If you suffer appendicitis, the conventional treatment method that most physicians would immediately recommend is to undergo an appendectomy, which is basically the surgical removal of the appendix.1 This is usually advised to prevent the risk of rupture, which can cause further complications.
Types of Appendectomy
There are two main types of appendectomy (also called “appendicectomy“2), which are both carried out under a general anesthetic. Depending on the progression of the inflammation and the condition of the appendix, your doctor will determine which of these two will be more recommended for you:3
• Laparoscopy — Also known as “keyhole surgery,” this is the preferred procedure today because of its quicker recovery time. However, this is usually advised if the appendix has not yet ruptured. It is also recommended for obese or elderly patients.4
Three or four small incisions are made on the abdomen, and then special instruments and small surgical tools are inserted and used to remove the appendix. Afterwards, dissolvable stitches (or regular ones that your physician will have to remove after several days) will be used to close the incisions.
• Open surgery. If the appendix has already ruptured, if you’ve previously had an open abdominal surgery or if your physician isn’t experienced in keyhole surgery, this is the recommended procedure.
A single, larger incision is done in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen, so the appendix can be removed. However, if peritonitis (infection of the abdominal lining) has already occurred, a long cut in the middle of the abdomen may be necessary. This is called laparotomy.
The recovery period after the appendicitis surgery depends on the type of procedure. Patients who had laparoscopy can go home after a day, but those who had open surgery may take up to week before they are allowed to go home.
Normal activities can be resumed in a couple of weeks, but strenuous activities must be avoided for four to six weeks after the surgical procedure to allow enough time for your body to heal.5 As with any surgical procedure, an appendectomy can still predispose you to certain risks and complications, such as:6
• Injury to other organs (particularly those near the appendix)
• Blocked bowels
Is Appendicitis Surgery Your Only Option?
Due to its invasive nature, potential risks (including the risk of hospital-acquired infections) and long recovery period, some experts are now determining other options for treating appendicitis.
One study, published in The Journal of the American College of Surgeons,7 found that antibiotics may be a viable alternative to surgery. The researchers reviewed 77 uncomplicated (the appendix has not yet ruptured) cases of acute appendicitis that met certain criteria. Thirty of the patients were given intravenous antibiotics for 24 hours and oral antibiotics for a week instead of surgery. Those whose condition did not improve after the first 24 hours had their appendix removed surgically.
Of these participants, only two required surgery within 24 hours, while a third needed an appendectomy after being discharged because of lack of improvement. However, none of the patients experienced complications. The other 27 participants who did not have surgery missed fewer school days and went back to their normal activities much sooner than those who had surgical appendix removal.
According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital professor of surgery and senior study author Dr. Katherine J. Deans:
“It’s so dogmatic to operate for appendicitis that it requires a huge paradigm shift. But there are choices. It may be safe to wait.”8
If Your Doctor Advises Antibiotics, Make Sure You Take Probiotics
While taking antibiotics is not highly advisable, and in fact may have adverse side effects and may lead to antibiotic resistance, it may be the lesser of the two evils if you compare it to surgery.
If your doctor advises you to try this method, however, make sure that you reseed your gut with probiotics. This will help maintain the optimal balance of your gut flora, which is essential for immunity and warding off infections.
Don’t take probiotics simultaneously with the probiotic, however. Chances are the antibiotic will only kill off the good bacteria. Instead, take them a few hours before or after taking the antibiotic. According to Greg Leyer, who has a Ph.D. in Food Microbiology and is the chief scientific officer of UAS Laboratories, a company dedicated to manufacturing probiotics, you can quickly restore your gut’s microbial community to a healthy state if you continue probiotic administration after stopping the antibiotics.
Leyer also advises taking Saccharomyces yeast, a beneficial type of yeast that helps prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, which is a common complication of using this class of medications.
"Fifteen to 25 percent of people who take an antibiotic end up getting antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Probiotics — I'll include Saccharomyces in this group — have been shown to have tremendous benefits in reducing the risk of developing that kind of secondary complication of antibiotic treatment," he adds.
Other Natural Treatments for Appendicitis
There are some natural techniques that can help you deal with the pain that comes with appendicitis, but remember that you should not rely on these solely to treat this condition. They should be used as an adjunct treatment, and with the approval of your physician. Here are some natural remedies for appendicitis, which may be useful especially if the infection is detected at an early stage:9,10,11
✓ Castor oil pack
This can help relieve the appendiceal blockage and reduce inflammation. To prepare this, simply fold a large cloth, pour 2 tablespoons of castor oil on it, and then apply it to your abdomen while lying down. You can repeat this three times a week for two or three months. Taking castor oil orally may also help relieve constipation and improve bowel movements.
This root can reduce inflammation and pain, while alleviating vomiting and nausea. Drink fresh ginger tea twice or thrice daily or massage ginger oil on your abdomen for a few minutes daily.
It’s a potent anti-inflammatory that can alleviate inflammation and pain. Eat two to three raw cloves on an empty stomach per day.
✓ Fenugreek seeds
They help prevent the intestinal waste and excess mucus from accumulating, which can reduce the risk of the problem becoming severe. Fenugreek seeds also help alleviate pain.
✓ Fresh lemon
Mixed with a small amount of honey, lemon helps prevent indigestion and constipation, relieves pain and boosts your immunity.
It helps bring down the fever that may come with appendicitis. It’s also great for relieving indigestion and intestinal gas. Boil a handful of fresh basil leaves with a teaspoon of grated ginger and then drink the concoction twice a day for two days.
✓ Vegetable juice
A mixture of beets, cucumber and carrot juice may be helpful for patients with appendicitis.
Finally, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of pure and clean water throughout the day is essential for good health, whether or not you have appendicitis.