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A Misunderstood Mystery: The Appendix

The human body is a host of many medical miracles as well as mysteries. The appendix could certainly be categorized as the latter. For many years, it has been thought that the appendix has virtually no use in our bodies. When removed, there seem to be zero negative effects on our digestive system or overall health. A lot of us only associate the appendix with the understanding that it can get infected and cause our body harm. Some hold the opinion that the appendix is a vestigial organ, an organ that has lost its function due to evolution. However recent interesting insight proves that the appendix is not just a waste of space.

What does the appendix do?

The appendix contains a specific type of tissue in relation to the lymphatic system, which carries the white blood cells needed to help fight infections. This lymphatic tissue helps promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn helps the body fight off gastrointestinal diseases.

The lining of our gut contains something called a biofilm, which is a thin layer of microbes, mucus and immune system molecules. The appendix actually has the greatest number of this biofilm in the body.

What happens when things go wrong?

Sitting in the lower right quadrant of your stomach and only 4 inches long, the appendix can cause some very serious health issues. When the body experiences an obstruction or infection of the appendix, it can fill up with pus and swell. This is a condition known as appendicitis, and is often described as intense, excruciating pain.

There can be many different sources of this infection, including ulcers, parasites, hardened stool, and abdominal trauma. Some symptoms that you may experience include loss of appetite, bloating, nausea/vomiting and a low-grade fever.

Treatment for this condition most often is an appendectomy, or a surgical removal of your appendix. However, some natural ways to treat appendicitis symptoms include ginseng tea, vegetable juices such as carrot, cucumber and beet as well as adding fresh mint to your diet can all help in your symptoms.

How do you keep the appendix healthy? 

So how do you keep a seemingly irrelevant organ healthy in your body, and avoid the dreaded prognosis of appendicitis? As always, the first and most important step is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. A high-fibre diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables seem to keep gastrointestinal disease at bay and enhance the health of your gut, preventing infections of your appendix.

Understanding your stomach and how your organs all work together can help prevent more serious issues. The body must be thought of as your most precious possession; no one can give you the gift of good health besides you and your habits.

This holiday season, keep in mind that what you put into your body is exactly what you will get out of it. The dreaded bloating and cramps associated with a high sugar, high fat diet is not worth the risk of countless comorbidities that can result.

Don’t wait for the new year to set new, healthy goals for yourself. Start now, and your newfound energy will definitely be a source of motivation!

If you need something to believe in, start with yourself!

By: Nicole Cerrini BSN, RN

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