To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
What does your appendix do? That was a question that I had and I know that many others have had for a while. In fact, it was on the forefront of my mind when I had my appendix removed, also known as an appendectomy.
The appendix is known as the vermiform appendix, vermiform meaning worm-like because that is what it looks like. It is also known as the cecal appendix or just plain old vermix.
What is the function of the appendix?
This is the crux of the matter. I had my appendix out over 20 years ago now and I haven’t noticed any issues at all. I am still fit, healthy and strong. In fact there appears to be no long term detrimental effects to humans if you have your appendix removed.
So the short answer is that there is no decisive agreed upon function of the appendix to which scientists and other medical folks agree.
The appendix is now considered a vestigial organ or structure. Vestigial meaning that it no longer has a perceived and valid function in human body. It has become non functional through adaptation and evolution.
Charles Darwin believed that the appendix was a necessary organ for our ancestors who were the early primates. He believed that the appendix was necessary for the digestion and assimilation of leaves that were thought to make up a large part of those primate’s diets.
However there have been at least 2 suggested current functions of the appendix that are worth exploring.
The appendix and immune function
There are more than a few scientists that suggest that the appendix can and does harbor bacteria that are beneficial to the human immune system’s full and proper functioning.
More than that, the appendix has been found to be rich in lymphoid cells and as you might now, the lymph system is an important part of human health and immunity as it acts as a filtering system for the human body. This might suggest that the appendix is an active component of the lymph system and as such is important in human immunity.
The appendix and the maintenance of gut flora
Another theory that suggests a function for the human appendix is that it is crucial to keeping and maintaining beneficial gut bacteria in the human colon. This theory by Duke University scientists suggest that the appendix may act as a “safe house” for good bacteria.
In developing countries, diarrhea is common and one of the leading causes of death. Diarrhea often will flush out the good bacteria, and to help repopulate the beneficial gut flora in the colon, the appendix acts as this safe house from which the good bacteria are protected during illness and released to repopulate the gut after the illness.
My concluding thoughts on the appendix and overall health
From a standpoint of living lightly and authentically, my best suggestion is not to have your appendix removed carelessly. In acute cases of appendicitis the appendix might have to be removed, but I’d urge you to not have it removed routinely during other surgery.
My belief is that although the full function of the appendix is yet to be understood, it does indeed have a function that will come to light in the years to come.
That function is perhaps not crucial but it is part of who we are and how we were made by God, the universe, nature, the Great Spirit or whatever else you believe in. Living an authentic life is about honoring life, and our bodies are our traveling vessels on this journey and as such should be treated well and kept whole as best we can.
As an aside, there is evidence to suggest that most appendicitis is caused by hard dislodged pieces of stool that end up blocking the opening of the appendix into the cecum of the colon. This stool is usually from a diet high in fat and meat.
Yet another reason to enjoy a plant strong diet. Limit your chances of appendicitis in the first place.
If you want to find our more about the appendix, Wikipedia has a good overview and MedicineNet will tell you a lot about appendicitis symptoms and treatment protocols.