9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO COLOMBIA
9 Things You Need To Know About Your Appendix
Historically, the appendix has been thought of as a purely vestigial organ—a useless leftover from the evolutionary process. But lately, doctors are starting to wonder if it might actually have a beneficial purpose. "Recently, some new evidence suggests that the appendix might play a role in repopulating good bacteria in your body," says Niket Sonpal, MD, assistant clinical professor at Touro College of Medicine in New York. "It's thought of as repository for good bacteria and flora that's supposed to help replenish in the case of a catastrophic wipeout—like in the case of antibiotics." (Though if you do have it removed after a bout with appendicitis, you'll still be perfectly fine, says Sonpal.)
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If your appendix bursts and goes untreated, it can cause serious (read: fatal) trouble. And while there's no real way to ensure you'll never have appendix issues, there are things you can do to lower your risk of scary complications like appendicitis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eating your fruits and veggies, plus a diet rich in fiber can help prevent your appendix from getting inflamed and eventually rupturing.
Your appendix is essentially a little tube (it looks sort of like a long balloon that's been deflated), and when one of the ends gets blocked it can cause major problems. The way this happens is when feces—yep, poop—plugs it up, says Sonpal. That's why keeping your digestive system healthy with a diet high in fiber is so important for appendix health—staying regular helps ensure that things can run through your system sans blockages.
Your appendix is located in the lower right quadrant of your stomach, but signs of trouble aren't always super straightforward. "The first sign of appendicitis is actually going to be pain around your belly button," says Sonpal. "The pain will then migrate over to the right side of your abdomen." Even after it moves, it's not always so easy to tell the difference between pain associated with your appendix and pain associated with your cycle. If you don't typically have pain during that time of the month or the pain feels like it's moving, see a doc to be safe.
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According to the reigning research from theAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, you're slightly less likely to develop appendicitis if you're female. "The reason why is not clear," says Sonpal. "But it may be due to higher fiber intake by women." In other words, your smoothie bowl obsession is paying off.
Tummy troubles are the most common reason for rushing to the ER (they account for 7 million visits a year in the US), according to research published in theInternational Journal of General Medicine. And the most common cause of all the stomach aches is—you guessed it—appendicitis.
If you get to the ER on time, the appendix can be removed laparoscopically—aka no big incision and no scar. In fact, the whole procedure takes only about 8 minutes, according to Sonpal.
"After the appendix actually ruptures, it gets more complicated and dangerous," says Sonpal. When you have appendicitis, the deflated balloon-like structure starts to swell. "It's kind of like a pimple in your belly and as we know, the way pimples tend to go away is by popping," says Sonpal. If that happens and your appendix bursts, it starts leaking all sorts of nasty stuff (remember all that bacteria?) into your bod. Not good. In this case, docs have to open up the abdomen, clean things up, and potentially repair other organs that got damaged by the spill, which can cause long-term issues like pain and scarring.
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