Do grape seeds cause appendicitis?

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have wasted the odd youthful hour worrying about the consequences after swallowing a fruit seed. While my concerns centred on unrealistic (though alarming) scenarios such as finding a sapling inching its way up my throat, Linda Caradus has queried a more reasonable fear, that of appendicitis. While more likely than the impossible seedling-in-the-stomach, seeds of any kind are such an infrequent cause of appendicitis that it isn’t generally worth worrying about.

The appendix is a curious worm-like organ that hangs out near the start of the colon. Its function, if it has one, is far from clear. It appears to have no purpose, though some experts think otherwise.

Hardly less mysterious is appendicitis, the disease that occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. It is very hard to diagnose from the outside, so the treatment for acute appendicitis generally precedes a firm diagnosis. The upshot is that the appendix is quite often removed only to find that acute appendicitis wasn’t the problem. At least that can only be a once in a lifetime experience.

There is still some dispute over the cause of acute appendicitis, because it isn’t clear whether some signs typical of the disease are causes of it or caused by it. What is fairly clear, though, is that fruit seeds are hardly ever found in a removed, diseased appendix. Seeds are the culprit less than one percent of the time, according to one reckoning. So while fruit seeds can cause appendicitis, most cases arise from some other cause and — given how many seeds must be swallowed every day — it is likely that most seeds travel through our intestines without stopping at the appendix to cause trouble.

Seeds are a common cause of some intestinal problems but appendicitis is not one of those. So if you do feel a grape seed — or any seed — slip down your throat (and your appendix is still inside your abdomen rather than a jar), just relax and don’t even give fear a chance to take root.

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