How Tongue Color Can Reveal Health Problems

Tongue color, moisture, and texture all tell a tale of what’s currently going on inside your body. It can tell you something about allergies, deficiencies, digestive issues, cholesterol, poor circulation, and many more.

So stick out your tongue in front of the mirror and see what your tongue is trying to tell you.

NOTE: Make sure you didn’t have a curry, coffee, or any other food or drink that may color your tongue before checking!

What is a Normal Tongue?

Close up of a woman mouth sticking tongue isolated on a white background
Healthy normal tongue

Before we talk about how you can spot any health issues, let’s see what a healthy tongue should look like. A healthy tongue has a pink color and is slightly covered with a thin white coat.

You shouldn’t see any cracks, spots, bite marks, or ulcers.

The Color Of Your Tongue

Bright Red

A bright red tongue can be a sign of inflammation or iron and vitamin B complex deficiencies (especially vitamin B12). These nutrients are important for our energy, cell growth, and nervous system. It can also be a reaction to certain types of food, toothpaste or mouthwash.

When your taste buds are swollen as well and your tongue looks like a strawberry, it can also be a sign of Scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease. If a strawberry tongue is combined with fever, it is important to seek medical advice.

Pale/Yellow-ish

A pale or yellowish tongue can be a sign of many things. It can indicate that you’re dehydrated or are low in hemoglobin. It can also mean you’re weakened or exhausted. A yeast infection is also a common cause of a pale, yellowish spotted tongue.  It’s often seen in young infants, elderly, denture wearers or people struggling with autoimmune disorders.

Smoking is another thing. It cause tongue irritation and excessive cell growth, which results in white patches on the tongue. Although these patches are generally harmless, they can increase the risk of oral cancer.

Blue/Purple

A purple, blueish tongue is a sign of improper circulation of blood and lymph. This can cause exhaustion and depression. A purple tongue is also often seen in people who have high cholesterol levels or struggle with a chronic infection of the respiratory system.

Possible tongue melanoma
Possible tongue melanoma

Brown Spot

A brow or dark spot on your tongue can be a melanoma, a type of skin cancer. If the spot doesn’t disappear or grows, visit your doctor.

Black and Hairy

Sometimes tiny black bumps, or “hairs”, filled with relatively harmless bacteria, may appear on the tongue. This is a result of poor oral health, antibiotics, or excessive smoking.  This problem can easily be solved by brushing and flossing more frequently, and use a tongue scraper to remove the bacteria. If it doesn’t go away, contact your doctor.

Coating Of The Tongue

A healthy tongue has a thin white coating. When it’s thick you might be facing oral thrush or candidiasis. Or if it has no coating at all, you’re most likely struggling with digestive-related issues.

Texture Of The Tongue

If your tongue has painful areas, sores, or small bumps, it can be a sign of eating too much hot food or smoking. If the pain, cracks, and bumps don’t go away then contact your doctor. It can be something as simple as an infected, swollen taste bud, but it can also mean a yeast infection or oral cancer.

FYI: Tips for a Healthy Pink Tongue

  • Quit smoking
  • Keep alcohol for special occasions
  • Brush your teeth 2-3 times a day after you had your meals.
  • Floss regularly
  • Rinse your mouth with water after having a meal
  • Eat loads of fresh, whole foods
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Gargle with salt and water
  • Oil pull everyday first thing in the morning.