Already have an account?
Get back to the

Your Tongue’s Appearance Says a Lot About Your Health — Here’s How To Read It

Say "ahh!"


Your tongue is responsible for a lot of things: Helping you speak, chew, and taste your favorite treats. But did you know it can also tell you some truths about your health? Take a look in the mirror and read on to see how the surface of your tongue can help you learn how to live healthier.

If Your Tongue Is Smooth

A healthy tongue is light to dark pink and has tiny bumps (taste buds). If yours appears smooth, without small bumps (a condition called atrophic glossitis), you may have an iron deficiency. The nutrient is vital for building heart-helping hemoglobin, which ferries oxygen to tissues. Enjoying iron-rich foods like spinach can increase your iron levels. But don’t overdo it: After menopause, your iron requirement decreases, so check with your doctor before adjusting your intake.

If Your Tongue Is Cracked or Grooved

A cracked, grooved tongue may indicate that your body isn’t getting enough of the B vitamins essential for tissue repair, which increases risk of cognitive issues like confusion and memory loss. And as you age, you are more likely to be deficient in certain B vitamin components. To shore up your stores, ask your doctor if you should be taking a B-50-complex vitamin daily.

If Your Tongue Has White Patches

The same bugs that live in the gut also populate the tongue. And a white coating (also known as “thrush”) is a potential sign of overgrowth by a common yeast species (Candida albicans). Candida overgrowth has been linked to everything from weight gain to depression to sinus and vaginal infections. Check with your doctor to see if a daily probiotic supplement, which encourages the growth of “good” bacteria to prevent the growth of the “bad” kind, would be right for you.

If Your Tongue Has Red Spots

If your tongue is covered in red patches that look like a map, it may be “geographic tongue.” The condition may indicate that you’re low on immunity-boosting zinc, which helps tissues ward off colds and viruses. Clinical trials have found that zinc can help treat geographic tongue. If this condition is bothering you, check with your doctor to see if zinc supplementation is a good fit.

Could it be “COVID tongue”?

When the COVID-19 virus concentrates in the mouth, it can cause white patches, ulcers, and swelling. Something to try: rinsing with a mouthwash that contains lidocaine, which may ease symptoms, say Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine scientists. Visit your doctor to see if a prescription could help.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.