When I was a child, I was taught that the appendix was a vestigial organ, meaning that it had lost its function as we evolved. We no longer eat grass, and so it was now useless.
The only time I ever heard about an appendix was when some kids got to take time off school and came back with just a nasty scar.
Why couldn’t I have my appendix out, too?
Later on I learned that some people had their appendices removed as a preventative measure, especially when they were already scheduled for surgery. The thinking was, if the gall bladder had to go anyway, why not whip out the appendix while we're at it?
However, new research into the germs that live inside of us has opened a door into a deeper and fuller understanding of the role of this organ in optimal health.
Just like every other part of your body, not only is it useful, but the elegance of its function can only be appreciated in the context of the whole.
People, the appendix deserves your love!
New research suggests that your appendix acts as a safe house reservoir of healthy bacteria used to repopulate the intestines after stress. When we get a severe gut infection, the beneficial bacteria in our gut can become depleted. Then, the appendix allows them to be restored. This is becoming more and more important as the number of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria evolve and proliferate.
It was shown that patients who still had their appendices intact were about four times more likely to recover from severe gut infections like Clostridium difficile.
In essence, the appendix acts a sanctuary for our tiny mutually beneficial friends and can become dysfunctional in overly clean environments. This is why we have far more appendicitis in industrialized countries than the developing world.
One thing we can all do it improve our digestion, immunity and metabolism is to open a window or do some gardening. And if your appendix is removed you need to make sure you give the body every opportunity to develop and stimulate that good bacteria!
So get those hands dirty, take probiotics, get a pet, or open a window!
If you know anyone who has had his or her appendix removed, share this with them. You might just save a life.
Photo Credit: This is the author, James Maskell, as a little boy. James loves his appendix!