Tonsils: Good riddance?

THE pain can be excruciating. For a moment or two, you were just chewing and enjoying your favorite dish. You wanted to savor its palatability, so you intentionally took the time to munch it with gusto. As you swallowed it, you felt your throat sore as food inches its way down. You thought your throat was just dry. So you took in water. Much to your dismay, the pain lingers to the point of aborting your appetite.

"What is wrong with my throat?" or "Maybe I have tonsillitis?"

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You might be on the right track.

Let me share with you the experiences my dad had with tonsillitis.

I came home one night and I was greeted with a surprising news at dinner. My mom told me that after a brief executive check-up, my dad was advised by his doctor to have his tonsils removed for medical reasons. My dad on the other hand, probably got fearsome over the idea of an imminent surgery, never really mind asking for explanation from the doctor. He solicited my opinion instead that night.

I told him that the necessity of having the tonsils removed or tonsillectomy as the surgical procedure is called varied from case to case. The tonsils, which are located on the either side of the throat, are believed by some experts as parts of our immune system working to defend us from potential infections to the internal organs such as the lungs and heart. Its defensive action is best appreciated when an inflammatory response is activated through the sore throat we experience whenever harmful bacteria or infectious agents are present on our throat.

However, professional opinions vary even among medical practitioners as to the existence of empirical evidence that could prove this theory.

Tonsillitis or infection of the tonsils occurs most frequently to anybody across the lifespan. Several studies show that children are more commonly affected by this condition, probably because they are more prone to infection and their tonsils are more hyperactive than that of an adult.

Medical literatures have it that if a person has had at least four episodes of tonsillitis with sore throat (not all tonsillitis will cause sore throat) in a given year, then he/she is a candidate for tonsillectomy, as the bacteria that caused it might infiltrate and eventually infect its closest organ- the heart- causing more serious complications like rheumatic heart fever, which can be deadly.

Some medical experts posit that since the tonsils have no physiologic relevance and could impose potential heart problems, its removal becomes a necessity if only to salvage other internal organs like the heart and lungs from being infected with the same bacteria that caused the recurrent tonsillitis.

Relating this theory to my dad's experience, I've have heard him agonize his sore throat on many different occasions for the past few years. But he or anyone, for that matter doesn't really have to undergo this type of affliction. How? By practicing what I call the Tonsil Health Habits (THH).

T- Treat dental visits seriously. You may think dental checkups are a form of luxury but actually, they are a necessity. Through frequent trips (at least every 6 months) with the dentist, you are able to detect which teeth need to be filled. Unfilled teeth can become a reservoir for microorganisms that can cause tonsillitis, eventually, other potential problems like rheumatic fever. Always remember, a neglected tooth cannot only cause you halitosis or bad breath. They also have implications to health.

H- Hold the sweets. As children, we were often told, that we suffered from tonsillitis because we overindulged ourselves with chocolates and sweets and it was a form of punishment. I know for most you still believed on this fallacy. I tried to search for more logical explanation. My search brought me to the thought that bacteria or any living organism would need glucose as food for energy. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar. Bacteria are readily attracted to sweets as it is rich in glucose. I am not saying that we totally hold the sweets just in moderation. Remember, too much of a good thing is bad to your health.

H- Healthy lifestyle living. Stress avoidance, adequate rest, proper nutrition and good hygiene will help boost your immune system. With a heightened immune system, you can readily ward off any potential infection not only tonsillitis.

There are other conditions that necessitate the removal of the tonsils like loud snoring, tonsils that obstruct the airways as you sleep or tonsil stones. But for any complaints about your tonsils, I suggest you consult with the otorhinolaryngologist- doctors specializing on ear and throat problems.

As for my dad, he's keeping his tonsils intact. And oh, he promised to take more care of them by faithfully practicing the TTH method. (paul_careline@live.com)

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