6 June 2016

So that's why we have an appendix!

When I was a child, almost everyone was having their appendix removed. My friends were staying in hospital for like a week and got loads of toys and stuff from people visiting! No wonder that having appendicitis was like a rite of passage, and it was considered a good thing!

For many years, people thought that  the appendix was an obsolete organ that can become infected and be dangerous. But like everything else it seems, appendicitis is actually a modern phenomenon that only became common from the late 19th century. Suggested reasons for this include sanitation and hygienic conditions, lower consumption of fibers, our sugary and fatty diet, etc.

But what is this appendix anyway? And how come we are seemingly OK without it?

The appendix is this little tube of about 8cm that protrudes from the caecum, which is the pouch that connects the small to the large intestine. The real function of the appendix is largely unknown but hypotheses have emerged these past few years including a critical role in the education, development, and maturation of the immune system.

Now, that reminds me of something, I thought our microbiota was doing just that - I hear you say, if you have followed this blog and received your weekly update.

Well, apart from being full of immune cells, our appendix is also a reservoir of the most amazing varieties of micro-organisms. A lot of people even call the appendix a safe-house for those millions of microbial inhabitants.


What those microbes do is being there on standby for when we need them, for example, after an epidose of food poisoning or a gastrointestinal infection, which may involve bouts of diarrhoea. This way, our gut can be quickly re-populated with its normal inhabitants.

It is now believed that our appendix was most useful when, 'in the old days', people were suffering from cholera and other diseases involving serious diarrhoea; those days, people rarely suffered from appendicitis. This made scientists hypothesize that one of the reasons for increased appendicitis incidence is sanitation thanks to water-treatment plants and sewage systems. This means that our appendix doesn't get to help out as much anymore (and the reason why people thought that we don't need it!). [The safest way to cure appendicitis is simply to remove the appendix. The alternative is antibiotics but it's not as fail-safe as surgery.]

My story

When I read this the first time, it downed on me that when I was young, I was never ill - if I had something, it was always minor. But since having my appendix removed at 22, I've been increasingly suffering from stomach bugs that pin me down in bed for, typically, 3 days. At some point, I even thought I might be suffering from IBS and my 'viral' episodes might be stress-related IBS flares. Now, I believe that my immune system is not as efficient as it used to be and my gut under attack by naughty bacterial species simply doesn't get replenished by the most beneficial microbiota that used to live there.

As I shared in my last post, I've been taking my Bio-Kult probiotics every day for the past 6 months. Apart from curing cold sores, I'm also happy to report I've had ZERO episodes of stomach bugs or upset (last year I was ill betwen Dec 2014 and April 2015 with 3 viruses, 2 stomach bugs, a 2-month nasty cough, and had 2 courses of useless antibiotics). And although there are a lot of variables entering this equation such as my son not bringing so many bugs home from nursery as last year, he still has AND I have managed to escape all the nasty ones from my colleagues! 2016 is definitely [FLU 1 - 0 HUMANS] so I'm tempted to think that my probiotics are helping me big time to restore my gut flora and fight various pathogens the way my appendix used to when I still had it!

Although it is essential for an infected appendix to be removed because if left untreated, it can cause serious complications and even lead to death, in my case it wasn't infected: I was misdiagnosed. The surgeon later gave me my diagnosis and added as a side note 'Oh BTW, we removed your appendix as well'. At the time, I thought 'Oh well, good riddance'... Little did I know, I was talking about my perfect health!!

R.I.P. my appendix, June 2002.

Have you had your appendix removed? Have you noticed any change in your health or immunity afterwards?
See you next Monday,

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My bugs and I Published @ 2014 by Ipietoon