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What The Colour Of Your Tongue Reveals About Your Well-Being

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, decodes the health secrets hidden in the colour of your tongue!

“Have you ever stuck your tongue out in front of a mirror and wondered what its colour and texture say about your health? Research indicates that our tongues can be a reliable health barometer!” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“Traditional medicine systems like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have long emphasised tongue examination as a diagnostic tool. According to research by Harvard Health, it can suggest whether you’re staying hydrated to signalling more serious health concerns, that little muscle in your mouth has much to say.”

Understanding the Tongue’s Normal Appearance

A healthy tongue is typically pink, with a thin white coat and small nodules called papillae. Variations in colour, texture, and coating on the tongue can signal health issues ranging from minor to severe.

The Colour Spectrum and Health Implications

Pale Tongue: A pale tongue can suggest a deficiency in essential nutrients, particularly iron and vitamin B12, leading to anaemia. This lack of colour may also indicate poor circulation or a deficiency in energy, or “Qi”, as referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which could manifest as fatigue or weakness.

Bright Red Tongue: An unusually red tongue could be a warning of a fever or infection. In Chinese Medicine, a red tongue indicates heat in the body, which could relate to inflammation or an imbalance somewhere in the body. Conditions like Kawasaki disease, scarlet fever, and vitamin deficiencies (B3, B12, folic acid) can also cause a red tongue.

Purple or Bluish Tongue: A purple or bluish hue might indicate circulatory problems, indicating a lack of oxygenated blood reaching the tongue. This can be associated with heart, high cholesterol, or respiratory problems. A slightly purple tongue can be expected in colder climates, but persistent discolouration warrants a medical check-up.

Yellow Tongue: A yellow coating on the tongue can result from poor oral hygiene, but it can also be a sign of a more serious condition, such as jaundice, which is related to liver dysfunction. In some cases, it might also indicate a bacterial or fungal infection in the mouth.

Black and Hairy Tongue: Though it may sound alarming, a black and hairy tongue is usually harmless and caused by an overgrowth of papillae trapping bacteria and yeast. It can result from poor oral hygiene, excessive tobacco use, irritating mouthwashes, or antibiotic use.

Geographic Tongue: This condition, characterised by a map-like pattern of red spots with a white border, is harmless. The spots can move around over time, and the cause is unknown, but they are thought to be linked to stress, allergies, or hormonal imbalances.

Other Tongue Changes to Note

Texture and Coating: A healthy tongue should have a thin white coating. A thick coat, or the absence of one, and tongue texture changes can indicate digestive issues or other health concerns.

Moisture: A parched tongue can suggest dehydration or a side effect of certain medications. Conversely, an overly wet tongue might indicate issues with fluid balance or kidney function.

Size and Shape: Swelling or indentations (teeth marks on the sides of your tongue) can suggest fluid retention, spleen health, or nutritional deficiencies.

Taking Action

Noticing changes in your tongue can be the first step toward addressing potential health issues. While not all changes signify severe problems, a healthcare professional should evaluate persistent alterations in colour, texture, or coating that do not resolve with improved oral hygiene or dietary adjustments. Sudden changes, especially those accompanied by other symptoms, also warrant immediate medical attention.

The Big Picture


Remember, your tongue is just one piece of the health puzzle. Monitoring it and other healthy habits like eating well, staying hydrated, and managing stress can help you stay in tune with your body’s needs. So, stick out your tongue in the mirror and see what it has to say!

About Affinity Health


Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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