Enlarged Spleen Symptoms, Warning Signs + 5 Treatments | How To Prevent An Enlarged Spleen From Developing?

Enlarged Spleen Symptoms, Warning Signs + 5 Treatments | How To Prevent An Enlarged Spleen From Developing?

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Enlarged spleen - Dr. Axe
Did you know you could have an enlarged spleen and not even realize it? It’s true. In fact, most people don’t experience any noticeable symptoms of an enlarged spleen at all!

Another surprise? Research shows that around 3 percent of healthy first-year college students have enlarged spleens. In some cases, people have genetically enlarged spleens, but it doesn’t affect their overall health. However, for others, it can point to problems like an underlying infection, illness or developing disorder. (1)

How can you tell if you have an enlarged spleen, and how can you treat it if you do? There are natural ways to deal with this common condition.

What Is an Enlarged Spleen?

As a crucial part our lymphatic system, the spleen is a vital “guardian” organ that we rely on every single day to keep the body free from infections, virus and dangerous pathogens of all kinds. An enlarged spleen, a condition called “splenomegaly,” is a clear warning sign that the immune system is fighting hard to remove threats from the body but failing to do so because it can’t keep up with high demand.

Under normal circumstances, your spleen is about the size of your fist and hardly even detectable to touch during a physical exam. However, when you’re sick or your lymphatic system is triggered for another reason, your spleen swells up and can dramatically grow in size. (2)

An enlarged spleen can sometimes be very noticeable and painful, but most people don’t have any symptoms at all and aren’t even aware of the problem they’re experiencing! It is a good idea to figure out why the body is trying to defend itself more than usual before it becomes a bigger and more serious problem.

The Role of the Spleen

The spleen is a brown, oval-shaped organ located in the upper left side of the abdomen just below the rib cage. Part of the lymphatic system, it performs a number of important functions in the body that protect us from the effects of outside “invaders,” stress and certain deficiencies. Think of your lymphatic system like this: If your body were a city, the organs and fluids that make up the lymphatic system would be the policemen, firefighters and the garbage men.

Probably the single most important thing the spleen does is produce antibodies that fight against bacteria and other microbes. In addition, spleen function includes helping keep the blood clean, transporting and balancing fluid levels, maintaining blood platelets, and ushering waste away from muscle and joint tissue.

The spleen ultimately controls the level of circulating red blood cells within the blood, removing old and worn-out red cells that can no longer do their jobs. It also very importantly fights infections by producing phagocytes and lymphocytes, two types of protective white blood cells.

Most health problems associated with the spleen involve the spleen becoming enlarged — and when this happens, the risk for a “ruptured spleen” also goes up.  Like some of our other digestive system organs, including the liver and gallbladder, the spleen is especially vulnerable to the effects of various “toxins” or parasites entering the body, along with chemicals we take in from drugs, even some medications and prescriptions.

The spleen is prone to becoming easily overworked when liver function is poor, and surprisingly some believe the spleen is usually more likely to develop problems when your diet is “damp, cold and raw.” Traditional systems of medicine, including Ayurvedic medicine, believed that a cold or damp environment, eating too many salty or sour foods, overexerting yourself, and poor digestion all make someone more susceptible to spleen and liver damage. (3)

The results of a suffering spleen? An enlarged, malfunctioning spleen can lead to frequent infections; low energy; anemic symptoms; changes in appetite, body weight, digestion and blood flow; and more. If you want to maintain a strong immune system, avoid becoming sick, and retain muscle and joint health into older age, then you want to be careful to take good care of your entire lymphatic system, including, of course, your spleen!

Enlarged spleen and the spleen's role - Dr. Axe

Symptoms

An enlarged spleen is usually first discovered during a routine physical exam, catching most people by surprise, since symptoms can sometimes be minimal enough to not cause any concerns. Doctors can’t feel the spleen when it isn’t enlarged, so if they notice a swollen one during an exam, it’s a sign that something isn’t right.

In a healthy person, the normal weight and size of the spleen can be different depending on factors like age, sex, body weight and body surface area. Studies show that the spleen can range from 58 grams in a woman to 170 grams in a man over the age of 20. An enlarged spleen that isn’t normal for someone’s body type and age can possibly signify the presence of disease, a virus, cognitive disorders or other issues, so don’t get alarmed just yet!

The symptoms of an enlarged spleen can include:

  • After a large meal, indigestion or feeling uncomfortable is a common occurrence.
  • On the upper left side of the abdomen, there is pain in the spleen.
  • The pain has spread from the abdomen to the left shoulder.
  • Pain in the spleen when taking deep breaths or moving around.
  • low energy levels, possibly even chronic fatigue
  • There are symptoms of jaundice, including redness of the skin.
  • symptoms of anemia (4)
  • There is a unexplained weight loss.
  • Ear infections, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and sinus infections are all frequent.
  • It is easy to bleed and bruise easily.

One of the side effects of a damaged spleen is becoming more susceptible to illnesses and feeling very fatigued. The spleen works as part of the body’s natural drainage network, producing protective white blood cells, and carrying waste andbacteria away from the body. White blood cells produced by the spleen capture and destroybacteria, dead cells and tissue, and other outside particles that make their way into the body and circulate through the bloodstream.

The blood goes through the spleen and is cleaned before being sent to the hospital. Red and white blood cells need the spleen to work, otherwise we can’t maintain them.

Causes

The spleen can become swollen for a lot of different reasons, some more concerning than others. For example, viral infections, high alcohol intake, cirrhosis of the liver and parasitic infections are all risk factors for an enlarged spleen. Some of the ways you can prolong the health of your spleen include avoiding a poor diet high in processed foods, limiting the amount of over-the-counter or prescription drugs you take, which helps cleanse the liver, only drinking alcohol in moderation, and quitting smoking or ever using recreational drugs.

The causes of enlarged spleen are listed.

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viruses
  • Parasites
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • A diet high in chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins can cause inflammation.
  • Cancer that has spread.
  • Is this a disease of the body or is it related to the disease of the organ?
  • Blood diseases are characterized by abnormal blood cells.
  • There are disorders of the immune system.
  • There are auto immune reactions and disorders.
  • A sports injury can be caused by a physical trauma to the spleen.

The swelling in the spleen is a sign that white blood cells are trying to attack something threatening. Infections that can impact the spleen include viruses, parasites, and infections caused bybacteria.

Leishmaniasis, a type of parasitic disease found in parts of the tropics, subtropics and southern Europe, can lead to an enlarged spleen. Leishmaniasis is believed to affect about 200,000–400,000 people every year and develops after coming into contact with parasites, including infected sand flies. Symptoms can remain “silent” or can cause skin sores, ulcers, weight loss, fever and pain, in addition to swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen and liver.

Other types of parasites that can lead to enlarged spleen include: malaria, toxoplasmosis,  viscera larva migrans and schistosomiasis. (5) If these are possible causes of your condition — for example, because you traveled to another continent and might have been bitten by an infected insect — your doctor will work with you to specifically treat symptoms and stabilize you before problems can worsen.

Cancer is another reason that someone can suffer spleen problems, especially leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells that take over normal healthy cells) or lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue). Drugs and alcohol are capable of causing problems in the spleen because they directly affect how splenic cells work. Drugs provoke severe hemolysis, which is the rupture or destruction of red blood cells. This is associated with decreased immune function and splenomegaly.

Sometimes the spleen is damaged or enlarged because of side effects or disturbances in other organs, such as the liver or other parts of the immune system. (6) For example, an enlarged spleen can develop because the liver becomes congested and overworked (resulting in liver disease in some cases), trying hard to usher toxins out the body as quickly as possible, but becoming overwhelmed in the process. (7)

How to Diagnose and Treat an Enlarged Spleen

If your doctor suspects that you have an enlarged spleen, he or she can use a variety of methods to determine how large it is, such as using blood tests and other methods. Sometimes a test will be done with an instrument.

If your health care provider suspects you have a parasites, they will look for symptoms such as a skin rash, a low red blood cell count, and low white blood cell count, which can be caused by parasites, in patients. Your doctor will work with you to address the root causes of the enlarged spleen, since it can become very serious and even deadly if left unattended.

Treatment options for dealing with an enlarged spleen are usually aimed at reducing any noticeable symptoms and pain, while also tackling the underlying causes like a chronic disease, diet, lifestyle, infection and so on. Only as a last resort would a doctor decide to perform surgery to remove an enlarged spleen. For most people, luckily it’s possible to remove the trigger that causes an enlarged spleen before surgery becomes necessary. (8)

It is important that the body is protected from disease and infections, so removing the spleen comes with its own risks. After surgery to remove the spleen, the body is left with one less defense against infections and illness, and this can lead to more illnesses and infections down the line.

There are a number of ways that you can help protect yourself from an enlarged spleen.

1. Protect the Spleen from Rupturing

Anyone who has an enlarged spleen should be careful to avoid any type of rough contact, especially near the abdomen, since this can cause a ruptured spleen. This means avoiding contact sports (like football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, etc.) and limiting any type of physical activity where the spleen can become further damaged.

Since a car accident is likely to cause even more injury to the spleen, it is important to wear a seat belt when driving. Remember that not every case of an enlarged spleen is problematic, so find out from your doctor what types of activities you are cleared to do.

2. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet

The spleen is seen as one of the most important organs to well-being, strength and immunity. The spleen is more than just a guardian and organ capable of managing blood cells, it also helps turn nutrition from food into fuel.

In Ancient Chinese Medicine and other schools of Eastern medicine, the spleen is one of the key contributors to fatigue and anemia, and it can impact how other organs work, including the colon, uterus, rectum, liver or stomach.

The best way to support your spleen and entire lymphatic and digestive systems is to eat a diet high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fluids. This helps lower inflammation and fight free radical damage that can make an enlarged spleen turn into a worsened problem.

A healthy diet can benefit the entire body, including the spleen, which will work more efficiently to carry blood cells and nutrients to tissue, while also removing waste, when you get plenty of nutrition. The body of excess fluids and foreign matter can be helped by a diet high in plant foods that provides enough hydrating water.

Try not to eat foods that can cause stress to your immune and circulatory systems. The more chemicals you get from the foods you eat, the more work your organs have to do. Foods to limit or eliminate from your diet include: dairy products, low-quality animal products, sugar, refined vegetable oils, and processed foods that are high in calories.

Enlarged spleen diet - Dr. Axe

Some of the key anti-inflammatory foods to load up on include:

  • The vegetables are green.
  • cruciferous veggies, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and berries, are all brightly colored.
  • lean proteins, especially omega-3 foods like salmon and wild seafood
  • There are nuts and seeds.
  • Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil are some of the oils that are unrefined.
  • condiments and spices include ginger, capsicum, molasses, turmeric, garlic.

3. Move Your Body

Drainage of the lymphatic system depends heavily on you moving your body regularly. While lymph fluid can move through the lymph nodes and spleen somewhat on its own thanks to gravity and blood circulation, you’re much more prone to illness and swelling when you’re stagnant. Regularly exercising benefits your spleen because it helps keep blood flowing and fluids moving through your body. This is important considering the spleen is responsible for the filtering and transformation of particles within lymph fluids. (9)

Exercise increases blood flow to your digestive organs and engages muscles in your digestive tract, so once the spleen and liver do their jobs to clean the body, more movement further helps usher out waste. Following exercise with foam rolling, massage therapy or infrared sauna treatments is also beneficial for supporting the lymphatic system and helping with detoxification.

The effects of stress on your immune, bicyle and lymphatic systems can be very serious. Every time your brain suspects that you are in a threatening situation, hormones are altered that affect your body’s ability to defend itself from threats.

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and cause inflammation, digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and much more. (10) To help combat high amounts of stress, make it a priority to try relaxing exercises like being more active, doing hobbies you love, spending time in nature, taking warm baths, breathing exercises and so on.

5. Try Supplements that Support Lymphatic

Several essential oils are beneficial for improving the body’s ability to drain swelling, fight infections, increase blood flow and reduce pain. Essential oils that are useful for targeting swelling in the lymph nodes include lemon, myrrh, oregano, cypress and frankincense oils.

Combine several drops with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil, and massage them over the spleen two to three times per day. Other supplements that can help improve liver health, circulation and fight inflammation include: omega-3 fish oils, turmeric, burdock root, digestive enzymes, activated charcoal and milk thistle.

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