Is your tongue giving you clues about your health?

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Have you looked at your tongue recently? Do you realise its appearance can indicate health problems? A smooth, pink tongue is ideal. Is that what your tongue looks like?

If you’ve overindulged in food and alcohol recently, your tongue may have a white, yellow or brown coating. Sounds very unappealing, but there’s a lot you can do to clean it up.

Your tongue is a great indicator of the health of your digestive tract and liver.  Having a coated tongue usually means you have poor digestion or too many bad bugs/yeast in your bowel and/or a sluggish liver.  It may also cause bad breath of which you may be unaware.  Thankfully there is plenty you can do to resolve these problems.

Having a coated tongue usually indicates that you don’t digest food very well and because of this, bad bowel bacteria and yeast such as Candida are allowed to overgrow.  Your liver helps you digest fat by producing bile.  You may not be producing enough bile for adequate digestion.  This can leave you feeling bloated and physically and mentally tired.

A coated tongue and bad breath can also be indicators that your stomach is not producing enough hydrochloric acid. This can leave you unable to digest protein rich foods such as meat, seafood, eggs and poultry. Therefore food can sit in your stomach for too long, leaving you feeling bloated and excessively heavy. Stomach acid is also a brilliant disinfectant. It helps to kill bad bugs in your digestive tract. If you don’t make enough stomach acid, you won’t be experiencing these antiseptic benefits. This is also very relevant in people who take acid suppressing drugs for indigestion or heartburn.

Because bad bacteria and yeast tend to overgrow in people with poor digestion, the toxins they produce can lead to bloating, gas and indigestion, as well as bad breath. The bad bugs can also inflame your gut lining, leading to a leaky gut. For more information see the book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.

Nearly everyone will get a coated tongue while they have a cold or flu, if they are smokers or if they are dehydrated.  This is normal because toxins are building up in these situations.  However, people with chronic sinus problems, usually have a coated tongue all the time. The ingredients in BactoClear capsules can assist with sinus health.

How to clean up your tongue

  • Firstly you need to stop eating foods that promote sluggish digestion and overgrowth of bad bowel flora.  Sugar is fertilizer for bad bugs everywhere in the body.  Diabetics are much more prone to all sorts of infections, but you don’t need to be a diabetic to have an overgrowth of bad bowel bugs from eating too much sugar.  Sugar is found in so many processed foods that don’t even taste sweet; it is easy to eat a lot of sugar without even realizing it.  It is also advisable to stop eating yeast while trying to fix your digestive system.  Yeast is mostly found in some bread, mushrooms and some alcohol. Yeast allergies are very common. Perhaps you already avoid sugar but still have poor gut health. You may be reacting to FODMAPs and you may have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. These are conditions a naturopath could help you with.
  • Make sure you are having regular bowel movements.  Most people eat at least three times a day; therefore you should be having a bowel movement at least once a day.  If you don’t go regularly, the waste you’re not getting rid of will become food for all sorts of bad bugs, yeast and Candida.  Drinking eight to ten glasses of water or herbal tea each day is helpful, and exercise helps to promote intestinal contractions (peristalsis) that move food along your digestive tract.
  • You may need BactoClear capsules.  The ingredients in this formula have traditionally been used to relieve digestive complaints, and have natural antimicrobial properties.
  • Drink raw vegetable juices as these detoxify your liver and gut.  Avoid fruit juice because it is too high in sugar.  The best vegetables to juice are radishes, leafy vegetables like kale and lettuce, fresh herbs like coriander, basil and rocket; celery, red onion, capsicum, carrot and cucumbers. For recipe ideas, see the book Raw Juices Can Save Your Life.
  • Avoid mucus forming foods.  Mucus congestion can cause a coated tongue, bad breath and post nasal drip.  Ice cream, cream, margarine, cream cheeses, deep fried foods and sugar are very mucus forming foods; they promote excess phlegm, infections and allergies. Any food you are allergic to will also promote excess mucus production, and these could be regular, healthy foods. Selenium may help to support healthy immune function.
  • Avoid excess alcohol.  Alcohol compromises your liver function and it certainly promotes bad breath and a coated tongue the next morning.
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