At this point, after all the powerful lectures at the Healthy Mouth Summit last week, we know that health is reflected in the mouth. Housed in the mouth, the tongue is the most visible part of the internal body and can provide you with information about your general state of health. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses tongue diagnosis (and pulse diagnosis) to show the depth and nature of an imbalance and is the basis for a treatment plan. It is an important part of the evaluation process for a practitioner of Chinese medicine to look in the mouth.
According to Dr. Victor Zeines (a speaker at the Summit)– 80% of the US population has periodontal disease. That is extremely problematic, as periodontal disease increases the risk of stroke and heart attack, as well as cancer — particularly colon cancer. Periodontal disease and decay is the first stage of nutritional deficiencies. These diseases are all related to chronic inflammation which starts in the gut.
The Mouth is the Portal to the Gut
Dr. Price was concerned when he started to see the children in his practice come in with a lot of dental decay. In the 1930’s when he practiced, the decay rate in the US was 20 – 30%. Today it is 92%. The native peoples he studied who were eating their traditional diets had a decay rate of about 5% and some had less than that. Additionally, they enjoyed radiant good health.
The US children had dental decay and they also had other medical conditions that were not found in cultures who were eating their traditional foods.
Dr. Price concluded that the modern diet was causing physical degeneration and he thoroughly documented this in his famous book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
The Tongue Never Lies
The Epithelial layer in the mouth is replaced every 2 – 3 days and malnutrition and unhealthy conditions will be reflected. There are certain appearances of the tongue that indicate general conditions.
- Enlarged, pale or flabby tongue — bronchitis, colitis
- Tip of tongue red –weakened enlarged heart, lung problems or thyroid
- Grey or greyish brown — intestinal problems
- Yellow or yellow green — gall bladder or liver problems
- Scalloped edges — sleep apnea or mineral deficiency
- Cracked tongue – vitamins deficiency
- Thicker the coating the more chronic the problems
The healthy tongue is pink in color, has medium thickness, no cracks, ulcers, no teeth marks and with a light white moist coat (with root) on it. It looks alive and well.
A practitioner using tongue diagnosis would also take into account the appearance of the tongue in specific areas:
- Tip of the tongue corresponds to the lung and heart
- Base of the tongue corresponds to the kidney, urinary bladder, large intestine and small intestine meridians
- The sides of the tongue correspond to the liver and gall bladder meridians. Some theories place the gall bladder on the patients left side and the liver on the patients right side
- The middle of the tongue corresponds to the stomach and spleen meridians
To use the tongue as a diagnostic tool you can take a look at it first thing in the morning. The color should be pink and healthy looking — shiny not dull. Look at the tip — is it too red? There is a coating on the tongue — is it a color and is it thick or thin? There are many other aspects of tongue diagnosis that can indicate certain conditions.
What Goes on in The Mouth Does Not Stay in the Mouth
Acupuncture meridians go through the teeth and make the body aware of any problem in the mouth. There is a constant crossroads of communication in the body through the meridians and/or reflex pathways. This is why it is so important to clean up the mouth and the gut.
There is no such thing as an isolated problem in a certain tissue or organ — this western style of thinking is myopic. We have so many specialists in western medicine — but no one is looking at the whole person.
A dentist is in the perfect position to advise people about their health — if they were trained in TCM and tongue diagnosis things would be more clear to them.
Oral pH, or saliva pH testing is another diagnostic tool that can be used at home. It will tell if the body is too alkaline or too acidic — most of the time it is too acidic. You can purchase pH paper at a drug store and compare the colors first thing in the morning. Saliva should be 6.4- 6.8. The pH testing of the saliva can also be used to monitor progress through any program such as a detox program or the GAPS diet.
Here again, the acid/alkaline balance is very important for good health. Eating a diet that is more alkalizing such as a grain-free, sugar-free diet with plenty of good animal fats from pasture raised animals is always a good thing.
Fermented foods and especially — you know am going to say — kombucha — is also alkalizing and helpful to digestion as discussed in a previous post.