Better Body Clinical Nutrition


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Friday, March 29, 2024 9:41 AM

Article by Dr. Ronda Nelson 

Petite but Powerful – 
Of all the many functions of the GI tract, there is one single organ, which is largely overlooked and regarded as unnecessary, that plays one of the most significant roles for supporting and maintaining optimal intestinal health. And that powerful organ would be the appendix. 

For many years, the appendix was thought to be an unnecessary appendage in the body, being conveniently removed during abdominal surgeries to prevent any possibility of later infection. Recent research and new understanding seem to indicate that the appendix performs a significant number of actions that are worth taking another look at. 

Location if Everything – 
At the end of the ileum is the ileocecal valve, located just above the small pouch called the cecum which makes up the lower end of the ascending colon. And inconspicuously hanging off the exterior of the cecum is the vermiform appendix. As we are learning, its close proximity to the large intestine is no coincidence.

Fetal Development – 
During the early gestational period, around the 11th week of development, the appendix appears to store certain types of endocrine cells that are necessary for normal fetal development. These have been shown to produce a number of peptide hormones which play an important role in the development of the fetus. Further research is being done to determine the exact function these hormones play. 

Immune Support – 
From birth through early adulthood, the appendix begins to accumulate lymphoid tissue, specifically T cells and immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. As antigens or foreign substances contained in the intestinal contents move through the GI tract, the appendix, just like Peyer’s Patches in the ileum, are able to target and identify them and put the immune system (white blood cells) on alert. This is especially important as it has to do with autoimmune conditions as it allows the appendix to help modulate potentially destructive antibody responses. 

Sometime during the late 20’s or early 30’s, this lymphoid tissue begins to decrease and continues to do so until the 60’s when it is almost completely gone. By this time, the immune system has had a significant amount of training and exposure to food antigens and foreign substance to create a large repository of information that the immune system can use to attack and defend the host via the intestinal immune system.
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