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What Your Tongue Is Telling You About Your Digestion

Say “Ahhhhhh.”

When you go to the doctor’s office and complain of a sore throat, your physician may ask to peer into your mouth, pushing your tongue down with a wooden tongue depressor.

When you visit an acupuncturist or a Chinese medicine practitioner, you will also be asked to stick out your tongue - but for an entirely different reason.

The Tongue Is a Window into the Body

What does your tongue have to do with your health? The individual characteristics of your tongue will reflect the health of your entire body!

If you ask family, friends, and coworkers to show you their tongue, you will begin to see that each person’s tongue is unique.

Some tongues have a coating, while others do not. One person may have a long, pointy tongue, while another person presents a short tongue. Some tongues have marks along the edges. Other tongues are full of horizontal lines or red dots.

Chinese medicine sees the body in terms of the microcosm and the macrocosm. This means that according to Chinese medical theory, a single pattern can repeat itself from the largest to the smallest scale.

The tongue is a perfect example: it is believed that the state of the tongue reflects the health of the entire body.

While it can take years to learn full tongue diagnosis, there are a few diagnostic signs that anyone can easily learn. With a little practice, you will be able to use the tongue as one more way to decipher what your body is telling you.

The Mouth Is the Orifice of the Digestive System

This means that what is going on in the tongue gives you a pretty good idea of what is going on in the gut.

How well we digest food and drink shows up on the tongue. This is visible in the tongue coating and in the tongue color.

Tongue Coat

The tongue coat, which often shows up on the middle or at the back of the tongue, lets you know how well you are metabolizing the food that you eat.

  • A light, thin white tongue coat reflects healthy digestive function.
  • A thick tongue coat reflects an excess of dampness, or pathogenic fluid. The tongue coat may be thick and yellow or thick and white. Most commonly, a thick tongue coat is associated with poor gut function.
  • No tongue coat at all could mean some form of exhaustion in the body. For example, a red and shiny wet tongue could signal that the body does not have enough fluids to produce a coat. A natural balance of fluids in the body is essential for healthy gut function and overall vitality.

Tongue Color

Tongue color can range from pale pink to red or even have a bluish tinge. The tongue color reflects the distribution of body fluids throughout the body. For example:

  • A pale tongue tells us that there may not be enough blood in the body. Often the root cause of a pale tongue can be found in diet. This is because food gives us the energy to make blood.
  • A tongue that is purple or has a bluish tinge could be a warning that fluids and blood are not fully circulating. Lack of circulation can also translate into emotional stagnation or depression.

If you would rather not talk about your feelings, an acupuncturist will still be able to learn a lot from looking at your tongue! This is because the tongue gives clues about your current mental and emotional state.

Tongue Tip

When it comes to emotions, the tip of the tongue is especially important.
  • A red tongue tip shows up when the tongue tip is redder than the rest of the tongue body. This can reflect some kind of psychological stress.

    According to Chinese medicine, too much thinking or worrying can deplete the cooling, regenerative fluids of the body and generate heat. Heat, as you may have already guessed, shows up as a red color in the tongue.

    When we see a red tongue or a red tip, it makes sense to avoid foods that can overheat the body. These are foods like wine, alcohol, coffee, spicy foods, and too much meat.

  • No tip or indentation at the tip of the tongue. When someone experiences severe trauma, this may show up as an indentation on the tip of the tongue. Emotionally, this person my be slightly introverted or feel an overall loss of strength.

Candida and Your Tongue Coat

If you see a thick tongue coat, it is time to make some changes!

A thick tongue coat in the center of the tongue body or toward the back of the tongue indicates an overburdened digestive system.

An overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the digestive system will often show up as a thick tongue coat. The color of the coat may be white or yellow, depending on a person’s constitution.

Too much dampness can contribute to a thick tongue coat as well. When we overburden our digestive system by eating to capacity, we slow down gut motility.

While a little digestive disharmony may not seem like anything to worry about, over time it can lead to other problems that involve the immune system and the hormonal system.

If you are suffering from a thick tongue coating, try the following:

1. Fermented Foods:

Fermented foods and probiotic beverages are some of the most effective ways to bring your inner ecosystem back into balance. A healthy tongue should look fresh and have a very thin white coat. Introducing living enzymes and probiotics to assist in the digestion of your food and to repopulate the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria is a must when correcting digestion and fighting candida.

2. The Principle of 80/20:

A simple solution to improving digestion is to follow the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20. This means eating until you are 80% full. It also means not overwhelming your plate (and your gut) with too many starchy or acidic foods. Make sure that 80% of your plate is made up of non-starchy vegetables, fermented vegetables, and ocean vegetables.

3. Warm It Up:

Soups, broths, steamed vegetables, and cooked foods are often better choices for someone with digestive issues. Avoid large amounts of raw fruits and vegetables.

4. Spice It Up:

Herbs and spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, black pepper, and fennel all aid in warming the system and improving digestion.

5. Warm Ginger Tea:

A cup of warm tea twenty minutes before a meal is a great way to stoke the digestive fire.  Ginger tea can also benefit indigestion, bloating, and nausea.

6. Enzymes:

Enzymes can assist the digestive process by improving the body’s ability to break down the foods initially in the stomach and later in the small intestine to increase mineral absorption.

What to Remember Most About This Article:

Every person's tongue is unique with distinct characteristics that are a reflection of their inner health. According to ancient Chinese medicine, the appearance of the tongue can reflect the health of the entire body. Additionally, the look and texture of the tongue can be a good indicator of the health of the digestive system, based on the coating and color of the tongue.

If you have candida, you will have a thick tongue coat that points to an overburdened digestive system. If that is the case, you can use the following tips to improve your digestion and the appearance of your tongue today:

  1. Eat fermented foods to bring your inner ecosystem back into balance.
  2. Use the Principle of 80/20 at every meal.
  3. Warm up your digestion with cooked foods.
  4. Add herbs and spices to improve digestion.
  5. Drink warm ginger tea 20 minutes before a meal to benefit digestion and relieve nausea.
  6. Take digestive enzymes to increase mineral absorption.

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  • connie says:

    My tongue has been very sore on the middle of my tongue. Feels like I burnt it. I also have a large split down my tongue. I have taken B12 shots, and take vitimins and B complex. I was also started on Esrigon hormones to see if that would work. Some things that irritate is toothpaste. Hot or cold drinks. Frozen popcicles. Pop really burns. Pleas let me know if you have any sugestions .

    Posted on Dec 27 at 9:09 pm

  • stephanie says:

    what can washing detergent do to the tongue when inhaled or ingested by accident

    Posted on Oct 30 at 3:31 pm

  • Sandy says:

    My younger has a thick yellow coating that starts halfway from the front and goes to the back of my tongue. It feels grainey . I have been on antibiotics up until a week or so ago for diverticulosis , also have been constipated even though I drink enough fluids and eat salads, fruits etc.

    Posted on Sep 30 at 12:08 pm

  • Tressa says:

    Hi my question is what does a half front half purple tongue and back half thick white and 2 red spots on sides and indentions on both sides of front half mean?

    Posted on Jul 26 at 3:37 pm

  • sam says:

    Hi, why doesn't anyone answer these questions??? Many people above have said teh same as me-big split in teh middle of my tongue which is freaking me out-I am doing the body ecology diet but getting worse=-however no one seems to be responding to questions so where to go for answers please

    Posted on Jul 26 at 2:45 am


    developed a deviated septum due to a broken nose and doing stupid things when i was younger. Recently had a bad flu due to seasonal change and now suffer burning in my one nasal passage constantly. With this came a white covering at the back of my tongue. Is the white coating related to sinus burn and history of seasonal hayfever. What can i use. I also suffer tooth pain since the onset of possible thrush started. Please help. My tongue isn't sore nor does any foods cause any uneasiness. The front of my tongue is pretty normal though

    Posted on Jul 16 at 10:27 pm

  • Addy says:

    My tongue is always coated wiwhite especially in the morning after sleep.Also the tips of my tongue have little ridgesand marks of the teeth at the edge instead of being smooth like before.It also make me to have bloating stomarch because it get worse when i eat somethings.They said i have reflux.Please advice me so that my tongue will come back to normal.Thanks

    Posted on Jul 9 at 2:32 am

  • My tongue is very yellow so sick of it i can produce yellow saliva if i just squeeze a bit together of my tongue it''s doing my head in because i know it's gut problems and it's giving me poor oral hygiene feel like my breath constantly smells :( i'm 44 and female non smoker rarely have alcohol.? x

    Posted on Jul 6 at 1:41 am

  • Paula gibson says:

    My tongue is very yellow so sick of it i can produce yellow saliva if i just squeeze a bit together of my tongue it''s doing my head in because i know it's gut problems and it's giving me poor oral hygiene feel like my breath constantly smells :( i'm 44 and female non smoker rarely have alcohol.? x

    Posted on Jul 6 at 1:39 am

  • shawn says:

    For anyone experiencing digestive and acid reflux problems : u may want to ask your doctor to test u for a stomach bacteria called H. Pylori. Sometimes doctors will treat u for symptoms of acid reflux but really the problem could be H .pylori which apparently is very treatable if properly diegnosed.

    Posted on Jun 24 at 2:24 pm

  • Maria says:

    I noticed about a month ago that anything remotely spicy BURNS my tongue- even toothpaste & mouthwash is too strong. My tongue will water. My dentist noticed my tongue has cracks yesterday. Will vitamin B or other healthy foods heal this? My digestive system hasnt been normal for about 3 weeks now also. Im assuming its all related.

    Posted on Jun 20 at 8:33 am

  • Lisa lipari says:

    I have been reading all of your concerns and as a naturopath my best recommendation is to buy the book CLEAN by Dr Alejandro Junger, read it and follow the detox then look at your tongue when you're done!

    Posted on May 2 at 3:12 pm

  • Lulu says:

    So I smoked weed for the first time and an hour later my tongue stared turning white toward the back and it started tasting gross, I kept brushing my teeth for it to go away but now my tongue is always going white toward the back kind of like yeast and now I just noticed that it is starting to crack in the middle a bit. What is happening to my tongue?

    Posted on Mar 2 at 10:43 pm

  • Michael says:

    I aquirerd a case flu over x-mas holiday and was prescribed a sulfide antibiotic that may have triggered oral thrush. My tong had a thick coat, lip swelling with blister, and huge canker sore on side tong. I also had cracks down the middle of my tong that bled in the morning. I stopped the antibiotics immediately and was prescribed a anti fungal lozenge with anti bacterial mouth wash. After all that I still get srange taste towards back of tong and sometimes a thick coating.My doc.doesn't see anymore thrush, but I'm not so sure... Help! Does anyone know???

    Posted on Feb 20 at 6:10 pm

  • I really like the suggestions you have given to help with a thick tongue coating. I recently had a patient inquire about the thin, white coating on her tongue. She said she had been eating very clean and juicing for the past 10 days but was worried since she had never seen this on her tongue before. It is nice to see that it could just be a detox symptom from her change in dietary habits, according to Chinese medicine. Thanks for the post!

    Posted on Feb 20 at 9:28 am

  • Debi Pociluyko says:

    I have a crack down the middle, it doesnt go to the end but fans out in both directions close to the end. I have been on enzymes and probiotics for about a month or so. I dont see any changes yet and I do have a white coating not too thick but not on the far back near throat. I have also had what appears to be gallbladder issues. Fats not digesting, feeling full or nauseas. Since on gallbladder support herbs and enzymes, probiotics that has helped with those symptoms but tongue is in same condition. Maybe its not been enough time? would love your opinion and what other supplements I could take. also scraping the tongue with tongue scraper doesnt seem to work. I do not have burning like some people posted or any irritation. thanks

    Posted on Feb 4 at 12:44 pm

  • Linn dishler says:

    My tounge seems raw like i ate something too cold and it froze it. I can't taste much on the front of my tongue, but I can taste salt and pepper. And the left side of my tongue is thin, I can stretch it and I can see tiny indents on my tongue and have a white border with red in the middle

    Posted on Feb 4 at 5:12 am

  • Bill says:

    For those people with gum issues, stop brushing and flossing and try something else. Brushing and flossing are bad for you. I rinse my mouth with water and do oil pulling sometimes.

    Posted on Jan 27 at 7:45 pm

  • Tena Hopp says:

    Im 48 and a Brittle Diabetic..Have been since i was a kid.. My tounge has two big splits in the middle of my tounge and both sides covered with cracks.. some very deep.. They have.gotten worse over time.. It hurts to eat just about anything.. also get many canker sores..ive tried cloves& ambasol for the pain..but to no avail..nothing helps..plz any solutions..much Thanks

    Posted on Jan 26 at 3:48 pm

  • Jennifer says:

    I just had a bad sinus infection that was causing the beginnings of bronchitis. The doctor gave me double dose antibiotics, steroids, allergy pills and couch syrup. It's about the fifth day of treatment my and most of the infection is gone, but tongue feels raw. Anything a little spicy and citrus burns a lot. The center of my tongue looks like a big crack is forming and a smaller one to the left side. The sides look like weird kind of slight white and red polka dots and parts just look red and raw. Like the normal pink with white hue is gone. It burns all of the time. Something similar happened about 2 years ago. I was on similar meds for strep. The strep cleared but my tongue the same symptoms as now minus the polka dot thing. I am taking probiotics and drinking a lot of water. What else an I do? What can it be?

    Posted on Jan 25 at 12:36 am

  • Joanne says:

    I am currently experiencing many splits at the end of my tongue. I take probiotics and eat a lot of yogurt but I'm still getting the splits. This has only been going on for the past month or so but it is very annoying. I wouldn't say it hurts but I want to clear it up none the same. I am currently being treated for acid reflux as well. Can anyone advise?

    Posted on Dec 22 at 11:55 am

  • cynthia garcia says:

    Recently I have discovered a white coating on my tongue and also some lesions on muddle of my tongue what's going on ???

    Posted on Oct 17 at 4:53 am

  • Laura says:

    Question: I have had digestive problems for about 6 months now, they cannot find out what it is. This past week i have experienced a constant headache for three days with fever and nausea. The fever left, and i had a weird taste in my mouth and realized my tongue was completely white. Then the tip of my tongue started to have little ridges instead of it being smooth. Along with the ridges is burning. I was scared and went to the emergency and they simply tried to give me migrane medicine which i refused. What do you think is the problem?

    Posted on Sep 24 at 11:55 pm

  • William says:


    My tongue has a white/ yellow coating in the far back and the tongue body is purplish/red at times.It also has a line down the center at times it kinda burns. I have noticed this recently and have been trying to eat healthy; could you please help?

    Posted on Sep 18 at 1:26 pm

  • john says:

    try Jatoba, it worked for me :-)

    Posted on Aug 22 at 2:24 pm

  • dina says:

    i have realy very thick coating at the back of my tongue that continously coming back after few hrs..ihave to do very hard and very deep scraping twice /day unless iwill definetly developed the past i was have recurrent tonsilitis..ihave fishy odor loose stool with abd pain during defec. and generlised fatigue.. please can guide me toward the right diagnosis for my condition

    Posted on Aug 18 at 1:58 pm

  • Tanya sawicki says:

    I have swelling on sides if tongue and during ovulation get burning need help

    Posted on Aug 15 at 6:39 pm

  • Deb says:

    The tip of my tongue is red. It is not numb, but feels tingly at times. I do not feel sick. Any suggestions as to cause or treatment.

    Posted on Jul 19 at 7:07 am

  • Dawn says:

    Diane, the scollop edged big tongue is a classic hypothyroidism symptom. Bad digestion also is. I would google it and see if you have any of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism and if you already have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you are being under treated.

    Posted on Jul 3 at 5:34 am

  • Terri Sartison says:

    My brother has had a problem with his tongue for over a year. For awhile it was thick coated white. But now it is black/brown coated. The edges and tip are a pink color but the centre sometimes feels like he has hair in his mouth. The drs. have given him many different mouth washes and antibiotics and nose sprays - nothing seems to work. From this list of items I am thinking it is a stomach or liver problem. Any ideas? He is getting desperate.

    Posted on Jun 28 at 10:06 pm

  • Jade Tipton says:

    My tongue has a split in the middle and then on the ack of my tongue there seems to be white appearing. What is happening. ANd what do i do to make it go away. Also i have been told that my roots are short in my front lower six teeth. Then i realized a while back that my gum on my lower jaw has began to slowly receed. I dont know what to do. And i also read on another website that i found on google tat your not supposed to use sodium flouride, which is already in my toothpaste. SHould i switch tooth pastes? and here is this mouth wash that is real expensive that is called Gengigel, and its supposed to elp your gums get stronger. I have also had braces which i know made mt teeth weeker obvioulsy. Then when i got my wisdom teeth removed, things went terribly wrong and i ended up in the hopsital for 1 and a hlf weeks. I was put on a ventilator because i couldnt breath because my face swelled up so bad and then we think that my denist who removed my wisdom teeth didnt steralize her equiptment. SO i ended up with multiple bacteria in my mouth as well. I dont know if any of that has to deal with my problem or what. I just dont know what to do. I am 15. ANd i would like some help on what to do. I would really appreciate it if you could get back to me. Thanks.

    Posted on Jun 24 at 10:13 pm

  • Kyra says:

    I have like a raw split in the middle of my tounge.
    And my throat feels really weird.. it feels like my mouth and throat tounge is really really dry but it isnt. My mouth is perfectly wet. Idk what's wrong I was just diagnosed with endometriosis could that have anything to do with it?

    Posted on Jun 14 at 10:18 pm

  • Sue says:


    I have a white coating on the back of my tongue. I have began to cut out gluten grains and sugar. That seems to help for a day or so and then it comes back. Also, my bowls have been very loose as I've made this transition in my diet. Is this normal?

    Posted on Apr 24 at 5:00 am

  • I have quite a wide crack in the middle of my tongue. I just noticed it about 3 days ago. There are also several small cracks on my tongue. What might that all mean?

    Posted on Apr 12 at 9:26 pm

  • J.A. says:

    To: Julie: Posted April 3. Go to your Dentist or Doctor. You may have transfered a wart virus from your hands to your mouth and , that may be possibly what it is. A friend of mine had something similar show up on his tongue and was treated for it over a few weeks. :)

    Posted on Apr 11 at 11:15 pm

  • julie says:

    I have small white bumps and a darkness in the middle on my tongue, it also burns when I drink hot beverages. I also have a salty/metal taste in my mouth and a thickness feeling. What is this?

    Posted on Apr 3 at 7:52 am

  • Regina Ochoa says:

    As Diane Neiderhiser, I do too have a crack in the middle of the tongue and it´s been for decades. And the impression of my teeth in both sides. Wonder what it means......

    Posted on Feb 26 at 8:41 pm

  • John says:

    After brushing my tongue( [which has a thick white coating] diagnosed as dead skin cells)?
    and a salt water wash my tongue is back to the color it has always been! [pink to red]
    if i gag(ing) a thick white mucous from the nose and throat can be expelled, although there is always a pressure and feels like some always remains inside my inner ears?
    an hour or two later the whiteness is back and and my tongue stings?
    The Specialist told me it's just dead skin cells, not to worry about it, and why does having a white tongue bother me??? I am 40 years old, and this occurred after a very cold winter -15 coinciding with a cold(flu) That was now 2 years ago. The Specialist also told me there was no point going back to the Doctors, as it's normal. [This surely cannot be normal] My Digestion is also compromised. Your comments would be very appreciated.

    Posted on Feb 8 at 2:10 am

  • Linda Dabulewicz says:

    In my case, a big tongue meant a deficiency in Vitamin B 12. B12 is very important to circulation and proper blood Ph . There is a simple blood test for checking your B12. B12 is important in that when it is low , it is telling you your stomach is not producing intrinsic factor needed for its absorption. As we age we become low in intrinsic factor and if we take many common drugs ; statins metformin antacids etc it reduces our ability to absorb B12 and other vitamins.

    Posted on May 24 at 5:29 am

  • I have a deep crack down the middle of my tongue that extends to the tip, also, the impression of my teeth are on either side as well. I have had this for years. My dentist says there's nothing to worry tongue is just too big for my mouth!?!!
    Was I put together with the wrong parts........what's up?

    Please help, I'm worried.

    Posted on May 1 at 9:04 pm

  • Sheila says:

    I get what feels like burns on my tongue even when I have not had anything spicy or hot. They are mostly an either side of my tounge. What is this?

    Posted on Apr 27 at 3:05 pm

  • Yes Carol, It usually means the Spleen is not picking up on your food, so digestion is off and then Stagnant Stomach Chi, which means, more Probiotics, not talking about Activa either,which is a joke, Good Yogurt is Mountain High plain, you add your own fruits, also a good Probiotics is in a capsuel or powder form of good quality with lots of the good bacteria to help the gut heal. You need both!...And also there may be some other trauma in your body!!! Regular Docs are not aware, and won't show up in blood tests
    Suma G Nathan
    Certified Registered Holistic Nutritionist
    Certified Chinese Herbologist
    Holistic Health Practitioner/Journalist/Seminars 32 yrs professionally
    e-mail home office Las Vegas, Nevada

    Posted on Apr 20 at 2:07 pm

  • Carol Kanfield says:

    Question: My tongue has like a split now in the middle and spicy foods really really bother it. Can this heal again? Thanks!

    Posted on Apr 19 at 10:56 am

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