Have you opened your mouth lately to discover, to your alarm, a yellow orange color to your tongue? Could GERD be the cause?

After all, you haven’t been sucking on any lemon or orange popsicles or candy, so what can this strange symptom possibly be from?

“Acid reflux into the throat and mouth can cause irritation and inflammation of the tongue, which can cause a change in color of the tongue,” says Dr. Edward Brettholz, MD, with Concorde Gastroenterology, who is board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology and is Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine.

“Also, reflux of stomach contents, including enzymes and yellow bile, can specifically cause yellow discoloration of the tongue,” adds Dr. Brettholz.

The discoloration can also have a slightly orange tinge to it, making it more of a yellow orange hue.

Risk Factors and Causes of Acid Reflux or GERD

• Eating a lot at once, especially spicy foods
• Lying down right after eating a large meal
• Having excess body fat
• Eating close to bedtime
• Fatty or fried foods
• Alcohol or coffee
• Aspirin or ibuprofen
• Smoking
• Pregnancy
• A weakened lower esophageal sphincter allowing stomach acids to pass upwards into the esophagus
• Acute anxiety or chronic stress

Though ads and TV commercials for heartburn tend to be comical, untreated chronic acid reflux can lead to three serious conditions:

• Esophageal narrowing. The harsh acid causes scar tissue in the lower esophagus, making it harder for food to go down.

• Esophageal ulcer. Esophageal tissue is eroded by the acid and can bleed. A person may find it difficult to swallow.

• Barrett’s esophagus. Contact with acid alters the cells of the lower portion of the esophagus, making them more likely to undergo future malignant changes.

If you’ve been noticing a yellow or orange tongue that cannot be explained by sucking on candy, it’s time to see your doctor about GERD.

Dr. Brettholz lectures extensively and is involved in cutting edge research trials. He has a special interest and expertise in liver diseases, GERD, inflammatory bowel disease and hemorrhoid treatment.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.