Tongue, according to me, is an extremely vital part of the body which expresses and conveys our thoughts, feelings, wishes, anger, sadness, happiness and all emotions to the external world. ‘Broken eggs and spoken words cannot be taken back’ is an evergreen proverb and one cannot deny the crucial role played by this muscular organ in our interaction with others. Relishing some lip-smacking burgers and sodas? Your tongue acts as the prime organ of taste and as an aid in the digestion process.
Human tongue is generally pink in color and when there is any color change noticed (such as orange color), it might reflect what you have eaten of late. For instance, cotton candy can turn your tongue more pinkish and so can other bright-colored foods such as popsicles or chocolates. Rarely, it might be an alarm to indicate some unwanted changes to your health such as acid reflux, thrush and certain vitamin deficiencies. Main causes of an orange tongue include:
Germs: Germs such as bacteria and yeast can stick to the surface of the tongue and release a substance that can stain your tongue with a yellow or orange color or rather, these germs can appear orange in color. This is possible when germs reproduce too quickly in the mouth and stick onto your tongue.
Oral thrush is due to the fungi Candida that collects on the tongue and affects people of any age. Most commonly affected are those individuals who are on steroid medications, have a weakened immune system and infants who take antibiotics.
Treatment: Use a mouthwash containing compounds such as nystatin, diphenhydramine and triamcinolone to gargle and spit. Repeat this until the infections are completely gone. Antifungal medicines might be required to treat infections that remain despite liquid treatment.
Poor oral hygiene: Improper maintenance of teeth, gums and mouth can cause food and debris to build up in between teeth and on the tongue. Tobacco, coffee and tea might cause orange coloration of the tongue if the individual abstains from brushing his/her teeth after consumption. Certain people suffer from dry mouth, a condition which prevents bacteria from exiting the tongue, which can turn the tongue orange.
Treatment: Ensuring proper dental care which includes brushing your teeth twice a day, using a tongue cleaner to remove excess germs sticking onto the tongue and visiting the dentist twice a year for professional teeth cleaning can also help.
Medications: Consuming antibiotics can cause an imbalance of bacteria, fungi and other germs in the mouth which can lead to an unusual coating for a temporary period. For example, the antibiotic rifampin used to treat tuberculosis causes orange coloration of the tongue. If the person consumes some beverage or brushes teeth after taking medications, the orange tint disappears in a few hours.
Treatment: The infection goes away once the antibiotic course is completed and meanwhile, one can use probiotics to restore bacterial balance.
Beta carotene: Beta carotene gives carrots its orange coloration and when we consume foods rich in this nutrient, it can cause discoloration of the skin and tongue. Termed as carotenemia, this condition is common in infants and young children who eat mashed carrots regularly. Some other foods that are rich in beta carotene include mangoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, papayas and pumpkins.
Treatment: Simply reducing the intake of such foods can cause carotenemia to go away. The orange coloration that has already happened will take a few weeks to disappear.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD): GERD occurs when stomach acid comes up into the esophagus instead of going down accompanied by symptoms such as heartburn, burping, bad breath, sour taste in the mouth, nausea and vomiting. Color changes to the tongue are not common but possible. It can be either white orange in color. GERD can be utterly disappointing as it affects your quality of life as explained in detail at www.firsteatright.com.
Our tongue can also be in different other colors such as
Black due to accumulation of dead cells or due to the use of medications containing bismuth.
Red due to the presence of scarlet fever, glossitis (tongue inflammation) or Kawasaki disease.
White due to oral thrush, leukemia, dehydration, fever or syphilis.
Yellow due to jaundice because of the presence of the pigment bilirubin in the body.
Most causes of an orange tongue are temporary and the coloration should disappear in a few days. If it stays beyond a week or if you experience a rash, shortness of breath, bleeding sores or chest pain it is advisable to meet your physician immediately.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.
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