Can Appendicitis Be Prevented?


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, pH Labs founder, and Franz Gliederer, MD, MPH                                 

At the age of 19, I had my appendix removed after complaining of lower abdominal pain. I recall being told it was an organ I didn’t really need anyway and was rushed into surgery where it was removed.  Since then, I have always wondered whether I made the right decision (or even an informed decision). I have since learned that the appendix may very well be a useful organ, and perhaps it was premature to remove it. Still conflicted, I turned to pH Doctor Gliederer for some answers.

So what is the appendix?

The appendix is an appendage of the ascending colon. It is usually the size of a small finger and is rich in lymphoid immune cells. It can become obstructed and inflamed, necessitating surgery when there is severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea/vomiting and malaise. This is acute appendicitis (AA), which is usually progressive, appearing over a period of 24 to 36 hours.

The current consensus in the physician and surgeon community is that appendicitis cannot be prevented. Studies have focused on dietary habits, like increasing vegetable and fiber intake, but without any clear benefit for appendicitis prevention.

Some people have claimed that appendicitis can be treated naturally by cleaning out bowels completely, fasting and by using supplements like magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, coffee, laxatives, rosemary, garlic and others. Although improving gut health is always recommended, in many instances, it would be hazardous to delay appropriate surgical intervention.

Is appendectomy really necessary?

Most diagnoses of full-fledged appendicitis do require removal of the appendix. It can be life-threatening if it bursts.

Studies investigating getting an early vs. late appendectomy did not find much benefit in delaying the surgery. However, there are a few cases where interventions such as pre-operative antibiotics or nutrition helped to improve the outcome of a delayed surgery.

If symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and malaise are not too bad, in certain cases, they could be managed conservatively without the need of surgery.

How can you be proactive?

  • Make sure you are eating a healthy diet, drinking adequate fluids, having enough daily fiber and green leafy vegetables, having daily healthy bowel movements, and exercising regularly.
  • Do a bowel cleanse every few months or so, combined with a temporary elimination diet (7-14 days) eating only unprocessed food, no dairy products, limited meat, no breads, no sugary add-ons/ deserts/drinks, and no alcohol.
  • You can test for what nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Consider taking probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D, flax seed, magnesium, garlic pills, and drink yoghurt/kefir. Check 15 healthy foods for your gut.
  • If you have moderate to severe abdominal pains, check in with your doctor or go to the emergency room. It’s better to treat conditions sooner, before they may get much worse. The doctor may use physical examination, a blood test to see your white blood cell count (indicating infection), as well as imaging tests.

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.