4 Health Indicators that can Signal Deficiencies

Did you happen to catch Sydney Lupkin’s recent ABC news article, “What Miley Cyrus’ tongue says about her health”? I was thrilled to see her discuss how tongue observation can help us keep a close eye on our overall health. While performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, Miley’s tongue showed a white coating. Sydney suggested that this indicates the use of antibiotics, which can eliminate good bacteria in the mouth allowing for fungus to grow.[1] When I see this on my tongue, I know my elimination has slowed down, is sluggish, and it’s time for a clean out!

Who would have thought your tongue could reveal so much health data? Traditional Chinese Medicine has used tongue observation as a diagnostic tool for thousands of years. The appearance of each section of the tongue can tell you about different parts of the body—essentially acting as a chart for all the internal systems. For example, a dark purple tongue could be an indication of blood or liver issues, and a pale tongue could point to anemia. A tongue coated in white, similar to Miley’s at the VMAs, could potentially be a sign of digestive or spleen issues.

Does this mean the twerking teen-queen and her loyal followers should panic? Definitely not. Paying attention to your body’s health indicators is a simple way to stay clued in to what’s happening on the inside. Your tongue—number one on our list—is a great place to start!

1. Tongue

Like me, your Mum (aka Mom) most likely told you it was rude to stick out your tongue when you were a kid. But as an adult, I make it a habit of doing just that every time I clean my teeth. That’s about two tongue checks a day, if not more. All right—so you are most likely not cleaning your teeth while you read this. No worries! Just find a mirror and stick out your tongue. Good! Is it kind of white and furry like the graphic below? Does it have a red shiny tip? Is there a groove down the center, or does it look as if it is a cracked and dry desert landscape?

If you see…

White patches: check your vitamin B2 intake—white patches can show a deficiency.

A red shiny tip and edges: This is your body saying: “Hey, I need more vitamin B3!”

A sore and burning tongue: This can indicate a need for vitamin B5 and B6 (also called pyridoxine).

A thin red tongue with very few visible taste buds: As you age, it’s harder to maintain B12 levels, and your tongue will be the first place to show you this.nutrition classes online

Bump up your B! B vitamins are extremely important for energy and holistic wellness. And since they are water soluble, you need them each day. Focusing on whole grains and nuts is a great way to get your daily intake of B. If you are a vegan, pay extra attention to B12 sources. You can learn more about vitamins, minerals, and holistic nutrition in our Introduction to Nutrition Online or Nutrition, Bodycare, and Herbalism Online courses here at ACHS!

While it can tell you a lot, your tongue is not the only thing that will keep you keyed into your day-to-day wellness.

2. Hair

Have you ever noticed a lack of shine in your hair after a few days of binging on junk food? Your hair can be a useful tool for checking up on your health, and it’s number two on our list. So while you’re caring for your lovely locks, make sure to also pay attention for:

Coarse, brittle hair: If you’re frustrated with fly aways and chunks of broken hair in your brush, it’s possible you could have a zinc deficiency. Try eating more organic whole grains, meats, brewer’s yeast, and fish.

Dandruff: This could be a sign you’re not getting enough B2, B6, zinc, or magnesium. Look back at our advice for vitamin B deficiencies, and consider upping your protein with poultry, eggs, shellfish, dairy, and meat (as organic as possible, of course).

Dry hair: This could indicate a deficiency in vitamin A, zinc, iodine, or lecithin. To up your vitamin A intake, try 1 teaspoon/day of cod or halibut liver oil and upping your veggies—broccoli, carrots, spinach, and even pumpkin are all great sources of vitamin A!


3. Skin

Keep your eyes on the mirror for health indicator number three. But don’t just look—make sure to feel it all over! Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it stands to reason that it can tell you quite a bit about your wellness. Here are some common skin issues and what they can tell you about your health:

Itchy, dry skin: If you can’t stop scratching, you might want to try balancing your vitamins A, B, C, and E with more fruits and veggies, free-range organic eggs, unrefined and fresh cold-pressed vegetable, seed and nut oils.

Acne: This common skin condition could also be a sign of lacking enough niacin, sulfur, zinc, fatty acids, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and E. Foods that are high in sulfur include onions, garlic, eggs, meat, and dairy.

Wrinkles, aging skin: Feeling like your skin could use a lift? Try incorporating more vitamins A, C, E, and fatty acids into your diet. Again, try 1 teaspoon/day of cod, halibut liver or flax seed oil, and upping your veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach, and even pumpkin) to boost those vitamins!

4. Nails

Do you feel like you’re always peeling and buffing and filing? Your nails may be telling you something important. During your home or salon manicures, take note of some health indicators from your nails:

Hangnails: These are nasty and painful—and they’re screaming to tell you that you might be lacking in vitamin C, folic acid, or protein. Try eating some organic strawberries! They’re a great source of both vitamin C and folic acid.

Ridges on nails (traverse): Give your nail buffer a break and try eating more green, leafy veggies, whole grains, meats, and fish to increase your calcium, protein, and zinc intake.

Brittle and breaking nails: Biotin—also known as vitamin B7—can be found in egg yolks, avocado, and salmon. It can strengthen nails and take care of this issue. And as an added bonus: you’ll have shiny and thick hair!

Peeling nails: Low levels of A, C, and calcium can cause nails to peel more easily. To up vitamin C, try eating more citrus, cantaloupe, strawberries, turnips, kiwis, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

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The easiest way to get your vitamins and minerals is by eating a balanced diet full of organic fruits and veggies. But anytime you notice your body’s health indicators sending out signals, you should talk to your primary care physician, naturopathic doctor, or holistic nutritionist. So pay attention to your body! You can easily spot these health indicators while trimming your nails, brushing your hair…or—if you’re Miley Cyrus—glancing at the mirror before swinging from a wrecking ball with your tongue flying free.

Interested in learning more about recognizing nutritional deficiencies? Click the button for free ebooks, offers, and more info on the accredited online Introduction to Nutrition course from the American College of Healthcare Sciences!

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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.



[1] Lupkin, S. (2013, October 7). What Miley Cyrus’ tongue says about her health. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abcnews.com/