The tongue has always been an important diagnostic tool within Ayurveda. Ancient medical practitioners often relied on nuanced observational diagnoses to quickly narrow down specific imbalances within the body and help prevent or correct future disease. Studying your tongue—from unusual bumps to sensitivities in specific areas—can give you vital clues on your inner health. I share some of the top cues:
1. The middle area of the tongue relates to your intestinal and gut health.
A thick white build-up usually indicates toxins. If on the back of the tongue, it is more related to the colon area, and if on the front, it relates to buildup in the smaller intestine and upper stomach. Expectedly, colon toxins usually related to a lack of regularity, and flax seed, figs, milk, and ghee or castor oil (taken at night with a cup of warm water) can help. Triphala will also help.
Toxin buildup in the smaller intestine or stomach usually relates to poor digestion or eating incompatible foods. Fire up your digestion with dietary adds like garlic or rock salt and practicing poses such as Virasana and Padmasana.
2. The left and right edges on the back of your tongue relate to your kidneys.
A buildup, redness, or sensitivities here could indicate poor renal function and a possible toxin retention (even the beginnings of a kidney stone). Focus your efforts on kicking up kidney function a notch: greater water intake (room temperature or lukewarm water is best), adding honey or lemon to a cup of water energizes kidney function as do asanas like seated twists, bridge pose, and seated forward bends.
3. The left and right edges on the front of your tongue relate to your lungs.
If you notice the development of indentations (almost like small 'holes') on this area, it may indicate a weaker immune tolerance in the lungs and higher susceptibility to infection including colds and respiratory issues. Lung issues are often related to a kapha imbalance within the body, and you should start by eating for bringing your kapha into balance. Foods that are warm, light, and dry are best, such as pomegranates, pepper, ginger, chicken and turkey. Avoid heavy, fatty foods such as dairy, nuts, tubers, avocado, or bananas.
If you notice a bubbly or whitish set of bumps in this area, it may indicate the development of a bronchial infection or inflammation. Yoga poses that exercise the chest cavity such as forward bends, backbends, and Fish Pose can be helpful—as are half-wheels and ploughs.
4. Observe if there's a line running down the middle of your tongue
A line on the middle of the tongue points to possible issues with the spine. A straight deep line means you may be repressing emotions in your spine, possibly inviting back troubles down the road. Ayurveda has a host of recommendations on 'emotional detox' including spending more time outdoors and in the sun, pre-shower oil massages (abhyanga) and exercise—my favorite is pranayama breath work.
A crooked line at the back of your tongue can mean pressure or chronic fatigue in your lower back, on the middle of the tongue means pressure in the middle back, and at the front the cervical and neck region. Proactively correct posture and pay attention to seating arrangements at work to relieve muscular tension. Practice yoga asanas like seated forward bends, backbends and knee-to-chest to strengthen back muscles and posture. Calamus oil, ginger, and eucalyptus essential oil can further help alleviate back pain if you're starting to experience any.