Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tongue Guy – Missoula, Montana

Get your mind out of the gutters, especially those of you who know I know what you’re thinking. While hanging out in Missoula, MT, my husband, Eric, and I were walking around the “hip” neighborhood, perhaps more accurately described as the “hip-pie” neighborhood; it’s definitely hip, but there’s also a good chance you might walk around the corner and run into a group of young people smoking some pot in the alleyway. Anyhow, we were on our way to one of the bakeries, touted to be the best in Missoula, Bernice’s Bakery, when we passed by a sign that said, “Free Tongue Diagnosis.” We looked up at the storefront, and it was a holistic acupuncture and Eastern medicine clinic. I’m generally not one for non-Western ideas, but there is something about centuries and centuries of how the Chinese have been able to deal with illness that is interesting and appealing to me. Besides, I wanted to see how accurate the analyzer would be. So in we went.

The practitioner explained that the tongue is a barometer of the internal organs. You can’t look inside non-invasively, so the Chinese have been able to figure out over the centuries which parts of the tongue are associated with those internal organs so that they could get a snapshot of one’s health. Generally speaking, the back of the tongue represents the systems in the lower part of the trunk – bowel, reproductive, etc. The middle of the tongue the digestive area, and the top of the tongue those systems related to the heart and lungs. One side of the tongue is related to the spleen, the other side, the kidneys.

Eric was first. He stuck his tongue out, and the practitioner pointed out the following – that Eric had a thicker, yellowish coating in the back of his tongue, indicating that something in his lower trunk was being constricted, that things weren’t flowing as well as they should. He also had a crack right in the middle of it, indicating poor digestion. Bite marks on the sides of his tongue showed that there was some kind of “dampness” going on in his system. What exactly that means was lost on me, but it didn’t sound to be the perfect picture of health. There was something about the lack of coating on the tip of his tongue, moving up to the sides, and he said something about more dampness. Okay, so it was hard to follow it all, and I’m sure if we lived in Missoula, we would follow up with him and see what he would recommend. I do remember Eric nodding in agreement sometimes, and then shaking his head on others. Ultimately, he would say that he thought the guy was half on, half off. In any case, I remember thinking Eric had some problems, yo, and boy was he messed up.

Then it was my turn. I stuck out my tongue, and the very calm, monotone practitioner said, “Wow, your tongue is really enlarged. Do you see that? My goodness.” Um. Should I be worried? Apparently it means that I’m battling fatigue. He started peppering me with questions. Are you tired all the time? What do you do for a living? Do you find yourself burning the candle at both ends often? Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Eric nodding his head, egging the guy on. When I told him I logged about 50,000 flight miles this year, he started nodding, too. “Yes, travel can do that. But this fatigue must have been going on for a while, it takes a while for your tongue to show the symptoms.” Can we move on, please?

“And you also have a deep crack in the middle of your tongue, but see how you’ve started to get horizontal cracks? This means you have had poor digestion for quite a while now, too.” Wait. Does this have something to do with the fact that I eat way more meat than I should and that I have a hard time getting fruits and vegetables in my diet? I’m addicted to animal protein. What can I say? Can we move on, please?

“See how your tongue is very pale? Poor circulation; Spleen deficiency. This probably manifests itself in cold hands and feet (oh come on, I really only have this problem in the winter, doesn’t everybody?), and easy bruising.” Eric was practically on the edge of his seat, enthusiastically adding, “Yes! A gnat could land on her for a second, and there would be a bruise there! He’s NAILING you, baby!!”

Can we go now, please? As we walked out, I found it decidedly curious that my tongue, the tool I use to write my restaurant critic articles, the organ that I’ve honed over the years to detect cumin or coriander in a dish, was showing that my body was apparently in disarray. My husband interrupted my thoughts, “Yeah, your tongue was huge, man.” Thanks. But I like to think of it as being just like every other muscle, and it gets nice and defined when worked out consistently. What with all the eating and talking, it works hard, you know.

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