Nutritionists Discover the Role of the Appendix

on Mar31
by Dr. Vikki Petersen | Print the article |

The Appendix is Not Superfluous

Did you think it was unlikely that you possessed a body part that had no function?  I know I did.  Researchers in the field of clinical nutrition have now discovered the truth. Much like the tonsils, that used to be removed with great abandon prior to discovering the role they played in health, we now know the importance and role of the appendix.

It turns out that the appendix houses probiotics. What are probiotics?  They are a  major constituent of the intestinal immune system consisting of 100s of trillions of organisms. You have 6 to 10 times more (at least you should have) of these organisms in your gut than you have cells in your body!

A Healthy Small Intestine Prevents Disease

It’s estimated that 70 – 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut.  This is why we, as nutritionists,  spend as much time as we do ensuring that our patients’ digestive systems are working optimally.  More and more research is supporting the premise that without a healthy digestive tract, good health is all but impossible.

Not only do these good bacteria help defend you against infection, but some amazing new research was just released that shows that they have an ability to modify gene expression. Meaning that whether a gene is turned “on” or turned “off” is dictated by the health of your probiotics.

What’s an example of this? Research into celiac disease focused on why certain people don’t develop celiac until later in life, despite having the gene. Prior to this research it was thought if one had the gene then the first teething biscuit or gold fish cracker was enough to initiate the disease process.

These researchers revealed that despite possessing the gene for celiac disease and consuming gluten, an optimally healthy probiotic population is actually capable of keeping the celiac gene turned “off” – in other words the individual continues to tolerate gluten despite their genetic predisposition.

One of the researchers, Dr Alessio Fasano, believes that it’s not enough to have the gene and have the presence of gluten, but there must be a third factor, an initiator, that creates an insult to the gut adequate enough for gluten to then be able to cause its inflammation and subsequent damage.

It’s like the spark that begins the forest fire.  You can have a windy day and dry tinder but you need the spark to begin the decimation.

Dr Fasano believes that the “spark” is an unhealthy balance of good and bad probiotics in the gut.  The good ones are protectors, but the bad ones are initiators.  The make-up of probiotic populations actually have the ability to turn on and off genes at will.

This is terribly exciting and at the very least should have you interested in “who” is being housed in your intestines! As nutritionists we utilize a simple lab test that provides us with the data we need to properly evaluate the health of your probiotic population. Even if you are no longer in possession of your appendix, the health of your intestines can be restored.

Please write to us with your questions and comments. Here at HealthNOW we see patients from across the country as well as internationally at our Destination Clinic. We are here to help you.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page. Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is founder of HealthNOW Medical Center and the author of “The Gluten Effect”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.

The Author

7 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Doug Bates


    Dr. Peterson,

    I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be some sort of expert on the subject but I do find your information to be interesting in my own case. Several years ago my appendix was removed when I suffered from appendicitis. Since that time, I have had several bouts with pancreatitis and am currently in the hospital with the lost recent one. On my first visit, the gall badder was blamed because of the presence of some small stones. None we found to be blocking the path from the pancreas but it apparently was targeted as the most likely cause since I am not a drinker. None the less, I continue to suffer from pancreatitis and the tests I have been subject to show no good cause. A blood test recently showed me having higher than normal glucose levels although not extreme. So far, my triglycerides have not been checked but blood was taken earlier this morning and I hope that is looked at. I am curious about your thoughts on my hypothesis that patients who have had the appendix removed suffer to a larger percentage from intestinal issues such as pancreatitis.

    31 Mar
  2. Doug Bates



    31 Mar
  3. 3

    Hello Doug,
    I would like to assist you. But I would need a bit more data. What I can offer you is a free health analysis – please call us at 408-733-0400 if you would like to receive that.

    We would be delighted to help.

    Dr Vikki

    31 Mar
  4. Julie Suarez


    I had my appendix removed little over 2 months ago. Recovery was normal, I took things easy for about 6 weeks. Now I have pressure and distended stomach after eating, especially glutenous food. I have had on and off constipation and it seems like I’m either blocked or constantly going. No real regularity anymore. I’m getting nauseous and bloated at night and early morning. Seems to kick in right around 7:30 pm, almost like clock work. Not sure where to begin for help.

    31 Mar
  5. 5

    Hello Julie,

    I’m glad that you wrote. It is not unusual for a surgery to create issues with gluten intolerance, leaky gut, and other issues that were not present beforehand. Even when the surgery was ‘successful’. It is not acceptable for you to continue feeling as you do. Not only is it difficult to function, but you are not able to absorb your nutrients which is going to lead to further trouble in the future.

    I don’t know where you live, but I would like to let you know that we are a destination clinic and we treat patients from across the country and internationally. WE have great success treating patients with symptoms such as yours.

    If you would like, consider contacting us for a free health analysis – 408-733-0400. We would be delighted to see if we could assist you!

    31 Mar
  6. Brighet


    This is a very interesting article. My daughter (3 years old)has been diagnosed with celiac due to positive antibodies and also the gene present. She was a premmie and received lots of antibiotics in the hospital and a few times at home too. I always suspected that the lack of probiotics was to blame in some way. She was growing and eating all perfectly until the age of one, already on solids and handling every food group well. I believe that the breastfeeding was keeping her ‘safe’ as there are probiotics in breast milk. But she stopped the breast feeding at 12 months and things went down hill from there. It took nearly 1.5 years to diagnose why she was not growing (first growth and weight gain slowed down, then complete stopped for 8 months), and finally we were told she is celiac.
    I guess it makes me wonder- if something can be the ‘spark’ to switch on the gene, is there a possibility to switch it off also? This is the million dollar question….

    31 Mar
  7. 7

    Hello Brighet,
    Yes, that IS the million dollar question. I’ve spoken of this often and have had a personal conversation with Dr Alessio Fasano, a world renown researcher and expert in the field. And he agrees with me that hypothetically that switch should be able to be turned back ‘off’ once it has flipped ‘on’ and celiac disease has occurred. This has not been done, hence the hypothetical remark and personally I have been working diligently to restore optimal function to my own and my patient’s GI tracts with that goal in mind. It hasn’t occurred yet but I am hopeful that it is possible.

    If you need any assistance with your daughter, consider calling us for a free health analysis – 408-733-0400. We are here to help!

    31 Mar

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