The Color of Your Tongue -- What It Means
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October 28, 2009, last updated December 8, 2014

By Arthur Stevens, Contributing Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and
other members of our Editorial Board.]

If the eyes are a window to your soul, then it may be that your
tongue is a window to your health. My tongue is white, what
does this mean? My tongue is black, should I be concerned?
One of the first things we notice in our day is our tongue.  
Standing in front of our bathroom mirror, we almost always
take a quick survey of our tongue landscape.  Most mornings,
the news is good. A healthy tongue is pink with tiny bumps
called papillae.

But sometimes, the news is bad. Or at least, it's puzzling. And
that discovery leads to some of the best clues to your overall
health. The color of your tongue, in a very real sense, is a road
map to your health.  Just by examining your tongue -- as when
your doctor asks you to stick out your tongue and say "ah" --  
can help you identify several possible infections, including in
some cases deadly ones.  For example, oral cancer is most
often found on your lips or your tongue. (Read more about
what causes dark lips and natural remedies for this condition.)

Tongue color, then, is something you should pay close
attention to whenever you brush your teeth.

So, here is a chart of the tongue colors you might see and what
they mean:


Why Your Tongue Is Black

Black hairy tongue occurs when the papillae (tiny nubs) on our
tongue become enlarged and elongated. Black hairy tongue is a
benign condition but it is unsightly and can be distressing.
What causes black hairy tongue?

When we eat normally, we shed tiny bits of the surface of our
tongue, much like we shed a few skin cells when we scrub
ourselves when we have a bath or shower.  Some medical
conditions can cause you to avoid using parts of your mouth or
tongue, and , as a result, a black hairy tongue can appear.  

Medical conditions that can make you avoid using your mouth
and tongue in a normal way include toothaches, abscesses, jaw
dislocations, tongue ulcers, TMJ (temporomandibular joint
disorder also known as jaw popping or jaw clicking),
mouth syndrome and trigeminal neuralgia, a painful condition
also known as polypasia.

Usually conditions which can cause you to avoid exfoliating
your tongue normally are very painful ones such as trigemical
polyphasia. A 2004 report from Dr. W.P. Cheshire of the Mayo
Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida reported a severe case of black
hairy tongue in a patient with trigeminal neuralgia.

Black hairy  tongue can be caused by certain drugs, according
to a 2010 study from Oklahoma State University, Department of
Pharmacy Practice. Antibiotics and drugs which can
dry mouth
(xerostoma) are the usual culprits. (Read more about
remedies for dry mouth.)

Black hairy tongue usually disappears when you resolve the
underlying medical condition. However, a 1990 study from
researchers at Wright State University School of Medicine in
Dayton, Ohio recommend that you brush your tongue gently to
help reduce the appearance of black hairy tongue. Most doctors
recommend meticulous oral hygiene to combat the condition.
(Read more about
how to effectively control the growth of
bacteria  in your mouth.)


Zinc Deficiency Promotes Tongue Cancer Growth?

Chronic zinc deficiency has been associated with rapid growth
of oral (mouth, tongue) and throat cancer, new studies have
found. One study, conducted by researchers from Thomas
Jefferson University and Ohio State University, found that, if
you have low levels of zinc, found that mice that are deficient in
zinc display a unique marker for pre-cancerous inflammation.  
More studies are needed, first because the existing studies are
on lab animals and because the total number of studies that
suggest a link between zinc deficiency and cancer is small.

In the meantime, making sure that you have normal healthy
zinc levels can't hurt. Add foods rich in zinc such as oysters to
your monthly diet.

Tongue Sore?- Causes and 10 Remedies

How to Stop Bad Breath

How to Kill the Bacteria Between Your Teeth

Many Chronic Diseases Start with Gum Disease

Are Diet Sodas Bad for Your Health?

Foods That Lower Your Blood Sugar /Thrush-Natural Remedies
Sugar-The Disease Connection

More Related Links:
Snoring Linked to Stroke
Why Americans Read In Bathrooms-The Hidden Epidemic of
Tongue Color
Food That
What You Should
Brown or
Brown tongue or hairy
tongue is caused by poor
diet and, most often, by
poor dental hygiene. The
area at the back of the
tongue catches food
debris, and over time,
the debris builds up,
causing a brown or brown
hairy appearance.
Almost all foods can
potentially cause
brown, hairy tongue.
Brush your tongue gently
with a soft bristle
toothbrush or a tongue
scraper. Use baking soda
on the brush once a week.
Rinse with hydrogen
peroxide 3% solution, as
to control
oral bacteria.

For your diet, eat more
vegetables with fiber and
White, Can Be
Rubbed Off
If the white on your
tongue can be rubbed
off, possible causes of
white tongue include,
candida albicans (
Reduce the sugar in
your diet as much
as possible. In
addition to reducing
sugar itself, reduce
carbohydrates such
a white flour, rice,
pasta and starchy
vegetables such as
carrots and corn.
Follow the diet changes
and other recommended
remedies for thrush,
including reducing the
amount of
sugar in your
diet to a bare minimum.
White, Cannot
be Rubbed Off
If the white on your
tongue cannot be rubbed
off, the causes can be
serious, incuding

-Epstein bar virus
-HIV and AIDs
- dysplasia
-anti-inflammatory drugs
-Hepatitis C
-diseases caused by

-chronic ulcerative
- keratosis
- erythematosus
-materials used in dental
Not diet related
See your doctor
Purple tongue can be
caused, f course by
eating blue or purple
foods. Serious causes of
ourple tongue lesions
include Kaposi's
sacrcoma, a form of
cancer, and  
haemangiomas, purpura.

Smoking can also turn
your lips and tongue
If food is the cause,
purple tongue can
be caused by beets,
Kool-aid or other  
colored drinks, and

Some natural
herbalists believe
that purple tonges
circulation or a diet
too high in sugar
but no research
studies have
confirmed this link.
See a doctor to rule out
sarcoma and other
diseases; stop smoking

Red tongue, pink or
magenta  tongue and
geographic tongue
(patches of red or white
looking like a map) can
be caused by:


-Folic acid and vitamin
B-12 deficiency
Diets poor in iron,
folic aid and
Vitamin B-12
If dietary in origin, eat
foods rich in iron such as
liver and spinach or
condier a multivitamin with
iron, folic aicd and Vitami
B-12 (Read more about
anemia, causes and
Yellow tongue is typically
caused by inflammation
of the papillae (the tiny
bumps) of the tongue.
The papillae
reease a substance
called porphyrins, which
is what turns the tongue
Yellow tongue usually
goes away on its own and
is harmless.
If the discoloration
bothers you, try gently
brushing your tongue
with a solution that is 1
part hydrogen peroxide
and 5 parts water.
Foods that make
you congested can
cause yellow
tongue, such as
milk and dairy.
Other causes



-mouth breathing

Follow the
recomendations  for
reducing congestion

Also, rinse with hydrogen
peroxide 1% solution
Causes include foods
with bismuth, such as
Pepto Bismol. Serious
causes include black
tongue disease.

If the black tongue is
hairy, it is caused by
same conditions that
produce brown tongue
(see above)
black candy licorice
and products with
bismuth can turn
teh tongue black.
Excess bacteria
caused by food
debris also can turn
teh tongue dark
brown or black.
If it is caused by bismuth
products such as Pepto
Bismol, it is harmless and
will go away on its own.

If the black tongue is
hairy, use hydrogen
peroxide rinse and gently
brushteh tongue with
bicarbonate of soda

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