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When patients come to see me, the first thing I look at is their tongue and nails, this is because what the body shows us outside, is often an early sign of potential problems brewing within. As a child I always remember every doctor I went to see, would first say, "Stick out your tongue." But for some reason that I do not understand, this has become a lost art in the diagnostic skills.
When I look at the tongue and nails, I am looking for nutritional deficiencies, specifically minerals and vitamins. This is because vitamins and minerals are the building blocks, and catalysts, for many of the bodies functions such as the formation of skin, bones, nerve function, metabolism.
My approach, over the last 25 years, has been prevention is better than cure. I believe that Hippocrates was right when he said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
Nature has afforded us all the nutrients we need in the food we eat, it is only due to intensive farming methods, and chemicals added to food that has prevented us from getting these vital nutrients in the quantities that we need. Of course, we also have a choice, but this is difficult when we are emotionally manipulated.
How amazing would it be to be able to take out an organ of the body to assess its health, then put it back in the body? This is exactly why I think the tongue is so amazing because you can do just this. I have to warn you though, that the romantics among you, may never want to kiss anyone again if you really look closely at your partner's tongue.
So what exactly am I looking at when I look at a tongue?
A healthy tongue should be spoon-shaped and about the size of a tablespoon. If it is pointed or swollen, this means there is a problem. This may be an indication of the same problem inside the body and may be affecting other organs and body systems.
A swollen tongue is an indication of fluid retention, and a pointed tongue is an indication of cellular elasticity degradation. So weak ligaments and tendons also need to be investigated.
Scallop marks, or indentations at the side of the tongue, are also indications of fluid retention and a poor circulation system. This is caused by the teeth pressing against the swollen tongue, especially at night.
One of the most alarming conditions I see on a more regular basis now is called, "geographic tongue" so named because the tongue looks like a map with land masses. This is usually caused by a vitamin B deficiency. Vitamin B is vital to our bodies for proper nerve and blood cell health. It also in the formation of DNA. Most people will be aware of vitamin B12 because this helps iron absorption in the body. When you become anemic, your doctor will often recommend B12 injections. This is because it is vital to balance your iron levels, as the following can also be associated with anemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Disturbed vision
- Pins and needles
- Mouth ulcers
- Sore red tongue
- Pale skin
One of the least common questions you may never have been asked in relation to an iron deficiency is, "Do you crave cold drinks, or like sucking ice?" This is because an iron deficiency can also make your tongue and mouth feel hot.
If you suffer from stomach issues, going from constipation to diarrhea, have a look at your tongue, and if it is yellow or has white patches, the answer may be Candida. This is a fungal infection and another problem that is becoming more common.
Your body has a balance of good and bad bacteria, however much of this bacteria is determined by the food that we eat. Every time you take an antibiotic, this balance goes haywire. This is because the antibiotic does not discriminate between the good and bad bacteria.
I used to have a fish tank when I was younger, and initially, I made the mistake that many first time owners of aquariums make. I put the gravel, plants, and water into my tank, shortly followed by the fish. To my surprise, many of my fish died. When I asked the fish shop for advice, they said it was because I had not given tank time for the correct bacterial environment to develop. If I had left it two weeks prior to adding the fish I would have been okay. Also, they said that I should change 25 per cent of the water every month, to prevent the bad bacteria from taking over and upsetting the balance. The human digestive system is similar to my fish tank analogy, and if we eat junk food, don't drink enough water, and don't vary our diet, our bacterial balance goes out of kilter.
Taking a probiotic from a health food store can help to readdress this imbalance.
My next favourite external indicator that can give you a heads up as to the early development of a possible problem is your nails. This is harder to diagnose in women as they often get their nails varnished, and I am unable to see the nails properly. Also, the repetitive application of fake or gel nails can make the nails weak. This is also a symptom of a silica deficiency and calcium. So, to first determine what going on, you need to ascertain if the person has fake nails of gets them gelled. Usually, though, women who have soft nails that break and bend easily, get their nails gelled, or have fake nails, for this very reason that they have a silica or calcium deficiency.
Lots of people tell me they have white spots on their nails because they have a calcium deficiency. Unfortunately, they would be wrong, as this is actually a zinc deficiency. If you have a severe zinc deficiency, you may also be suffering from repetitive colds and throat infections.
I hope that the few examples I have given, and there are many more, will make you look at your tongue and fingernails in a different light. It's also important to remember that just because something is called a vitamin or a mineral, this does not mean you can take as many as you like. The labeling regulations on supplements have been put there for a reason, so please do not take more than the stated dose. Also if you want to know more, and you have a sign or symptom you are worried about, I suggest you talk to your nutritionist or medical doctor.
Finally, I do hope that I have not put you off kissing for life.