Did you know that the tongue is the only muscle in the body that we can see? Well, without hurting ourselves. It turns out there’s a lot more to this muscle than you may have thought! Scott is a fascinating guy whose interest in health began when he was cured of epilepsy at the age of 15 through natural methods. While preparing to take the MCAT later in life, Scott read a book about Ancient Chinese Medicine and realized he could no longer pursue only western medicine. He now uses multiple ancient techniques to bring his patients to their best health, including tongue observation! Click below to listen in as Dave interviews Scott Sommer, of Sommer’s Holistic Health Center, or read on!
What was your experience with epilepsy?
I vividly remember going to the doctor for an annual visit when I was about 9. That day my pediatrician told me I would never have a normal life unless I changed something. But he didn’t tell me what I needed to change. So I really relate to people who are suffering from a label western medicine gave them. As you can imagine, I went home pretty depressed that day. I went to my room and thought about what I could do. I’ve always believed in the power of prayer, so that day I prayed for the powers of Superman. That was the only person I could relate to at that time. I prayed that somehow or some way I would receive the power to understand my problem and overcome it.
As time went on, my family continued to feed me healthy food. While my friends were eating sugar cereal for breakfast, I was eating brown rice and raisins. So I learned a lot about my body and I realized even as a kid I was doing a lot right. I ate a lot of whole grains and healthy fats which is the remedy for epilepsy. Finally, at 15, I walked out of the doctor’s office free and clear. I really credit that to my dad’s influence as a bodybuilder and an organic farmer. It taught me how to overcome something through a change in lifestyle and diet.
Why the tongue?
5000 years ago in the east, it was considered sacrilegious to do any sort of autopsy or procedure with the body. So people had to rely on observations when they were alive. Things like energy, digestion, the color of the tongue, and complexion. On the western side, there was a lot of dissecting going on with artists and doctors. The west leaned more into the hidden side instead of the observational side. Eastern medicine has always focused on the meridians or the electrical flow of the body. This leads us to the tongue, which is just one part of eastern medicine that I use. People don’t know how much information they can from just their tongue.
I’m looking at my tongue… What am I looking for?
It’s important to keep in mind that it takes time to understand and learn how your tongue can reflect your health. I recommend taking a picture of your tongue in the morning and before bed, and just watch how your tongue changes. Even really healthy people will be able to see a difference. Changes in exercise, diet, hydration, even mood will affect the appearance of the tongue. We pay attention to color, coat, and shape or texture. Sometimes the tongue will indicate something very serious, in which case you should see a doctor trained in western medicine. But watch your tongue over time to see if there’s an actual issue, or if you just had too much sugar yesterday. Click here to take a look at Scott’s video for examples of the following!
The ideal color is pinkish-red. Not crimson like a pomegranate, but not so pale that it lacks luster. You can take a picture of your tongue in the morning and before bed, and just watch how your tongue changes. Those with a pale tongue are often anemic and/or tired. If this persists, it may be a sign of a bleeding ulcer or another serious issue. A purplish pale color is also a sign of blood flow issues or possible pre-blood clots. A darker dusky purple often precedes a stroke. If you lift your tongue and the veins underneath are dark purple or black that is a very serious sign of a blockage in the arteries. You may not have a heart attack tomorrow, but it is a warning sign.
After color, we look at the coat on the tongue. That light dew you see on your grass in the morning is what we’re looking for. Just a light coating where you can still see the color underneath. The thickness of the coating is important as well because it represents digestion. If you have a really thick coating you are likely digesting poorly or not eating the healthiest food. Little to no coating is a sign of a deep-rooted digestive issue. Those with celiac disease or gut disorders often have a patchy coat or no coat at all. A patchy coat can also be a sign of parasites or food allergies, so it’s important to pay attention to what you’re eating. Too much coating can indicate you’re eating too many fatty foods with trans fats (like cheeseburgers) and your body is needing enzymes.
Shape and Texture
The tongue is a muscle, so it will change like muscles will. It might be swollen or sore sometimes. We call the teeth marks on the side of your tongue scallops. These are often seen when you first wake up in the morning. If it persists that can indicate blood sugar issues such as diabetes. Sleep problems like waking up in the middle of the night or not falling asleep well will be common. Feeling hypoglycemic- like you need to eat every few hours is a common symptom as well. The sides of the tongue represent the liver, which has a lot to do with detoxifying the body as well as our mood. So people with depression often have a tongue that almost looks like a hammer, where the sides are swollen. At one point I had dots on the sides of my tongue, as well as back pain, and I realized it was my gallbladder. After some dietary changes and herbal formulas, I was back to normal.
What nutrition changes will give people the most bang for their buck?
Processed foods will definitely have an effect on your body, and you’ll be able to see that in your tongue. I recommend that you pay attention to what we’ve talked about and try and figure out how your body reacts to certain things. Be aware of what you’re eating and learn what you might be allergic or sensitive to. The most common allergens today are dairy, wheat, and sugar, which are everywhere. Even reducing your intake of processed foods can help immensely.
After reading nutrition books for 40 years, all I can say is eat the rainbow. Green is at the top of the rainbow, so we need to eat the most greens. Kale, spinach, and bok choy are all awesome options. Introduce more green into your diet and you will feel a difference. Reds and purples come next, and they happen to be anti-inflammatory. So foods like beets, cabbage, and pomegranate juice. Oranges and yellows like squash, yams, and sweet potatoes can help improve your tongue coating. Stay away from white for the most part- processed sugar, rice, and bread. There are some healthy white foods like garlic and onions, but even a red onion has more nutritional value than a white onion. Food is an adventure! I encourage everyone to introduce a new food to the family, try out a new recipe, and have fun in the process.