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Skin Care

What Color is Your Tongue?

What color is your tongue?  Crazy question, since we all know tongues are pink or flesh colored, but not everyone's tongue is the color it should be.  I'm referring to white tongues that are caused by a condition known as "oral thrush".  No, not white tongues that are temporarily discolored from food or drinks, but tongues that are seriously coated in white.

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that affects the mouth.  Candida, the fungus responsible for thrush, is meant to exist in our bodies in small, controlled quantities.  However, when our chemistry is out of balance, candida has a way of proliferating and thriving in an unhealthy environment.  Let me get more specific...

We're designed to have yeast and good bacteria (probiotics) in our digestive track.  Provided there is enough good bacteria, the yeast will be kept under control and won't have the opportunity to wreak havoc on our bodies.  But, when our delicate, internal ecosystem is out of whack, candida, the opportunist that it is, thinks it's party time and all bets are off!

The mouth; dark, warm, and moist is an ideal host for candida to set up residency.   Velvety-looking white patches form on the tongue and mucous membranes inside the cheeks.  Not every case has patches on the tongue and cheeks, but often they appear together.  There can be pain associated with thrush, but it's usually due to the white patches being scraped or disturbed in some way.  When this happens the tongue often bleeds and becomes very sore.

So, who gets oral thrush?

Anyone can come down with a case of thrush, but some are more prone to getting it than others.  Those with compromised immune systems or who are on chemotherapy often have trouble fighting yeast and keeping in it check.  The elderly and very young are more susceptible, as are HIV and AIDS patients, due to suppressed immune function.  Diabetics who deal with high blood sugar often get thrush because the excess sugar in the saliva acts as food for candida, promoting it to grow. Steroids and antibiotics set the stage for candida to go wild because they kill off high amounts of good bacteria in the intestinal track, which then breaks down our body's natural line of defense.

This is why probiotics are recommended to take after steroid or antibiotic therapy as a way to replenish the good bacteria.  Carbohydrates, no matter what type they are, turn into sugar when they get into our stomach.  Certain types of alcohol are high in carbs and do a great job of feeding yeast, as does a diet high in refined carbs.  Sugar plays two roles: it feeds candida and it also kills good bacteria, so the yeast/bacteria balance is hit hard from eating sugar... which is another excellent reason to eat cleaner.

I think it's pretty normal for most of us to overdo the booze and sugary food at times, and the occasional binge should not be enough to cause thrush; however, if you experience thrush frequently or ongoing, it may be time to see a doctor.  A family doctor or dentist are who to see for antifungal medications, or a diagnosis if you are uncertain if you have thrush.  Whether it's caused by beer or illness, there is no need to go without treatment.  Antifungal mouthwashes or lozenges are usually prescribed for 5 to 10 days, and if they aren't effective or the yeast infection spreads to other parts of the body, stronger meds are available.

The natural health industry recommends taking therapeutic levels of probiotics for thrush and any other yeast infection.  There are quite a few natural antifungal products that prove effective.  Garlic is one that does a good job of killing fungus off.  It would be best to take garlic in capsule form, since you probably don't want to eat as much fresh garlic as you'd have to, to get results.  Other products like oregano oil, grapefruit seed extract, and colloidal silver are all excellent antifungals, too.  There are many "yeast cleanses" on the market, which actually work and can be found online and in health food stores.

Someone asked if he could use a tongue scraper to rid his tongue of thrush.  NO!  It seems like it would help, but the scraper will cause lots of bleeding and pain.  The tongue is red and delicate under the white patches, and should not be abrasively cleaned.  However, the use of a soft toothbrush on your teeth, and rinsing with a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water several times a day is recommended.

Oral thrush is very treatable and curable.  How long you can stay thrush free is up to your lifestyle.  Obviously, some medications and illnesses cannot be avoided, but we do have control over other aspects of life that can determine whether we get thrush or not.  Thrush is a reflection of what's going on inside, so make any changes you can to avoid playing host to it.  Now, go get a mirror and stick out your tongue.  What color is it?

by Aaron Marino

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