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What Is Your Tongue Telling You?
BY: Dr. Rosemarie Allen, AP, OMD, PTA, MT
Did you know that your tongue does more than talking?
The tongue does much more than eating and telling many tales. The tongue is a muscle just like most muscles in the body and has specific functions. It is partially responsible for speech and taste, and allows nutrients to enter the body and allows the brain to detect different flavors and helps us to form our own likes and/or dislikes for certain foods. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the tongue is also a diagnostic tool that offers a lot of information on various aspects of health, as well as the body’s internal environment.
When visiting an Acupuncture Physician for the first time, there is usually an acupuncture evaluation that is performed by the physician. The evaluation is done to find the root cause of a condition and establish a plan of care. This includes the patient's medical history, inspection and observation of the body, the tongue, the pulse and may also include some personal questions regarding lifestyle. In order to properly treat a condition, the correct diagnosis is imperative for the outcome. Take care to avoid eating or drinking anything that may discolor the tongue. This could jeopardize the physician getting the correct diagnosis.
During the Acupuncture Evaluation the physician will ask you to show your tongue. The tongue holds many clues that the body stores regarding the condition being treated. This includes looking at the tongue body (the actual tongue), the size and shape of the tongue, moisture of the tongue, teeth marks on the tongue, cracks or veins on the tongue body. The Tongue also has geographical references of the organ systems that are located within the body.
The main factors of interest to the physician are the tongue body, tongue shape and the color of the tongue body as well as the tongue coating. Keep in mind that a normal tongue body should be pink in color, flexible, with a thin white film of a coat, moist, no cracks, no veins on the underside, and should be without any other signs of abnormality present on the tongue.
The tongue coating: The tongue coating is derived from bacteria that resides on the tongue. A true tongue coating cannot be physically removed or scraped off. The tongue coating represents the state of the digestive system. A thin, white film of a coat indicates the stomach and digestive system is healthy, functioning well and properly performing its normal process of transforming and digesting the foods we consume. If the tongue coating presents with anything outside of the normal range, this could be a key indicator of an internal or external condition. The tongue coating may present with a range of colors or thickness to the coating including, yellow, grey or black. A thick white or yellow coat is most common and may indicate, but not limited to, stomach or digestive problems. Cleaning the tongue coat is a good practice of hygiene, however, if there is an existing condition, cleaning the coat will not affect the diagnostic process or outcome.
Tongue shape & size: indicates the state of the blood and the Ying (Nutritive Qi). Nutritive Qi represents the state of the energy of our constitution (what we were born with), also includes the excess or deficiency of a condition.
Tongue body: The tongue body color represents the state of the blood, organs, and the Nutritive Qi. The tongue body color also represents the state of our overall health over a period of time and does not change quickly. The tongue body may also be present in a range of colors such as pink, red, dark red, purple, yellow, green, grey and black, with each color indicating various levels or depths of an existing condition. Keep in mind, that the normal color of the tongue body should always be pink or a slight red. Any colors present outside of pink or slight red can be indication of an existing condition present.
In summary, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been in use as a healing modality for thousands of years and has a positive track record with no side effects. Acupuncture is only 1 facet of the larger (Oriental Medicine) and may be used to treat any condition in any aspect of the body. TCM treats the body as a whole without isolating parts of the body. Acupuncture focuses on balancing and harmonizing the body to ensure proper function, and with each system relying on others for their overall optimal performance. The body is an amazing machine made up of many systems, all working together in unison and in concert for the greater good. For the best result with any treatment modality, the body must always be treated as a whole unit, with the inclusion of Mind, Body and Spirit.
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