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Most people consider the appendix a useless appendage to the colon that no longer has a purpose in our body due to evolution and changes in the human body. Charles Darwin, among other, believed the appendix was a vestigal organ, that once helped humans digest tree bark. It is a thin worm-like sac that is attached to the bottom of the ascending colon.
But it is becoming more apparent that the appendix does have a purpose, and actually a rather important one to gut health and thus the health of the entire body. It seems the appendix is key in keeping our guts populated with good bacteria. When diseases attack, sometimes the probiotic bacteria are purged or killed off. At this time, the appendix can act as a reserve for good bacteria and when the person is well again,the probiotic bacteria emerge and re-colonize the gut.(source)
The appendix is also important to the immune system, and is involved in the maturation of B lymphocytes and the production of antibodies.2 In this context, the function of the appendix appears to be to expose white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens, or foreign substances present in the gastrointestinal tract,
Removal of the appendix often leads to an increased risk of Crohn’s Disease. (source)
So why does appendicitis happen?
Conclusions still vary on this but it seems that when the opening of the appendix gets blocked bacteria build up inside and allow pus to build and causing pressure on the appendix. This causes pain and can lead to a rupture if not taken care of. Causes seem to be related to one of the following options: parasites, calcified fecal deposits, enlarged lymph tissue on the appendix wall usually related to GI infections, ulcers and GI tract irritations, tumors, foreign objects which have been ingested, and GI infections. Sounds like gut health issues to me.
Should you get your appendix removed if you have appendicitis?
You may think I am crazy to even raise the question but more people are starting to consider other options. I know of two different situations in my sphere of influence of people who got appendicitis and chose not to have it removed and were able to heal. There are doctors who are willing to consider a treatment of antibiotics rather than removal of the appendix. “While there is little data on the long term outcomes, a number of randomized controlled trials have found that about three out of four individuals treated with antibiotics did not require any further treatment for appendicitis for up to a year, with no increase in complication rates. While nonsurgical treatment has gained favor in many European countries, it remains controversial among doctors in the U.S.” (Source) So basically the jury is still out on the best treatment for appendicitis, but if you are a I hate surgery kind of person you may want to explore the options of healing in other ways from appendicitis.
It should also be noted that most appendectomies now are laparoscopic appendectomies, so patients can often go home the same day. In a relatively healthy individual a laparoscopic appendectomy is not a real big deal and risks of surgery are much less from a traditional surgery.
So don’t take that tiny little appendage for granted. It is actually a contributing member of the body which helps with your gut health. Deal with those issues of leaky gut in your life and let that reinforce and help your appendix. It seems that caring for your gut health will help insure a healthy appendix which will then help improve your gut health. It is a reinforcing cycle.
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