Learn About Your Spleen and How to Keep it Healthy
What and where is the spleen?
The spleen is a soft, small organ that is about the size of an avocado and is positioned in the upper left side of the abdomen under the ribcage. The spleen has many functions; although, it is primarily an immune organ.
What does the spleen do?
The spleen is a hub for the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is the system that drains fluid from organs and tissues and circulates white blood cells to help the body fight infection. The spleen is the largest organ involved in this system. The following actions are some of the known functions of the spleen:
- Blood storage
- Blood filtration
- Production of infection fighting antibodies and white blood cells
- Maintenance of fluid balance in the body
- Maintenance of blood volume
How do I know if my spleen is compromised?
Common indicators that your spleen may be under stress are as follows:
- Frequent bacterial infections
- Chronically swollen lymph nodes (often manifests as small, swollen knots, especially on the back or front of the neck, under the chin, behind the ears, in the armpits and in the groin area)
- Unexplained pain or fullness in the upper left belly
- Chronic skin rashes/conditions
- A history of Mononucleosis (Mono) infection
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Anemia that doesn’t respond to iron supplementation
Are spleen issues dangerous?
It is unusual for spleen issues to be dangerous. Medically, the spleen is not typically addressed unless in medical emergency conditions. As the spleen is a soft, spongy organ, it is possible for it to rupture if it is injured. Injury usually comes from abdominal trauma. A Mono infection often causes the spleen to enlarge, which increases the spleen’s vulnerability to injury. As a result, individuals with Mono should be careful to avoid injury until the spleen returns to normal size, which can take weeks or months. A spleen rupture can be life threatening, but is extremely uncommon without abdominal trauma.
Unlike conventional medicine, holistic medicine addresses the spleen preventatively. Early warning signs of spleen symptoms can be addressed naturally to assist with overall health.
Can you live without a spleen?
Yes! You can live without your spleen. The liver will take over some of the spleen’s functions in its absence.
Some individuals are born without a spleen, or sometimes too many spleens that don’t function properly. I once heard of an individual that was born with five spleens! In his case, more was not better and all five were surgically removed. There are other cases where individuals had a history of a ruptured spleen or a surgical removal.
Often, life without a spleen can mean living on chronic antibiotics because the immune system is compromised. However, a spleenless life doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve had multiple patients, without a spleen, function with healthy immunity without the need for antibiotics, by taking additional immune, lymph and liver support.
How do you support your spleen?
There are many ways to support your spleen, or your immune system if you don’t have one. Here are the 3 primary ways to support your spleen:
- Reducing your toxic load.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Taking spleen and immune supporting supplements.
It is important to reduce your toxic load because one of the functions of the spleen is to filter the blood. Eliminating toxic cleaning products, personal hygiene products and additives to foods is a great way to help your spleen and thus your immune system.
Diet is always a cornerstone of immune health and plays a role in the quality of your blood. The best diet for your spleen is a low carb diet that is focused on high quality meats and proteins, high in vegetables (and in this case, especially cooked vegetables and greens) and good fats, with minimal carbs from starchier vegetables and fruits.
What supplements are good for the spleen?
There are many supplements that help to support the functioning of the spleen. Any immune system support may have an application in this case.
Here are a few of my favorite supplements for general spleen support:
- Chlorophyll Complex from Standard Process: This supplement contains the component of plants that makes them green. Chlorophyll helps to purify and build the blood.
- Immuplex from Standard Process: Immuplex is a whole food supplement that helps support the immune system and white blood cell maintenance.
- Scolopendrium from Marco Pharma: This supplement is an herbal blend that serves as a drainage remedy for the spleen. I have had many patients solve pain in the upper left abdomen using this remedy.
The spleen is a frequently overlooked organ because when it functions properly, there is little reason to think about it. However, your spleen is very important to your immunity and the quality of your blood and is thus worthy of attention. If you have any indicators of spleen stress, you should take proactive steps to heal it. At the NHCAA, we use Muscle Testing to evaluate your spleen for stress and to help locate the correct support in your individual case. If you need help with healing your spleen, contact our office.
Your Holistic Pharmacist,
Dr. Amanda Childress, PharmD