Here’s a juicy tidbit: your spit plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. In fact, your mouth is a doorway for bacteria and saliva acts as a natural disinfectant. Apart from helping you eat and maintain good oral hygiene, it also provides disease-fighting substances that help prevent infections. Not only that, but the condition of your saliva is also a good way to gauge your health. So, stick out your tongue and let’s see what your saliva is trying to tell you.
Producing too little saliva
If you’re not drinking enough water, your body becomes chronically dehydrated. If you’re chronically dehydrated, the body stops producing saliva. While your mouth may not be totally dry, you’re still not making enough saliva to kill the bacteria. You may go on to experience bacterial overgrowth, and as a result, your breath will stink. According to Drugs.com, dehydration may also thicken saliva.
If you experience chronic dry mouth, the Mayo Clinic says that could be an indication of nerve damage. That’s because an injury or even surgery can cause nerve damage to your head and neck. And that may result in less-than-usual saliva flow. Other health conditions related to low saliva levels may include autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV/AIDS. Having a stroke or living with Alzheimer’s disease may also cause a perception of dry mouth, even though the salivary glands are functioning normally.
Producing too much
You could be pregnant. According to a study published in the Journal IBIMA, pregnant women produce more spit than the average person. Researchers studied pregnant women aged between 19 to 34 years old and in the third trimester. They collected salivary samples between 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. from both study participants and a control group. In order to test the flow of resting unstimulated saliva, subjects were asked not to use any mouthwash, smoke or consume food and beverages one hour prior to collection of the sample.
The pregnant group showed an increased rate of saliva compared to the non-pregnant women. This makes sense since increased salivary flow may be due to the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy.
It’s white and clumpy
Candida fungus can cause a yeast infection in your mouth — also known as “thrush.” Candida begins in the intestinal tract and, eventually, it moves into the stomach, then up the esophagus and finally into the mouth. Depending on how thick the yeast becomes, it can be seen in the mouth and on the tongue, according to Candida Support (CS). The fungal yeast mixes in the saliva, turning it white and clumpy. Testing for excess yeast or “thrush” is relatively simple and can be accomplished with a glass of water.
After waking in the morning, prior to putting anything into your mouth, work up some saliva and spit it into a clear glass of water, suggests CS. After one to three minutes, look in the glass. If you see strings floating down from your saliva, or if the water has turned cloudy, or if your saliva sinks to the bottom of the glass, you may have a yeast infection in your mouth. Healthy saliva floats on the top. You may even want to put out a glass of water on the nightstand the night before so that you can perform the test first thing in the morning. If you suspect you have “thrush,” visit your healthcare practitioner.
Your spit is acidic
Your saliva is either acidic, alkaline or neutral in its pH balance. But if your saliva is too acidic, it could be a sign of acid reflux, suggests Earth Clinic. Additional causes may include a nutritional deficiency, candidiasis, anxiety, depression and hormonal changes. Furthermore, acidic spit promotes tooth decay, dry mouth, sour taste in the mouth and bad breath.
Apple cider vinegar is a natural, nutrient-rich compound that when taken daily works to alkalize and level acidity in the body. This may effectively work to eliminate additional acidity in the mouth, says Earth Clinic.
It’s sticky upon wakening
Dry and sticky saliva could indicate that you suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common disorder whereby you experience one or more pauses in breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH). Usually, normal breathing resumes — sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Sleep apnea is chronic. As a result, the quality of your sleep suffers. Unfortunately, sleep apnea is often undiagnosed since doctors can’t detect the condition during routine office visits.
Untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes. It may also increase the risk or worsen heart failure, suggests the NIH. Typically, it requires long-term management, lifestyle changes and breathing devices to successfully treat sleep apnea. Interestingly, a Chinese study conducted on sleep apnea patients found that those who were at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease produced less spit than those who were not at high risk.
It tastes icky
Normally, saliva has antibacterial properties that keep your mouth clean and your breath fresh. Unless, of course, you’re chowing down on onions or garlic. However, when you regularly aren’t drinking enough water, and your body becomes chronically dehydrated, the body stops producing saliva. Your mouth might not be totally dry, but you’re not making enough saliva to kill the bacteria. Some people experience bacterial overgrowth, and as a result, their breath stinks.
Listen, your body produces a lot of saliva each day. In fact, according to research published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, you’re producing about 50 ounces of spit each day. And while that may seem gross, salivating is one of those human functions that we simply can’t live without. Saliva contains 72 types of bacteria, DNA, thousands of proteins, enzymes, minerals and hormones. A lot can be revealed in a drop of juicy drool. So, stick out your tongue often and check out your saliva. If you’re feeling off, then there’s a good chance your saliva has changed.
— Katherine Marko