Q&A: Should You Have Your Appendix Removed?

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Filed Under: Bacterial Balance, Probiotics, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Q&A: Should You Have Your Appendix Removed?

My 10-year-old daughter recently experienced a bout of abdominal pain. My doctor told us it was an inflamed appendix, and the pain subsided with antibiotics. He still recommends removing the appendix. What are your thoughts?

 

Acute appendicitis is something that can turn serious, particularly if the organ gets to the point of rupturing, which can be life-threatening. Pain in the area of the appendix, however, is often either gas pain or, even more likely, a problem with the ileocecal valve. There are, however, simple, effective techniques to remedy ileocecal valve problems.

Rethink Removal of the Appendix

I would be very reluctant to remove the appendix in an effort to "prevent any future problems." The appendix is an important part of the lymphatic system, which in turn is part of your overall immune system. It is strategically located at the point where the small and large intestines meet, near the ileocecal valve. It provides a "trap" where harmful microorganisms can be captured and destroyed or inactivated by our immune cells. Once you remove the appendix, you lose a part of your immune system.

Research also suggests that the appendix may act as a type of "safe house" where beneficial bacteria from the bowels are grown and stored. In an event where the bowel becomes infected with pathogenic bacteria and is purged, the bacteria from this "safe house" would be used to restore healthy levels in the colon. In earlier times—and even today in many third-world countries where diseases like cholera exist—the ability to quickly re-colonize beneficial bacteria in the colon would be crucial to survival. I suspect it’s just as critical in individuals who experience food poisoning, heavy antibiotic use, chlorinated water, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or many forms of chronic prescription drug use.

Making the connection between the appendix, colon health, and a stronger immune system is probably a little bit of a stretch for most doctors. For your daughter's sake, however, I would strongly suggest leaving this little worm-like pouch where it is if possible. It’s far more important than most realize.

If Your Appendix Has Already Been Removed…

Because you no longer have the reservoir of beneficial bacteria after the removal of your appendix, it's a good idea to replenish it daily. Adding traditional fermented foods to your meals is the best way to do this, but taking a probiotic supplement can be an effective alternative to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.

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