Checking up on your health doesn’t have to be expensive and time-consuming. Of course, getting a full medical workup with lab tests and imaging is important if you need it, but for the average person who just wants to get a sense of how well she digested last night’s dinner or how well his body is handling the stress of working overtime, there’s a simple self-check that you can do in your own bathroom mirror. Just stick out your tongue.
Within a few seconds, it’s possible to get the inside scoop on what’s going on with your body just by looking at your tongue. And while it takes years of practice to be able to read tongues in a clinical setting like I do, you can start checking in on your own body at home by looking for these signs:
1- Red Tip
The tip of the tongue corresponds to the “Heart” organ system in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The heart governs not only your physical heart but also the mind and emotions. Redness at the tip of the tongue indicates that there is too much “heat” in this system, and often correlates with symptoms like insomnia, nervousness, heart palpitations, and an unquiet mind.
If your tongue tip is red, it’s a sign that you need more cooling and calming practices in your life. Try incorporating meditation, yin yoga or progressive muscle relaxation into your daily routine.
2 – Thick Coating
The coating of your tongue is said to be like the steam that rises from the digestive process. Healthy digestion “burns clean” and produces a light, white, evenly distributed coating. If the coating is thick, especially toward the back of the tongue, this is a signal that your digestion isn’t performing at peak efficiency.
Try adjusting your diet with the help of a practitioner, or adding herbs and spices to your food to support your digestion. A sudden change in the coating of your tongue can also be a sign that you’re fighting off an infection, like a cold or the flu.
3- Teeth Marks
Teeth marks on the sides of your tongue can happen for one of two reasons. Either you’re pushing your tongue forward against your teeth during the night, or your tongue itself is slightly swollen. If you grind your teeth, chances are good that you’re also pushing your tongue forward and creating teeth marks.
If this is you, make sure you’re getting enough exercise during the day, and do some self-massage of your hip and upper back muscles with a tennis ball before bed. And see a practitioner who specializes in TMJD!
If you don’t grind your teeth, this sign often points to a pattern that we call Spleen Qi Deficiency in TCM. This pattern is an underlying source of sugar cravings, low energy, sluggish digestion, loose stools, mental rumination and weight gain. Try adding cinnamon and ginger to your food (or sipping these herbs in tea form) and make sure to get up and walk at least 100 steps after meals.
What Is QI Deficiency?
Deficiency of Qi is primarily due to the malfunction of Spleen, Kidney or Lung. It can lead to a lowered body temperature, intolerance of cold, and cold hands and feet. Since Qi promotes the circulation of blood and function of all meridians, when it is deficient, your circulation will be poor, water retention will be high, and organ/meridian function will be blocked. Since Qi “defends” against “illness evils”, Qi would be considered the “immune system” in Western terms. When this is deficient you are more susceptible to pathogens, parasites, and other ailments. Finally, low Qi means your energy will be low. Your limbs will feel heavy, posture will be collapsed, you will bloat after meals and concentration will be poor.
People with Qi deficiency also tend to crave sweet foods – especially “empty” sweet foods containing simple sugars (candy, etc).
Common Western Disorders With QI Deficiency Root
Hypothyroidism, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, “Adrenal Fatigue”, Diabetes, depression, PMS, menstrual cramps, headaches, indigestion, obesity, Pancreatitis, Edema, heart problems, Angina , etc.
Foods That Treat QI Deficiency
Overall staples should be soup, stew, root vegetables (sweet potato for breakfast!), ginger tea every morning, warming spices such as black pepper, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne.
-Grains :: barley, millet, rice, sweet rice, oats, buckwheat
-Vegetables :: asparagus, button mushroom, cabbage, eggplant, peas, pumpkin, shiitake mushroom, squash, sweet potato, tomato, yam
-Fruit :: apple, cherry, red dates (available at Chinese markets), figs, grapes
-Protein :: black beans, broad beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, yellow lentils, anchovy, sturgeon, mackerel, herring, halibut, eel, duck, chicken, beef, liver, octopus, clams, organic fermented tofu
-Nuts & Seeds :: almond, black sesame seeds, walnuts, coconut meat
-Herbs/Supplements :: Bay leaves, bee pollen, royal jelly, licorice, ginseng (Korean, American), jujube dates, astragalus root, cinnamon, cloves, algae
Foods To Avoid
SUGAR and COLD food! Avoid excessive intake of juice, soda, and even fruit. No mint (too cold). We are looking for complex carbohydrates that slowly release Qi throughout the day. Fruit is very cooling and contains fructose, a simple carbohydrate that digests quickly and will not be as beneficial for Qi deficiency. Focus on sweet potato, high quality organic protein, nuts, beans, and seeds. Meals should be freshly cooked and very warming.
The colour of the tongue is linked to the stomach and spleen, a healthy digestion will show a nice fresh redness of the tongue. It is also linked to the circulation from the liver and heart. The shape of the tongue is associated with the functioning of the spleen, kidney and liver.
Different regions of the tongue are related to different parts of the body, internal organs and channels.
• The tip of the tongue – is related to the heart, lung, chest and upper back
• The sides of the tongue – is related to the liver, gallbladder, side of the body, outside and inside of the legs, side of the head, face and neck and shoulders
• Middle of the tongue – is related to the digestion system, stomach, spleen, abdomen area, middle of the back
• The back of the tongue – is related to the kidneys, urinary bladder, some sexual organs, lower back, lower abdomen, both legs
• Under the tongue – is related to the kidneys
Because of the relationship between the tongue and the body, your Chinese medicine practitioner can get valuable information about changes in the body and internal organs by observing your tongue.