Health: The tongue, you’d better brush it

  • Mar. 17, 2020 6:01 a.m.

Brushing teeth after meals can prevent tooth decay, save dental bills, and avoid halitosis. But not many know that brushing the tongue helps the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, immune system, and prevents a shocking number of diseases. So, how is the tongue associated with so many diverse problems, and what can you do to prevent them?

Dr. Thomas Levy, an expert on toxins and infections, reports that the human body contains 100 trillion microbes.

This is an enormous and diverse assortment of bacteria, fungi and protozoa. In fact, it’s so huge that some researchers refer to it as a “microbial organ.”

It’s vital that this mass of microbes remains well-balanced for good health.

Levy says that the best way to keep a normal GI tract is to stop the “seeding” of new microbes that can disturb it. For instance, patients suffering from chronic sinusitis experience colonies of unfriendly bacteria being discharged 24/7 into the GI tract. This can upset the balance of microbes.

Levy suggests that when there’s trouble in the alimentary tract, doctors start looking for problems elsewhere. But they should first look at the tongue as this is often where the trouble starts.

If they did this, they would often find colonies of bacteria, fungi, viruses and even protozoa on the tongue. In addition, they would discover chronically impacted rotten food particles in the deep fissures of the tongue and in microscopic papillae, finger-like projections on its surface.

This presents a problem whether the diagnosis is bad breath or intestinal problems. The blunt truth is that the tongue has no way to clean itself. So just as hands require soap and water, the tongue needs a toothbrush or a tongue scrap to get rid it of microbial debris.

Levi’s report quotes 69 scientific studies by renowned international researchers.

They claim that unhealthy, unbalanced colonies of microbes in the bowel are linked to diseases such as several cancers, heart disease, diabetes, migraines, depression, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even obesity. (To learn more, read Reboot Your Gut by Dr. Thomas Levy.)

Several methods have been suggested to normalize or reboot the gut, such as decreasing stress, increasing sleep, eating slowly, staying hydrated, changing the diet and checking for food intolerances.

Levy adds that in addition to sound tongue hygiene, bacterial content can be changed using probiotics. But he adds that several probiotic formulas have no impact or have a negative one in certain individuals. Since no two GI tracts are identical, it’s often a matter of trial and error to find an effective one. And the use of an antiseptic mouth wash helps.

Levy mentions how nebulization can also be an effective treatment.

Nebulization is the process that converts a liquid form of a medication into a fine mist that can be inhaled.

This allows the mist to come into contact with the mucosal lining of the sinuses, oral cavity and respiratory tract.

This research is a wakeup call for improved oral hygiene. Brushing of teeth is important but brushing alone does not remove food between teeth. You must use floss or wooden Stim-u-dents.

Hundreds of years ago, Professor Giovanni of Padua University in Italy reported, “If all particles of food were removed between teeth after each meal and the mouth cleaned, care could be effective.”

And don’t forget to brush the tongue or use a variety of tongue scrapers after eating. It’s a simple way to avert many diseases.

The weekly column by W. Gifford-Jones, MD has been published without interruption for 45 years. The same no-nonsense tradition now continues in a father-daughter collaboration.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at

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