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The impact of the spleen on daily life is so far-reaching, the thought of writing an article on the subject seemed a daunting task. Yet, what follows is a brief overview of the beneficial functions and the numerous dysfunctions of one of the most influential organs in the body.
Having lived with a compromised spleen from early life, primarily due to a poor diet and stressful life, I can corroborate many of the symptoms described below from personal experience.
Decades of struggling with the detrimental impact of various foods, including common health foods, on splenic powers have given me a deep insight into direct relationships between food and symptoms of a compromised spleen. These associations are included in the compilations below.
It was not that long ago that western medical science felt the spleen had very little value (given that it could be removed and the patient would still live a seemingly unaffected life). Of course, like the appendix (not well understood previously, yet now believed to be a manufacturer of hormones and lymph antibodies), the spleen is gaining in popularity for its numerous valuable contributions to the upkeep of human health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has recognized the central role of the spleen for thousands of years, along with its numerous actions in support of other organs in the body. The outlines below compile the most significant discoveries surrounding the role of the spleen, both ancient and modern.
The spleen is the organ of moderation & harmonization. Excesses and deficiencies of all kinds, mentally, emotionally, dietarily, and with lifestyle habits, have detrimental influences on the spleen and the numerous organs that it affects.
The spleen is central to the transformation of food & drink into both physical energy and blood. It assists in the separation of the essence (strength) from the material benefits (nutrition) in food, then delivers each to their respective areas of the body where most appropriate.
The spleen is also responsible for holding the integrity of organs in their proper shape and location, with dysfunctions revealed in cases of varicose veins, hemorrhoids, hernias, and prolapsed organs.
The spleen's actions on the digestive processes, if clouded by excesses or concentrates (like sugar), can lead to mental sluggishness and loss of memory. On the other hand, excessive thought and worry will affect the spleen leading to digestive disturbances.
The spleen is responsible for purifying the blood as well as storing a reserve of blood cells that can be helpful in the event of shock from the loss of blood.
The spleen is involved in the regulation of bowel activity, with imbalances resulting in either constipation or diarrhea.
The spleen is the central lymphatic organ (along with the thymus and the lymph glands), thus plays a key role in protecting the body from both pathogens and toxins.
It is an integral part of the immune system, in that the spleen, along with the lymphatic system that it controls, plays a central role in the manufacture of antibodies that protect us against all pathogenic presences in the blood and lymph.
The spleen recycles iron for the production of new red blood cells and other purposes, therefore, when the spleen is not functioning properly, anemia can result.
Red Pulp of the Spleen: The red pulp of the spleen provides a blood-filtering function. It destroys abnormal or old red blood cells and is a storage place for some elements of blood, including iron, white blood cells, immunoglobulin proteins (which counter various bacterial and viral infections that attack the mucous membrane, while some immunoglobulin create components like serotonin and histamine that prevent various types of food and skin allergies), and platelets (needed to help the blood the clot). It also contains phagocytes, which attack and ingest bacteria and other pathogens.
White Pulp of the Spleen: The white pulp of the spleen and lymphatic glands are made up of clumps of lymphatic tissue that produce lymphocytes, monocytes, and plasma cells, which in turn are capable of manufacturing over 100 trillion types of antibodies configured specifically to neutralize each unique type of antigen (pathogen).
Early signs of spleen stress include the need to clear the throat frequently, drippy or swollen sinuses, becoming spacey or flighty, the loss of the ability to concentrate, or difficulty comprehending written material.
More extreme cases of spleen dysfunction will result in a melancholy depression, heavy or extremely weak extremities, cold hands & feet, alcoholism, loss of appetite, edema, bloated belly, and a high susceptibility to infections.
The spleen is harmed by both excesses and deficiencies. Remember, life is intended to be an exercise in learning how to balance all extremes. It is about finding the heart space, the middle ground where extreme positions are brought together in a state of cooperative, moderate balance.
Excesses and deficiencies produce a particular impact on the spleen, thereby reducing its important role in the body.
There are three primary food groups that affect the spleen most strongly:
1. Concentrated sugars, sweets, and an excess of fruits. Sweets combined with oils or fats stress the spleen even further.
2. Alcohol (including beer, wine, hard liquor, liqueurs, kombucha, honey meade, jun, etc.).
3. Stimulants like coffee, green/black tea, matcha, pu'er (mild), yerba mate, guayusa (mild), guarana, yohimbe, mahuang, cacao (mild), even an excess of hot peppers
The effect is compounded of course, by combining any of these in the same day or same meal.
Excessive oils and fats will further aggravate the spleen's natural decongestant function.
It is also true that small quantities of these food groups do little but move the spleen slightly away from the middle ground (being, at times, a positive health strategy), whereas, in greater amounts the spleen will be harmed, thus prompting a variety of possible side effects.
Continual excesses of these food groups over time can lead to the more serious conditions mentioned below.
The spleen is influential in the functioning of most of the major areas of human physiology. The following is an indication of the most significant organ systems affected by the spleen:
endocrine/hormonal system (the spleen empowers, or generates energy for, the adrenals, the most prolific hormone producer)
As a result, the spleen is intimately involved in the development of:
digestion & nutrient assimilation
organ & vein integrity
The spleen is negatively affected by extremes of all kinds such as food deficiencies (calorie restrictive dieting) or excesses (comfort food binges), too spicy or too cooling, too sweet or too bitter, or by stimulants & depressants.
The spleen can be harmed or burdened by:
excesses of certain food & drink (mainly sweets, stimulants, alcohol, oils and fats)
foods low in nutrition (most processed foods)
mental or emotional stress (like worry or fear)
overexertion of any kind
insufficient sleep or light sleeping
starvation diets to lose weight, or due to anorexia
extended deprivation fasts (with the exception of fasting mainly on superfoods)
excessive detoxification, liver flushes
mineral imbalances (often caused by taking typical isolated mineral supplements like cal-mag, copper, zinc, etc.)
an acid constitution (reduces lymph drainage & bile production)
a sedentary lifestyle (also inhibits lymph drainage)
a chemically toxic or moldy environment (overwhelming the detoxification functions of the splenic/lymphatic system)
The above extremes can cause a number of beginning symptoms to appear, increasing in severity with prolonged exposure:
food & drink may stagnate in the stomach or bowels
poor digestion leading to GERDS, hiatal hernia, heartburn, etc.
the tongue may lose its ability to distinguish flavors
mental concentration and groundedness may disappear
the arms and legs may grow limp and tired
hands and feet may grow cold
an intolerance to cold and heat may develop
discomfort and distention may be felt in the abdomen
edema (fluid buildup) in the extremities or around the heart
vomiting or diarrhea may develop
muscle loss or emaciation may occur
pathogens may proliferate throughout the blood, bowels, and lymph
As can be seen here, the influence of the spleen on our health and quality of life is utterly pervasive.
What follows is a more complete list of common symptoms related to spleen dysfunction broken down into 10 areas of experience:
low energy, lethargy, extreme exhaustion
a lack of aspiration or motivation to get anything done
low or damaged mitochondria (thus low ATP synthesis - the energy molecule)
anemia due to lack of iron availability
timidity, loss of desire to talk
soft, quiet voice, and in extreme cases, only able to whisper
general weakness, the arms and legs feel weak & tired
weak muscles, poor muscle tone
some types of paralysis
heavy and sore body, muscle inflammation
anxiety attacks, constant low grade anxiety/fear
fear of change, phobias, paranoia
loss of interest in life, loss of drive, lack of fortitude, low aspiration
spaciness, loss of focus, inability to concentrate, ungroundedness, difficulty comprehending what is read
loss of memory
jitteriness, speediness, rapid talk, flightiness, ADD & ADHD (often related to caffeine, or heavy metal & chemical toxicity)
swollen, drippy, stuffy, congested sinuses, and a general over-abundance of mucus in the body
clearing the throat frequently after consuming sweets, fruits, stimulants, oils, fats, fried food, or dairy
feelings of a lump of mucus the back of the throat that will not swallow
difficulty digesting fats, oils, and fatty foods
lung and sinus congestion, waking up in the mornings severely congested
tendency toward lung and bronchial congestion/infections
abdominal distention after eating
sleepiness after eating
heartburn, acid reflux, GERDSm hiatal hernia
poor nutrient assimilation
loss of taste, the inability to distinguish flavors, lack of appetite
no thirst, thirst without the desire to drink
hungry, but unable to get much food down (indicating pathogens in the spleen)
sour stomach, belching
intermittent loose stools
frequency and urgency of urination
scanty, dark yellow, or burning urination
poor circulation to the extremities (cold hands & feet)
difficulty keeping warm when the weather is only mildly cool
heat sensations, spontaneous sweating
swollen, puffy areas of the body usually beginning in a joint (ankles, knee, etc.), edema
pale face and lips
low oxygen utilization at the cellular level (oxygen utilization involves iron in some instances)
difficulty catching the breath, shortness of breath, feeling like a deep breath is not sufficiently oxygenating
frequent yawning in attempt to catch the breath
asthmatic breathing with the slightest exertion
white vaginal discharge
poor immune response, prone to infections
swollen & painful lymphatic glands, indicating liver congestion/poor bile flow/inflammation/infection
slow healing wounds
recreational & pharmaceutical addiction
addiction to coffee, black/green tea, chocolate
strong attraction to sweet foods & drink
preference for added sugar in beverages
an aversion to bitter taste
preference for heavily spiced foods & extremely hot peppers
a general preference for extremes in life, both deprivation and excess
Obviously, dietary and environmental stresses will have to be addressed to achieve optimal results. Yet, progress can be made in the meanwhile by adding spleen-building herbal nutrients to your health regime.
Spleen Builder, Spleen Complement, Herbal Oxygen, and White Oak Bark were built for this purpose.
Spleen Builder is the daily maintenance and general long-term rebuilding program that supports all areas of spleen weakness.
Spleen Complement (call the office) provides the 4 herbs (Cardamon, Codonopsis, White Oak Bark, and Turmeric) that are needed in greater quantity than what can be achieved in the multi-herb Spleen Builder formula alone in order to provide immediate enhancement of spleen functions.
Herbal Oxygen adds that extra punch when the diet or life stresses strain the respiratory system (usually recognized by mucus congestion, runny sinuses, hay fever, difficulty catching the breath, frequent yawning, or a constant need to clear the throat).
White Oak Bark (call the office) is needed in even greater quantities under certain conditions and is therefore taken along with Spleen Builder, Spleen Complement, or Herbal Oxygen during more acute situations.
The added emphasis of White Oak Bark (needed in the greatest quantity of the splenic herbs to be most effective) is especially helpful with alcohol addiction, or when an organ, gland, or tissue is bulbous, bulging, herniated, prolapsed, weak and flabby, enlarged, inflamed, or with fluid buildup. It acts like an astringent to pull things back into place.
White Oak Bark is also helpful in building bone and teeth.
Nourishing the spleen back to normal operating efficiency is accomplished with daily herbal support coupled with a moderation of extremes, both excesses and insufficiencies.
Lifestyle habits and diet will have to be addressed for long term results. Reducing sweets, stimulants, alcohol, and fats/oils will go a long way to ease the strain on splenic powers. This is about implementing a moderate balance with all things in life.
higher energy levels
greater physical strength and endurance
better, more stable moods
greater mental focus
improved mucus elimination
drier sinuses, less throat congestion/coughing
improved digestion & greater nutrient assimilation
improved lymphatic circulation, less swelling
improved blood & capillary circulation, thus warmer hands & feet
improved oxygen/nutrient delivery to the cells
better oxygen utilization, less yawning or sighing
easier breathing, easy to catch one's breath
improved organ & vein integrity
enhanced immune response
The body has backup organs in some cases to fill in when an organ is missing or deficient in its operation. In the case of the spleen, the lymph glands, thymus, and liver serve to fill in in various ways, as they also perform some of the functions accomplished by the spleen. Antibody production by the lymph & thymus, and iron storage & bilirubin production by the liver are examples.
Spleen supportive herbal resources also have energetic influences which apply to many areas of related physiology supportive of splenic activity.
Today's science is aware of some of this supportive activity from other organs and glands in the body, and much still remains undiscovered, yet the natural wisdom built into the human body, as well as within Nature's herbs & spices, are comprehensive in their support functions so as to enhance back up measures from several areas of human physiology.
Nature knows which organs or glands need to be supported for optimal health, especially when an organ is not functioning up to par, or is missing altogether, and has built nutritional support for this purpose into a spectrum of herbal resources.
Since the spleen is naturally involved in immune function activity and digestion, herbal resources also supportive of a strong immune system and good digestion can be helpful as well.
The human body was designed to function perfectly for hundreds of years. Our lifestyle habits, environment, and diet have taken their toll, shortening our lives, while making the few years we do spend on earth to be less enjoyable than they could be.
It is possible to reverse many of these effects with consistent application of Nature's herbal resources and a few dietary changes. Lifestyle habits and environmental changes may come slower, yet still, we can improve what years we still have left with a few sensible choices.
Many blessings of health & success.
Enjoy the simple gifts from Nature.
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