ENLARGED SPLEEN (Splenomegaly)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT'S CAUSING IT? WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Are you prone to a problem with 'Enlarged Spleen'?
The spleen has two main functions in the body. The first is to filter the blood by removing microbes as well as dead or damaged red blood cells. The spleen also produces white blood cells for the immune system. Ayurveda considers the spleen (along with the liver) to be the root of the blood carrying channel in the body called rakta vaha srotas. In utero, the spleen and liver work together to produce red blood cells. Once a baby is born, the bone marrow takes over.
A person with an enlarged spleen may feel pain or fullness in the left upper abdomen. Sometimes this pain may spread to the left shoulder. A sore left shoulder could be due to other causes as well - so don't assume your sore left shoulder means your spleen is enlarged! Splenomegaly often presents no signs or symptoms. Other symptoms include pressure on the stomach from the spleen causing a person to feel full after eating a small amount of food or even without having eaten. An enlarged spleen may also cause hiccuping, frequent infections and fatigue.
From a Western perspective, there are many different causes for an enlarged spleen. The spleen often becomes enlarged when it works extra hard at its normal functions. This condition of a hyperactive spleen is called hypersplenism. It is usually connected to diseases where there are too many abnormal or dead red blood cells that must be filtered by the spleen, or from cleanup of various blood components from white blood cells and platelets to immune system by products. The spleen is overworked from removing these blood components
. People with hemolytic anemias like thalassemia or sickle cell anemia may have an enlarged spleen because their red blood cells die quickly, within 30 days instead of the normal 120 days. This type of splenomegaly would be considered a Pitta type because Pitta governs the blood (Rakta Vaha Srotas). In the case of hemolytic anemias the rough (khara guna) and sharp quality (tikshna guna) is imbalanced which kills the red blood cells in order to protect the body from malaria infection. The main element of red blood cells are fire. The quick breakdown of red blood cells increases fire element in the body and the product of irritating bile.
The spleen may be overworked because of an increased immune response as in systemic viral, bacterial or parasitic infections or diseases of the lymph. This would be a Kapha type of hypersplenism because of the congestion that results. The process of filtering blood borne pathogens can result in abscess formation when disease fighting white blood cells become engorged with materials the body can't digest. These giant toxin filled cells accumulate in the spleen as it purifies the blood. Due to the toxicity, abscess formation will also involve the hot quality of Pitta dosha as well as the fire element.
As recognized by Ayurveda, the spleen and liver have an intimate relationship in ensuring healthy blood. Hypersplenism often occurs with disorders of the liver. It can be related to portal hypertension - high blood pressure in the veins carrying blood from the digestive tract to the liver. The pressure from this can lead to severe bleeding in the GI tract and ultimately anemia. Excessive filtering of platelets causes thrombocytopenia, a deficiency of platelets in the blood which causes bleeding into the tissues, bruising, and slow blood clotting after injury. It is the most common cause of hypersplenism and may contribute to portal hypertension related bleeding. It is common for the spleen to become enlarged with liver disease. Liver disease causes abnormalities in blood coagulation and this can cause a person to bleed easily after only a minor injury.
Splenomegaly could also occur when there's a condition causing overproduction of blood cells to grow in the bone marrow. This is a Kapha type condition of excess. The gross and dense qualities are imbalanced as is the earth element. The bone marrow involves both Ranjaka Pitta (in its blood making capacity), Rakta Vaha Srotas (which governs red blood cells) and Majja Vaha Srotas (which governs the nerves and the bone marrow in Ayurveda).
Congestive splenomegaly develops when blood coagulates in the splenic vein, hepatic portal vein which goes from the GI tract to the liver, or in the veins around the heart as in congestive heart failure. This is a Kapha type of splenomegaly due to stagnation. The heavy, slow, gross and cloudy qualities of Kapha are out of balance as are the water and earth elements. This is excess Kapha in Avalambaka Kapha and Vyana Vayu (circulation).
Trauma - as in the case of a sports injury or car accident - can cause spleen enlargement. Trauma always involves Vata dosha via the cold, light and mobile qualities which cause sudden change and ungrounding. Cancer, and other medical conditions can also cause splenomegaly.
Splenomegaly is a serious condition and should be checked by a medical doctor. Splenomegaly is usually caused by an underlying condition. Because splenomegaly mainly involves Pitta and Kapha via their hot, dense, gross and static qualities, favor cooling and cleansing dietary and herbal protocols. Bitter taste is going to be very useful here as it pacifies both doshas. Bitter reduces congestion in the spleen, as bitter taste reduces stagnation and cleanses the liver, directly reducing pressure in the spleen / liver system. Bitter also thins the blood by reducing sugar levels in the blood. Bitter lightens and dries things out to placate enlargement. Aloe, neem, turmeric and pomegranate are all bitter as are bitter greens like dandelion and arugula. Diuretic herbs may be useful where Kapha is congested. A client who has splenomegaly may be anemic or have other blood deficiencies. These should be address with tonics and doshically appropriate food.
Disclaimer: 'Enlarged Spleen' could be serious and should be checked by a medical doctor.
DIET REMEDIES FOR 'ENLARGED SPLEEN'
PRODUCT REMEDIES FOR 'ENLARGED SPLEEN'
FIND MORE LIVER AND GALL BLADDER RELATED PRODUCTSSee our herbs & products in these categories. Or, click here for general Blood and Circulation Tips.
DISCLAIMER: The pathogenesis of each person's condition is unique, and so the diet must be fit to the individual and the unique root causes of the condition in your body.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA HEAL 'ENLARGED SPLEEN'?
AVOID DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS THAT AGGRAVATE THESE EFFECTS
With Enlarged Spleen, one or more of the following
and qualities may be aggravated.
If you have an imbalance of one of these doshas or qualities, Ayurveda recommends avoiding foods and lifestyle habits that aggravate that quality and/or dosha.
These imbalanced doshas and qualities may need to be brought back into balance before this condition can be healed.
Click on the quality to learn what foods and
lifestyle habits should be avoided.
Symptoms Tell A StoryThe first step to healing is learning patterns from your symptoms. Symptoms are clues that reveal underlying imbalances, showing you where your body is weak. Specifically, they reveal the doshas & qualities that may have become aggravated. If you notice a quality or dosha appears next to many of your symptoms, it helps you establish a pattern that may be systemic.
V = VATA, P = PITTA, K = KAPHA
To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.
SPLEEN-TONICAn herb that strengthens spleen function by improving strength of the blood. Spleen tonics Builds agni, brighten the person's appearances & firms up tissues.
Cleanse and Detox:
DETOXICANTAn herb that eliminates or metabolizes toxins from the body.
Heart & Circulation:
BLOOD-TONICAn herb that produces more blood cells in the body or otherwise strengthens blood. Helpful for anemia and other types of deficiency.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORYReduces inflammation in the body. Different herbs and carriers target different body systems.
ANTIBACTERIALHerbs that kill bacteria or slow their growth.
ANTIVIRALHerbs that inhibit the development of viral infections. Antivirals also can be found in essential oils of some herbs, such as eucalyptus oil.
IMMUNE-STIMULANTStimulates and strengthens the immune system. Helpful when fighting off a cold or flu.
ADDRESS ISSUES IN STAGE OF DISEASE 3ENLARGED SPLEEN IS IN STAGE OF DISEASE 3 - ATTACKING TISSUE
If you have symptoms in this category it means that your imbalances are becoming stronger and weakening your body's resistance. Most people have a weakness in one or more organs. These areas of weakness are the 'weak link in the chain.' They are first to succumb when an imbalance reaches a tipping point. Repairing imbalances in this category often represent your last opportunity to prevent disease. At any moment, these imbalances could overwhelm weakened tissue and develop into a disease. You may feel pain or discomfort in the weakened area. At this stage you will need to support the weakened tissue with specialized foods and herbs for the weakened tissue.
REDUCE THESE RELATED SYMPTOMS & HABITSThe following symptoms & habits may be related to 'Enlarged Spleen'. See your quiz results for a computerized assessment of your body type. Please click on the symptoms below to learn more about them.
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HOW AYURVEDA WORKSARE YOU WONDERING HOW AYURVEDA CAN HELP YOU?
WHY IS AYURVEDA THE RIGHT SOLUTION?Ayurveda strengthens the body, in addition to addressing the disorder. It take a holistic, systemic approach, instead of myopically focusing on the disorder in question. Ayurveda shows a person how to interpret signs and symptoms of imbalance, and how to address them using materials from home, so they can optimize their health on a continual basis. You can't take the doctor home with you, but you can take Ayurveda home with you. Ayurveda is the most advanced and easy to use home system for self healing with an exceptional focus on digestion.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA WORK?Ayurveda starts by identifying your body type, which identifies certain tendencies in your body to get sick (as well as identifying your strengths). It uses body type to determine the likely root causes of your disorders. Next, Ayurveda analyzes the nature of your disorder. It fits all your signs and symptoms into a pattern, expressed as a combination of gunas / qualities. For example, you may have a heat disorder, a cold disorder, or an oily disorder, etc. This simple categorical approach shows you how to correct systemic imbalances and strengthen your body as a whole.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food so you can easily match food to your imbalances (gunas). By eating an optimal diet that balances your gunas, your whole body is strengthened and the conditions that created the disorder are removed. Once the root causes of the disease are removed, the disease lessens in strength or disappears altogether. Additional remedies - such as herbs and lifestyle practices - focused on the specific disorder, can greatly enhance your healing.
Want to learn more about Ayurveda and its step-by-step approach to healing? Click below.LEARN MORE
GET STARTEDTo get started on your Ayurvedic journey, we first recommend that your find your body type by taking our free quiz. In Ayurveda, every solution is based on your unique body type, so by taking this quiz, you’ll get the best results.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
Comments & Personal ExperiencesHow does 'enlarged spleen' affect your quality of life? What aggravates it? What has helped you? Is there something you'd like to know about 'enlarged spleen'?
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Spleen Enlargement due to iron overload (Hemochromatosis)
The suggested dose is 1/8-1/4 tsp 2x/day in warm water or as directed by your practitioner.