Every single day we rely on our bodies to tell us when something is wrong. Whether it be our skin, nails, hair or feelings; our bodies organs are designed to do exactly that. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the tongue has played a fundamental role in identifying a person’s state of health and overall wellbeing for thousands of years. But how can it be used to highlight any digestive issues?
Your tongue contains water, electrolytes, mucus, and enzymes, it is a very sensitive organ and therefore, its appearance changes with many physical changes in the body. The tongue is effectively seen as a map of the bod; the tip of the tongue representing the upper part of the body and the base of the tongue the lower part of the body. A normal, healthy tongue is seen as being a reddish pink with a very thin white coat. Any deviation from this is said to be caused by an imbalance within the system. In light of this, the colour, shape, size and coating of the tongue are used as important diagnostic tools. Practitioners use the tongue and its make up to identify deficiencies, heat, inflammation, infection and coldness in the body.
The core areas of the tongue used to identify issues are the base, sides, centre and tip. The tip of the tongue is said to exhibit the fire element; behind the tongue tip is the metal element; both right and left sides the wood element; in the center towards the back is the earth element; and the very back of your tongue is the water element. For the purpose of this post we are going to look at the areas closely linked with digestion. As stomach function is closely tied to the tongue coating, when it comes to digestive health and stomach balance, the tongue plays a huge role in identifying digestive issues and analysing whether treatment is working
The colour of the tongue is used to identify the heat/coldness of the body. The deeper the colour of the tongue relates to the heat in the body with the darkest end of the spectrum identifying increasing heat in the body. Heat in TCM is related to inflammation, infection, and hyperactivity of organ functions. A pale tongue indicates cold, linking to anemia and low energy function.
As stomach function is closely tied to the tongue coating, when it comes to digestive health and stomach balance, the tongue plays a huge role in identifying digestive issues and analysing whether treatment is working. The tongue coating is often used to identify digestive imbalances, with a thick coating identifying issues. When the coat turns thick and cruddy, it often points to decreased immunity and bacterial overgrowth such as candida. When it turns yellow, it is said to signal infection or inflammation in the body.
The tip of the tongue is linked to the fire element zone in TCM and is related to the heart and small intestines. Stress and anxiety are a core emotion linked to the tip of the tongue with the tip showing bright red colour. We know that stress widely affects digestion so this could identify any issues there.
Centre of the tongue
This area of the tongue is the earthy element zone and is closely linked with the stomach, spleen and pancreas network. This is where problems related to the digestive system are often identified. Redness and yellow coating in the centre of the tongue are used as indicators of stomach acid reflux and G.E.R.D.
Get your tongues out then, let’s see!