of microbes that live on different parts of our bodies, including the skin and inside our digestive tracts. These microbes often work to keep our bodies healthy by processing food and regulating various systems.
The human tongue is covered in these microbes that are a part of the microbiome. In this study, researchers from University of Copenhagen collected samples from 49 individuals. They found that there were more than 10 times as many bacteria on the tongue as there were in their mouths. The researchers also found that there could be significant differences in the type and number of bacteria on different tongues. For example, some people may have thick or thin bacterial membranes on their tongue, while others may have an abundance of different species of bacteria.
What does this mean?
This discovery of all these microbes living on human tongues shows just how little we still know about the human body. While it was previously thought that all of the bacteria in our microbiome lived in our gut, scientists are realizing that there are many different microbes found on different parts of our bodies. Since each part of the body is connected to its own set of meridians and organ systems, it makes sense that these microorganisms are found in various places throughout the body.
This discovery merits further research since it could have important implications for oral-systemic health. What this means is that conditions like heart disease or Alzheimer’s may be able to manifest based on what is found on someone’s tongue. It also means that certain microbes could be indicative of these conditions. More research is needed, but it could potentially lead to a new form of medicine that looks at specific microbes found on various parts of the body in order to treat disease or dysfunction
Tongue Care Tips For Better Health
There are many ways to take better care of your tongue, which will allow you to see the benefits of a healthier mouth. These include:
Using mouthwash or mouth spray after brushing your teeth at night can help to kill any lingering bacteria that may be on the tongue.
Flossing daily is another way to take care of the tongue since bacteria can live between teeth.
Limiting sugar intake is helpful for overall health, but it will also limit how much bacteria lives in the mouth.
Finally, using a tongue scraper once or twice per day is an effective way to keep your tongue clean. This will allow you to see whatever problems may be living on your tongue so that you can address them.
Tongue care is an important part of maintaining the health of your mouth and body. Taking steps to keep the tongue clean will allow you to see if there any problems with oral-systemic health, which may help you identify potential issues before they have a chance to become serious. However, there are some conditions that may be able to manifest based on what is found on your tongue. Find anything unusual? Contact us today to make sure it's not rooted in a larger issue.