Today I have my first guest post on my blog by Alex, founder of Dig Primal. I love Alex’s take of health because she has an amazingly detailed understanding of the body since she is anesthesiologist in training, but also has a passion for looking at health from a holistic standpoint. By combining her traditional medical training with her own journey to find the root of her chronic health conditions she has the tools to help others really find optimal health. I participated in her Nutrient Bootcamp last month and I LOVE the concept. We focused on adding in a certain number of diverse nutrients per day instead of focusing on what we couldn’t have.
Check out today’s guest blog post by Alex —>
I got a tongue scraper a while back and I was super excited to use it, but it hasn’t been that satisfying.
How come? I’ll explain that in a minute.
First, I want to talk about why tongue scraping matters. You can just use a brush, right? Meh, I guess you can theoretically, but it’s kind of like using paper towel to push the dirt around on your floors when a good old-fashion mop and pail clean so much better.
What’s the idea behind tongue scraping? The tongue is another source of toxin removal from the body. Although this is not commonly discussed, your tongue is simply a part of the digestive tract. As we know, our digestive tract functions to collect and expel waste from the body. In addition to toxins, the tongue collects food debris, bacteria, and the byproducts of metabolism. (A collective “ew” on the count of 3?) Whether it’s our gut, kidneys, our armpits, or our feet, our bodies have ingenious ways of collecting expelled waste and getting rid of it in a safe way. The tongue is simply one of the venues.
The problem with the tongue is that in order to rid the body of the toxins that it has collected, often these toxins are re-swallowed in hopes that the gut and liver will get rid of it. In an ideal world, we would have a minimal toxic load entering the body and a robust GI tract that would make this process smooth like butter…but let’s face it, that’s not most of us.
I’ve recently become some a huge fan of tongue scraping because it is an easy resource to help your body function optimally. It is a metal or plastic object that costs about $6 on average, takes up virtually no room in your bathroom, and is widely available.
As a bonus, when you’re talking about removing toxins, fighting bad breath (halitosis is one of my top 10 favorite medical words), and promoting good gum and dental health, using a tongue scraper for 1 minute a day seems like a pretty high-yield thing to do for your health.
But this post is about more than just tongue scraping and really about how we can become an amazing health detective by learning to watch for changes and signs.
The very helpful, albeit sometimes frustrating, thing about the body is that no processes are ever without signs. There is almost always something visible that manifests when an inward process is happening. If we are paying enough attention we can use that information to intervene and make a difference in our health. The downside to these clues is that it takes effort. It is so much “easier” to wait until we develop overt diseases and try to band aide a solution together later (of course, this rarely works).
There are many ways that our body can clue us into what is going on inside the body. A lot of the long-term manifestations are ones that we talk about all the time, things like fatigue, changes in bowel habits, acne, sugar cravings, etc.
What I wanted to touch upon today are the changes in our bodies that we can observe in the short-term. It’s like getting a quick snapshot into our health right now.
Turns out, our mouths can be a really good source of quick feedback. (Of course, our mouths can tell us a lot in the long term as well as evidenced by the links between gum disease, dental carries, and cardiovascular disease…but that’s for another post.)
Here are My Top 4 Oral Cues to Monitor for Your Health:
1.) Tongue Coating. First, and in the context of talking about tongue scraping, it makes sense that we address the coating on our tongue. Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on this quite heavily (this is a particularly comprehensive article on the subject).
I tend to break it down much more simply: is a coating there or not?
I’ve noticed that when I’m in a healthy state, the coating on my tongue goes (or nearly goes) away. This is why I said above that tongue scraping has been a bit unsatisfying lately. My efforts with maintaining major nutrient support through Nutrient Boot Camp, detoxing, maintaining good gut health, and managing stress levels have all been been paying off.
On the other hand if I get exposure to a little bit of gluten at a restaurant, get majorly stressed out at work, or skimp on sleep a couple nights and drink too much coffee to compensate, my tongue always shows me that something is going on. Since I use my tongue scraper every day, regardless of what my tongue is doing, I’m forced to pay attention to what that coating is telling me.
2) Check Your Tongue Veins. Next, I’ll check out under the hood of the car, so to speak. There are two big veins that run along the underside of the tongue that can often become swollen when there is an acute process happening. It can mean a myriad of things but traditionally, the engorgement of the veins has been viewed as a sign that the liver isn’t functioning optimally. Personally, I have found this to be true and I use it as a barometer for my general detoxing efforts. (Next time you choose to imbibe, if enjoying a few drinks is your thing, check out under your tongue the next morning and see what you find.)
I have also found that allergen exposure in my food will trigger this effect. This is extra helpful because since I get both acute and delayed reactions from certain foods, checking out under my tongue is a quick way to see that something I’ve recently eaten is bothering me.
3) Tongue Swelling. This is a less common sign but can still be a good tool to keep in your arsenal. I check this when I’m tongue scraping so it really isn’t any more work to keep it on my radar. I’ll notice that my tongue gets swollen because I can see the indentation of my teeth along the edges.
For me, this is usually a sign of stress. Now, most of us know when we’re stressed…but it’s so easy to lie to yourself and ignore what’s going on. A physical manifestation can be a kick in the pants reminder that the stress you’re pretending to ignore is not going unnoticed by your body. Even if the stressor can’t be removed, a good session of troubleshooting about how I’m dealing with the problem(s) goes a long way for me.
4) Cracks in the corner of the mouth. Lastly, cracks in the lips and corners of the mouth can be a marker of internal health. For some, this can be a long-term manifestation but I’ve found that when I’m having a problem with malabsorption of nutrients (example: if I had a gluten exposure and it killed off a whole bunch of my intestinal villi), my lips definitely let me know pretty quickly. When I see this, I jump wholeheartedly into my go-to gut healing protocol, complete with tons of homemade bone broth, l-glutamine, gelatin and probiotics.
Let me make clear that this list is just a few signs that that our oral health can show us about our current state. You may have some, all, or none of the above signs…but it is my hope that by thinking through some of the thing that I’ve noticed for myself, you can begin to pay attention to what your body is signaling to you and use it to improve your health overall.