New Research Shows Your Appendix Is Good For Something After All (Is it too late to get mine back?)*

by Charlotte on April 9, 2012 · 20 comments

I so need this shirt.

Tonsils. Appendix. A chunk of my uterus. Several weird tumor-cyst thingies that had teeth and hair (no joke). I don’t want to brag or anything but I pretty much have no expendable organs left. This makes me either super evolved (although I still have my pinky toes…) or the life-size version of the Operation game where I just lay on a table and everyone at the party gets to decide what piece of me to haphazardly remove. The only optional thing I haven’t gotten removed is my wisdom teeth – and that’s because I was born without any. (See! Super evolved! Or… not wise.)

I’m zombie diet food – tastes great, less filling! – is what I’m saying.

But it turns out I may not have needed all those operations. Well, the appendectomy at least. Let me set the scene: I had just lost my first daughter and one month after her death had gotten pregnant again. Clearly I was a neurotic mess throughout the new pregnancy – perhaps that is why son #1 is so chill now? – and was so¬†conscientious about my new baby’s health that I freaked out when my husband painted the nursery with latex paint and refused to return to our condo until I couldn’t detect the slightest scent of paint. (And if you’ve been pregnant you’ll know that that was a very long time thanks to super sensitive pregnancy nose.)

So when I got an excruciating stomach ache about half way through the pregnancy and was rushed to the hospital, I was not pleased to find out that I was maybe possibly probably (depending on which medical professional we were talking to) in the throes of appendicitis. Wait and see for sure and possibly die due to a ruptured appendix? Or have surgery and possibly lose my baby? In the end after much agonizing (and pain), I had emergency surgery and had the offending organ removed. Fortunately my son sailed through it with no problems and all was well.

But now a new study out of England shows that after analyzing the data from 900 patients with appendicitis, “treatment with antibiotics meant nearly two-thirds of patients did not need surgery.” While it isn’t a perfect approach and not an option for patients in advanced stages of the disease, it helped so many people skip surgery that I was sad I didn’t have that option when I needed it. A simple course of antibiotics could have saved me from a horrifying experience. And also from a gnarly scar that I still sport thanks to having the surgery while my stomach was still expanding like a hot-air balloon. Although at least this way my son has an exciting birth story to share on his special Star Day every year.¬†¬†(Caveat: Please note I am not a doctor, not giving you medical advice and not really even giving myself advice so if your stomach hurts listen to your doctor, m’kay?)

This is also interesting to me because while for a long time people thought the appendix was nothing but a little sac of nastiness, it turns out that it helps repopulate our intestines with the good bacteria we so desperately need for good health. And considering that I have long struggled with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBS is linked to our intestinal bacteria, this makes me wonder if my surgery did me more harm than good. Or, you know, it saved my life and my son’s life. Hard to say for sure with this one.

What organs – if any – are you missing? Are you the type of person who is willing to try other options first or do you like to go straight for the most effective option and not waste time messing around? Do you have any gnarly scars??

*Longest title ever. I’m sorry. I suck at titles. And I’m t-i-r-e-d!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

M. Lindsay April 9, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I have my appendix, and my intestines still struggle…but I think that’s because of a serious bout with c. difficile, and well, to solve that problem a crazy strong round of antibiotics which did a serious number on me. I take lots of probiotics, and my tummy and I still don’t get along on a regular basis. I can only imagine how terrible life would be if I didn’t have my appendix.

I don’t really have any scars, because I wasn’t an adventurous or athletic child, and umm…with respect to cures/treatments, if it’s not life-threatening, I always go for the least-invasive, most-natural option. If there’s blood, broken bones, or I’m unable to breathe or eat (due to intense pain or other reasons), then I go straight to most effective, be it invasive or otherwise.

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Melissa April 10, 2012 at 12:44 am

I had my gallbladder removed about 5 years ago. It just stopped working – at the time I probably would have done anything to make the pain stop. No one mentioned it was odd, but a few years later when I had moved and saw a different GI doctor, he would not stop talking about how abnormal it was to have your gallbladder removed and not have stones. I have 3 little scars from my operation.
I have one scar on my chin as well from the playground as a kid when someone “tagged” me hard during a game of cooties and I fell on the junge gym I was on and hit my chin on a screw. They couldn’t get my mom, so my Dad had to come and he was terrified of needles. I kept hoping that would mean no stitches, but he made me get them (and promptly passed out next to the bed I was in).

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Crumpled Moments April 10, 2012 at 4:03 am

I have everything but my wisdom teeth. My sixth child recently had a severe case of tonsillitis. It was his first time having tonsillitis. It took two rounds of antibiotics to clear it up. Family and friends were asking when he was going to have his tonsils removed….not if, but when! I was surprised by the question. They were surprised by my answer, “Never!”

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Andreia April 10, 2012 at 5:20 am

Funny coincidence bumping into this post..
I have been nicknamed a few times ‘Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas’ due to my scars…
- Scar in my head since I was a child (hit my head in the stairs while paying with other kids)
- Scar in left thumb since I was a child (thumb got stuck while playing with toys – had surgery to ‘unstuck’ the thumb!…)
- Scar in right knee (hit it against a sharp bar while trying to get out from under the bed – don’t ask, I was a bit of a strange child…)
- Appendix removed when I was about 13 (I’m 28 now)
- Scar in left breast (surgery to remove a lump – not serious, just a little lump..)
- One of the wisdom teeth was removed (went to work after coming out of the dentist = big mistake!!!!)
- Right kidney removed due to massive infection (complications after surgery led to a massive scar on my left side)
- Little scars in neck, back and lower abdomen due to the above problem

I used to be embarassed of going to the beach and showing the big scar on my right side from when I had to remove the kidney but now I embrace it and I actually like all my scars – there is a story to tell and a reminder to appreciate life.

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Dr. J April 10, 2012 at 7:47 am

No organs missing yet!

It’s just not fair, they keep taking away all those fun operations from us, lol!

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Heather @ Bake, Run, Live April 10, 2012 at 8:55 am

I have a scar in my left eyebrow from being hit with a softball and a scar on my tailbone (cysts). Other than that, my wisdom teeth are gone along with the top row of teeth (I have dentures). I was born without enamel so my teeth are soft and break easily.

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Abby April 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

Interesting research. My mom also had her appendix out and really struggles with IBS issues. Makes me glad I’ve still got mine.

I’m missing my wisdom teeth (all 4!) but have most everything else in tact. Well, except for a few moles and I didn’t want those anyways. As for scars I have a few cat scratch ones that are pale lines at this point, one from where I had my eyebrow pierced in college, and some cool ones on my lower stomach where I had hernia surgery when I was 2. Oh, and the scars right below my eye on the top of my right cheek where I got bitten by a dog when I was 5 and had to be stitched up by a plastic surgeon! He did a great job though and no one notices unless I point it out. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky actually because we discovered when I had a mole removed a few years ago that I have a propensity towards keloids and now I have a lovely angry-looking, red, raised scar on one shoulder forever. Awesome.

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Kevin Grant April 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

I have all my stock parts, but I don’t use all of them, does that count? People who know me well would tell you that my brain gets very little use.

I’ve got some good scars on my arms from surgery to repair some nasty fractures. The bone’s all bumpy, too. It’s kinda cool.

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geosomin April 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

I’ve got all my bits – I am honestly in awe that I haven’t broken anything considering how clumsy I am. Other than a few sets of stitches I haven’t had to endure anything serious so far. I am most thankful for that. :)

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Danielle April 10, 2012 at 11:22 am

LoL, I’m 31 and I’ve never been inside an OR, I’ve never had surgery in my life, so I still have all my organs. How do I manage? I guess I wait and wait going to the doctor and it goes away by itself (NOT recommended) Once I had a terrible pain that the doctor thought it might be the appendix, but my mom waited so long to take me to the hospital the pain started to fade (after 3 long days of agony) it wasn’t the appendix, it was a torn muscle that started healing on it’s own.
I have a lot of broken bones, but no surgery… I’m happy that way, hospitals are scary.

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helene @healthyfrenchie April 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Very interesting research indeed. Given the option, I hope to be able to keep all my organs thank you very much…
I always believed that we need our tonsils, appendix etc.. I don’t think any of our organs are expandable.. Then again, when you are in crazy amounts of pains everything looks different
I have loads of scars from falling as a kid… And they took out 3 of my wisdom teeth (the 4th one should come out too).
But no other surgery so far, tough wood!

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Sarah April 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I’ve had my gallbladder out, tonsils out, a tubal pregnancy removed, and given the option of a hysterectomy, I chose the less invasive ablation procedure. But When I ended up in the ER with an enlarged appendix while my husband was away on a business trip, I insisted on trying the antibiotics first because it was a really inconvenient time for me to have surgery. The Dr rolled his eyes, wrote the RX and said, “see you in the OR in a couple days.” That was 2 years ago and I still have my appendix. But I will say that every time I get a side cramp, I think to myself, “oh no this is it!”

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A-man-duh April 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Still have all my organs! My gnarly scar is from having a tattoo removed… Giant sun-shaped raised scar on my shoulder. My friend calls it “the dead squid”. I’ve had people ask me if I was branded… Um, no. Think before you ink!

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Alyssa (azusmom) April 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I still have my organs (although I sometimes wonder if my brain is still there…) but my wisdom teeth are gone.
I did, however, have 2 double-sided, single-spaced (typed) index cards at the local emergency room near where I grew up detailing my many visits. No surgeries, but plenty of out-patient services.
And I’d place my vote for you in the Highly Evolved category.

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Sarah April 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Its good to hear its useful for something. It always seemed a bit odd to me that something in the body didn’t serve any useful purpose at all!

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Katie @momslrb April 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I can safely say I still have all my organs but I’ve been stitched back together more times than I can count. Every year during my teen years you could find me in the ER. Heck I even (accidentally ) cut off the tip of my finger ,which I am oroud to report, is back where it should be.

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Lauren April 11, 2012 at 4:45 am

The removal of tonsils, appendices and gall bladders appalls me; I have mine, so I know I’m risking a kick in the teeth from someone who has had to deal with those pains, but the whole culture of treat-the-symptom rubs me the wrong way.
Not only is your appendix your own personal seed bank for your guts, but appendicitis may be caused by improper potty positioning. In the sitting position there are muscles that close off your colon so you don’t poop on the sofa, but then you go sit on the throne and have to herniate yourself to overcome the same mechanism. The pushing can move things backwards and jam the opening of the appendix. Obeying the Urge, and squatting to poop, prevents this.
I also recently read some new research indicating that our tonsils are a production site for t-cells. I have to wonder if removing them isn’t killing the canary in the coal mine; if your armoury is overrun with enemies, maybe you’ve got bigger problems with your defences than a bit of NIMBYism can cure. Little kids with inflamed adenoids and tubes in their ears and whatnot – has no one stopped to consider why the child’s internal terrain is such that their immune system can’t repel what is usually a bog-standard bacterial infection?
And gall bladders! ARGH! I refer anyone to Stacy’s post on Primal Parents about her GB removal, its causes and effects, and her certainty that dietary changes – which not a single person ever mentioned to her – could have prevented the whole drama.
I have always liked scars. My wisdom teeth were removed after (brutal) impaction when I was 16 or so. Being the third generation of a maternal line serving packaged foods, my jaw is simply too small to hold the full compliment of choppers. I’m hoping that breastfeeding my child(ren), then pumping them full of high-nutrient food that needs chewing, will overcome that lack of epigenetic momentum they inherit thanks to the kitchen-phobia of their ancestors. I also rather consciously expose them to dirt in an effort to prevent allergies and IBS, but that’s another topic.

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JLVerde April 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I’m living sans tonsils,adnoids, wisdom teeth, and uterus. The first three happened in childhood and I was liberated from my uterus in 2003 (thanks to a giant uterine fibroid–I love being uterus free).

As fo r scars, I have a smattering all over, mostly small and mostly from run ins with disgruntled animals (I’ve been bitten by a horse, dogs, parrot and clawed to the point of a rush to the ER by a cat). But my gnarliest scar is thanks to the aforementioned hysterectomy. I’ll never be able to wear a skimpy bikini lest it show but I wasn’t planning on ever wearing a bikini of any size, so I’m happy to trade a long lateral scar (belly button to bush) for a life free from a reproductive organ I never wanted to use anyway.

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Selina April 16, 2012 at 3:30 am

I lost my tonsils when I was about 8 years old. I am terrified of hospitals ever since and dread the day I need to go back for another operation. All wisdom teeth are still present and accounted for….just thinking about the dentist gives me shivers too….but I have to say that medical practices of just ‘lets cut it out’ is just wrong.

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