No Appendix? Your Gut Might Need Extra TLC

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Appendicitis is essentially inflammation and infection of the appendix. One of the main symptoms of this condition is excruciating abdominal pain.

Acute appendicitis is the most common cause of acute abdominal pain requiring surgery in the United States. Over 5% of the population develops appendicitis at some point. While it may occur at any age, it most commonly occurs in the teens and 20s. In the event of appendicitis, the appendix is usually surgically removed.

I recall having my appendix removed at the age of 19 after complaining of severe abdominal pain. I was told it served very little useful function in the body.  

However, it has been recently reported that the appendix may actually serve a useful purpose in the body. In January, a study from an Arizona college of osteopathic medicine showed that the appendix is a reservoir for good gut bacteria. “During times of gastrointestinal distress, when all of the good gut bacteria gets flushed out of the system, the appendix serves as kind of a little safe house [for good gut bacteria].”

As a result, removal of the appendix may affect the population of good bacteria in our guts. In fact, it has been suggested that it may take people who have had their appendix removed “slightly longer to recover from illness, especially those in which the beneficial gut bacteria has been flushed out of the body."  

Additionally, some studies have shown that people without an appendix may have higher infection rates than those with an appendix.

So it makes sense now why during my annual physicals, my gut bacteria tends to be on the low side despite taking the probiotics my doctor recommends. She probably thinks I am not being compliant. I will need to discuss this issue with her on my next visit. It may very well be that for my optimal health, I may need a different type of probiotic or need to include more prebiotics in my diet so as to increase the population of good bacteria in my gut.  

For more information about the role probiotics and prebiotics play in your health and the population of good bacteria in your gut, read here.

“The contributions of the gut microbiota to the development of the immune system have been extensively characterized. There is coordinated cross talk between the gut microbiota and the immune system, allowing the host to tolerate the large amount of antigens present in the gut. Much evidence has highlighted the role of the microbiota in health and disease,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

There is also evidence that prebiotics enable your body to better absorb vitamins and minerals from foods you eat. And, of course, if we have adequate levels of essential nutrients, our immune systems and bodies overall will be able to better function.

How can you be proactive?

If you have had an appendectomy, you especially have to be proactive about nutrition to ensure you have an optimal population of good bacteria in your gut.

So eat foods rich in good bacteria. These foods include many yogurts, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. You also may consider taking a good probiotic supplement, but just make sure it has been clinically proven to survive the journey to your intestines. Talk to your doctor about options.

And keep in mind, sometimes appendicitis is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics may also deplete good bugs from your gut.

It is also very important to keep your immune system in the best shape possible, and you can help do this through diet.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidant packed fruits and vegetables is important, and there may be some nutrients that are very important in keeping the immune system functioning properly. Some of these nutrients include:

  • Zinc is important for a healthy immune system. It can help you get sick less often or get well quicker. Oysters are the highest source of zinc. You can also get zinc from red meat, poultry, crabs, shrimp, lobster, oatmeal, whole grains, cheeses, yogurt, beans and nuts.
  • Selenium may have anti-infection benefits. Dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, oysters, whole grains and meats.
  • Copper surfaces possibly have powerful disease fighting properties, and copper is also something we all should have in our diets to help boost our immunity. Organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat-bran cereals and whole grain products are good sources of copper.
  • Iron can have an impact on your body’s ability to mount a normal immune response. There are two types of iron -- heme and non-heme. Heme iron is rich in lean meat and seafood. This is more bioavailable, meaning your body can use it better. Non-heme iron is found in nuts, grains, vegetables and other fortified products.

You can be tested to find out the specific type(s) of probiotics your body needs so you can function at your best. This nutritional test will also tell you if you are deficient in any essential vitamins and minerals.

Clearly, it’s important to not only trust your gut, but also take care of it!

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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