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Did you know that your tongue is one of the strongest muscles in your body and that it can tell a lot about your health? According to both Western and Chinese medicines, your tongue can indicate your body condition. Here is a brief guide to what your tongue can tell you about your health.
A normal healthy tongue should be in pale red/pink, with a thin white layer on top, and covered with small nodules/bumps on the upper surface.
Your tongue's appearance changes with your body's health condition. For examples:
Tongues come in all forms and shapes, there is a slightly bumpy topography generally. These bumps are papillae that make tasting possible.
The sensation of your tongue is also an indicator of your health and/or lifestyle, especially since your tongue has many nerve endings. Soreness or a burning feel can be caused by several factors such as eating too many citrus fruits, certain medication, smoking, or biting your tongue accidentally. If you fail to figure out the cause of the soreness or the feeling persists, you should visit a doctor or dentist to get to the root of the problem.
Your tongue can also stain and become blue or black in color due to the food or supplements taken.
The holistic philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards the whole body as an interconnected energetic system in which energy or Qi (氣) circulates, brings about harmony to the body (health). However, when the flow of Qi is disrupted, disharmony can occur and result in diseases and pain subsequently.
There are six pathogenic influences in Chinese Medicine, which are cold (寒), heat (熱), dampness (濕), dryness (燥), summer heat (暑) and wind (風). When they exceed the body’s tolerance, the flow of Qi will be disrupted.
We consulted Chinese medicine practitioner William Lo from the Hong Kong Atlas Chinese Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre (Acupuncture) for the lowdown on TCM tongue examination.
Tongue examination is essential to TCM diagnosis. TCM practitioners begin with chief complaints, in which patients provide subjective information regarding their symptoms. With this information, diagnosis can be achieved with objective physical examination which includes tongue inspection.
Tongue examination is usually divided into two parts. First of all, a practitioner would examine the quality of the tongue, to understand the patient's body status in general. For example, the color and size of the tongue can indicate the level of Qi and Xue (血), the latter relating to blood perfusion levels. After establishing the body's constitution, TCM inspects the quality of the tongue’s coating which is mainly related to stomach conditions and dampness inside the body.
In short, the tongue can reflect the body's constitution and elucidate the cause of symptoms and signs concerning the six pathogenic influences and organs.
A change in thickness of tongue coating is common, this coating is believed to be related to stomach conditions. Most tongue conditions can be alleviated with proper treatment that is related to eliminating one or more of the pathogenic influences causing the disease. However, as with every treatment plan, it takes time before your tongue is back to normal.
William Man Kin Lo 盧文健中醫師 is a registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Physiotherapist in Hong Kong. He has worked as a clinician since 2001 and has experience in treating pain conditions with acupuncture. After graduating from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, he studied Chinese Medicine at Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is now the director of the Hong Kong Atlas Chinese Medicine and Physiotherapy Centre, a journal columnist for a local newspaper and faculty member of the Hong Kong St John Ambulance Sports First Aid.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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