It appears that people seldom think of appendix and its importance and the only mention of it is when it needs to be removed. However, what does this organ do?
The appendix is a tube-shaped sac connected into the lower end of the large intestine. Medically, it is known as ‘vermiform appendix’ due to its worm-like shape. This organ was disregarded as useless for a long time and considered as a souvenir of our revolutionary past.
Charles Darwin and many other researchers believed that this organ is a vestigial one which once helped individuals digest tree bark. Considered that tree bark is not a part of human’s diet any longer, the appendix as such was thought to be unnecessary as was no longer serving any use. However, a recent study from the Duke University Medical Center suggests otherwise.
The appendix might produce as well as protect beneficial probiotics in the digestive system. Researchers think that the human digestive system contains bacteria needed to digest food properly. When an illness attacks, these bacteria are destroyed. In such cases, the appendix can function as a reserve for good bacteria. As soon as the immune system fights off the disease, the bacteria re-colonize the digestive system.
Conventional medicine has long believed the appendix was a useless organ that served no function whatsoever. However, recent evidence suggests that this organ may play an essential role in the development of the immune system. Namely, a research has revealed that lymphoid tissue builds up in the appendix after birth. Consequently, the appendix aids in the maturation of B lymphocytes and supports the production of antibodies. The appendix produces molecules that help in the movement of lymphocytes to different areas in the body.
Based on current research on the topic, it appears that the appendix acts as a reserve for beneficial gut flora. As mentioned above, when disease reduces the number of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, the appendix may store them for back up.
In addition, it has been revealed that those who had their appendix removed could be 4 times more likely to struggle with an irritation of the large intestine, called Clostidium difficile colitis. This condition usually happens when the body is low on gut flora, which might explain the relationship between the appendix and its role in keeping healthy probiotic levels. Although the research is still taking place, it does show that appendix is needed for maintaining optimum health.
It is worth noting that although it plays an important function in the human body, the appendix carries the risk for appendicitis. This condition begins with a pain in the middle of the abdominal area which might come and go. Within a few hours, the pain affects the lower right-hand side and it ends up being more severe. Walking, coughing, or pressing the area might worsen the pain.
The most common symptoms of this condition include being sick, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, flushed face, and high temperature (fever). Although appendix removal is not always the only alternative in case of appendicitis, it cannot be taken for granted. According to studies from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 300-400 Americans die from this condition annually.
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