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  • Writer's pictureDr. Melissa Adams

Your Tongue's Connections to Your Body (Part 2)

Baby sticking their tongue out while held by an adult

Your tongue has intricate and specific connections to various parts of your body and has an influence in many more things than most of us think of, when we consider the job of our tongue.

We typically think of our tongue as helping with taste, eating, drinking, breathing ... basics! But in reality, our tongue has a much broader and much more important impact on our health than "just" those already-very-important-basics.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS)

Commonly referred to as "sleep apnea," this is a condition we seem to be hearing about more and more often. Sleep apnea is a condition where, for some reason (there may be one or many reasons), an individual will have partially obstructed breathing while they are sleeping, or they will have completely obstructed breathing while sleeping. One potential cause of this condition is poor function of "the lingual muscles" (tongue). A weak tongue or a tongue that is frequently not in the proper place in someone's mouth, can cause significant breathing issues.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

In its resting state, our tongue should be resting firmly against the roof of our mouth (there are many illustrations of this out there, feel free to Google some!).

Our ANS helps with a wide variety of bodily functions, including but not limited to - glandular, breathing, heart rate, and digestion. The ANS has 2 systems within it, with opposing functions (like a seesaw) ... the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is one system within the ANS, and the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is the other system within the ANS.

In short (and trying to keep things somewhat easy to understand), PNS is what helps you to feel calmer, more relaxed, it's often referred to as "rest and digest" system. This is what helps to ensure food moves through your digestive tract at the appropriate rate so you get all your nutrients. It is involved in a slower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, less anxiety, etc.

In contrast to the PNS, the SNS helps us to run from the tiger, it is the "fight or flight" system. This system often helps to increase heart rate and blood pressure, increase in anxiety and fear (because, hello - TIGER! you SHOULD be afraid if a tiger is running from you!), etc. It also tends to cause digestive and other issues because, let's face it, if you're running from a tiger, many things (like fertility) just don't matter too much!

WHAT does all of this have to do with your tongue!?

If your tongue is resting so that the tip of your tongue is on your hard palate (front of the roof of your mouth), your body is more likely to be a bit more SNS dominant. This doesn't mean you're in full force fight-or-flight, but it could be just a little (which can make a big difference on some days).

If your tongue is resting so that the tip of your tongue is on your soft palate (toward the back of the roof of your mouth), your body is more likely to be a bit more PNS dominant. This, again, doesn't mean it's an easy button to relaxing yourself, but it's something more you can do, in addition to nasal breathing while your tongue is there.


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