Put down that ice cream after you get you get your tonsils out!

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                Among the long list of things I've been procrastinating (homework, a dentist appointment, an oil change, etc.) is a tonsillectomy. After being diagnosed with sleep apnea caused by enlarged tonsils, my doctor recommended I get a tonsillectomy. Although I'm not excited to undergo surgery, I can at least look forward to a nice big bowl of ice cream afterwards.


                Curious about what I'm in store for, I had to do my research. When I searched the internet on information related to tonsil removal, I found an interesting article about children getting their tonsils out. This article explains a phenomenon that really perplexed me: there may be a correlation between children who get their tonsils out and weight gain. A study of 127 children who got their tonsils out showed that within 6 months to a year, the average weight gain was 7 percent of their body mass index. With tonsil removal being the most common surgery for children in America, the article speculates that maybe tonsil removal has something to do with the childhood obesity epidemic. I did some math to put things in perspective. If a 5 foot tall adolescent weighing 112 pounds gained a 7 percent increase in BMI, he would shoot up to 120.7 pounds, an 8.7 pound gain in one year. While 8 pounds in a year isn't necessarily outrageous, it is something to think about. If that's the average, then it's possible that some kids are moving categories on the BMI scale. Some kids may even be going from a healthy BMI (between 18.5 and 24.9) to an overweight BMI (between 25 and 29.9). This would certainly be cause for concern after just one year.

                So why are kids gaining weight after they get their tonsils removed? The article speculates that kids tend to eat more after they are removed. When tonsils are inflamed or infected, kids may be more hesitant to eat because of the added difficulty or discomfort of swallowing. After they get their tonsils removed, the decreased discomfort may encourage them to eat more. This is certainly possible. Much like girls have bad hair days, I have bad tonsil days. Very often, I alter my eating habits because of tonsil discomfort regardless of my unaffected appetite. Like I said, I can't wait to inhale a nice big bowl of ice cream as soon as I get them removed. This hypothesis I can agree with.

                Another thing the article points out is that children must use more energy (and therefore burn more calories) to breathe when their tonsils are enlarged. The article speculates that once the enlarged tonsils are removed, it becomes easier to breathe, and therefore children burn less calories and gain more weight. To me, this hypothesis is garbage. Sure, my enlarged tonsils may make me work harder to breathe. But don't expect the next Cosmo issue to reveal tonsillitis (enlarged tonsils) as the next great weight loss secret.  First of all, difficulty breathing caused by tonsillitis discourages me from attempting the most effective way to burn calories: heavy exercise. Knowing that I'll be prematurely short of breath from even a heavy jog makes me not want to go out for a run, meaning I'll miss out on a nice calorie-burning cardio session. Secondly, the article is leaving out my demographic: those who have sleep apnea from enlarged tonsils. Sleep apnea can become a problem when enlarged tonsils block the airway during sleep. This actually leads to weight gain among other problems. So it is possible that children with enlarged tonsils (who also experience sleep apnea) could actually start losing weight after the surgery.

                Either way, I think there is still more that could be explored. Tonsillitis is caused by infections. Is it possible that the same lifestyle that leads to infections in the tonsils also leads to obesity? I don't necessarily think the relationship between tonsil removal and weight gain is causational. This study examined over 300 children, but I have not seen other studies like it. I would like to see more experiments done with third variables in mind to investigate this epidemic of weight gain after tonsil surgeries in children.

                No matter what, though, nobody can stop me from enjoying a great big bowl of cookies n' cream ice cream after I get my tonsils out.

1 Comment

You mentioned that children might eat less when their tonsils hurt. This could lead to weight loss. So, perhaps when they get their tonsils out, they are simply returning to what would be their normal weight if the tonsils had never been a problem. My friend got her tonsils out last year and said she did not notice a change in her eating habits in the long-term. She never really changed her diet much to accommodate a "bad tonsil day." Obviously this would depend on the severity of the case and each person's pain tolerance (and dedication to their meals).

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