Our tongue is indispensable for speaking, tasting and swallowing. But the tongue can also tell whether our body is healthy or not: If the tongue is covered, burns and hurts or is swollen, this can provide an important clue to a physical illness. We explain what a healthy tongue should look like, what's behind a white, yellow or brown tongue coating, and what you can do if your tongue hurts or is swollen.
Functions of the tongue
The tongue has several important functions for us humans. First of all, it plays an important role in eating: it ensures that the food is moved in the mouth. As a result, the food can be crushed and eingespeichelt. When swallowing, the tongue then ensures that the minced food is pushed into the throat.
But the tongue is not only important for the processing of the food, but also for the tasting: a total of five different flavors are distinguished: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami - which means as hearty-tasting. Today we know that there are no solid flavor zones. However, the different tastes are perceived particularly strongly in certain areas:
- Sweet at the tip of the tongue
- Sour and salty on the edges of the tongue
- Bitter in the back of the tongue
- Umami in the tongue center
In addition to tasting and swallowing, the tongue is also indispensable for speech. Because many sounds could not be formed without the help of the tongue. For example, in Parkinson's patients, where tongue mobility often declines over time, the quality of pronunciation is diminished.
Tongue and health
Our tongue reflects the state of health of our body: If there is a disease, this is not so rare on the tongue to recognize. That's why it's important to keep your tongue in check on a regular basis - the best thing to do is to have a mirror with daylight.
Ideally, check the condition of your tongue immediately after getting up in the morning, before brushing your teeth or drinking coffee. See if you notice any changes in color or shape. If you find something alarming, see a doctor - preferably a general practitioner or a dentist.
When the tongue is occupied
In healthy condition, our tongue is pale red, smooth and moist. It is covered with a thin whitish coating that consists of germs, food remains and old cells. When eating or through careful oral hygiene, however, this coating is usually rubbed off.
If the tongue is heavily occupied, this usually indicates a disease of the body. Depending on the color of the tongue coating different diseases come into question:
- White tongue coating: A thick, white tongue coating often indicates gastrointestinal problems. He can also occur in the context of a cold. If the white plaque is located on the right and left side of the middle gutter, pancreatitis can be the cause.
- Yellowish tongue coating: If the tongue is slightly yellowish, a fungal infection is probably the trigger. Frequently, a furry feeling also occurs in the mouth. Somewhat stronger yellows, on the other hand, may indicate a bile or liver disorder.
- Red tongue coating (raspberry tongue): A red tongue often occurs in infectious diseases such as scarlet fever. Typically, the tongue then also has small thickening. If other symptoms occur, such as headache, abdominal pain or pain in the area of the ribs, this can also be caused by a disease of the gastrointestinal tract, the liver or the heart. If the tongue burns additionally, this indicates a tongue inflammation. In addition, it is also conceivable that the red tongue is caused by a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
- Brown tongue coating: A brown tongue coating is usually triggered by disorders in the intestinal area. If the tongue is additionally swollen, kidney weakness can also be the cause. However, a brownish coating on the tongue can also be caused by certain foods or nourishing poisons.
- Gray tongue coating: If the tongue is grayish, it may indicate an iron deficiency or anemia.
- Black tongue coating: A black tongue coating is also called a "hairy tongue" because the tongue looks like hairy due to a change in the papillae of the tongue. Such a coating may occur as a side effect of antibiotic treatment. In addition, a hairy tongue but also on serious diseases that accompany a significant weakening of the immune system, indicate.