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Oh yes, the tongue can tell secrets about your health. Your tongue is a strong muscular organ that is normally covered with mucosa, a pink, moist surface. If you look closely you will see tiny bumps (papillae), which seem to make the tongue rough in texture. The papillae are covered with thousands of taste buds, which are cells that connect to the nerves leading to your brain. Aside from giving you a sense of taste, your tongue plays an important role in allowing you to speak, chew, and swallow food.
Bright Red Tongue
The tongue has a natural pink color because it is rich in tiny blood vessels. However, when it is persistently bright red, beefy or strawberry-like, you may be suffering from a nutritional deficiency. A lack of vitamin B12 or iron may cause a loss of papillae, which makes the tongue appear smooth and glossy. Balding of the tongue can lead to pain when you eat hot or spicy foods.
This condition is common among vegetarians, since they are prone to have low levels of vitamin B12, a nutrient found in meats. If you are a vegetarian and you notice your tongue is strawberry red in color, consult your doctor about taking health supplements. Vitamin deficiencies are also associated with problems in absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, so seek medical advice if you have a bright red tongue.
Black Hairy Tongue
The tongue is covered with papillae that can grow long and look “hairy.” These can become dark and worn out, but experts agree that is not a serious problem. It may be caused by poor oral hygiene, smoking, medications eating a soft diet, and a dry mouth. Overgrown papillae are more likely to become discolored by food and harbor bacteria. All you need to do is to avoid smoking or any offending cause, brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper, and practice good oral hygiene.
Cottage Cheese Tongue
If your tongue looks lumpy with white patches that look like cottage cheese, you may have yeast infection caused by overgrowth of Candida. Also called oral thrush, this condition is often linked to overuse of antibiotics. The moth normally harbors yeast and bacteria, but when you take antibiotics, bacteria may be killed and allow yeast to grow uncontrolled. Thrush can also occur in people with weakened immune systems, in young children, in people with autoimmune disease or uncontrolled diabetes, in the elderly, and in chemotherapy patients. If you think you may have thrush, consult your doctor. It may cause a bit of pain and taste disturbances and cannot be treated with over-the-counter products.