August 03, 2015
Useless Leftover? Or Beneficial Storehouse?
For many years, evolutionists believed that the human appendix was a vestigial organ, a remnant of something that was once much larger and lost as the species evolved, and that it did not serve any clear function. The appendix was seen as an essentially useless leftover of human evolution. Most of us don’t seem to give it any thought unless it becomes blocked or inflamed. This is known as appendicitis and the only remedy is surgical removal.
For the thousands of people who have had their appendix removed, they’ve not experienced any negative health consequences. Recently however, evidence has emerged suggesting that the appendix is not as useless as once thought, according to a team of scientists at Duke University it does serve a purpose.
A “Safe House” For Beneficial Bacteria
They theorized that there is an abundance of evidence that the appendix acts like a “safe house”, or repository, for the collection of beneficial, or good bacteria, living in the human gut. In times of trouble, this “safe house” would be very useful if there was a bad bout of diarrhea or other illness that flushes out the intestines. That’s because the good bacteria inside the appendix seem to lie in wait; ready to spring into action, and re-inoculate the gut when the coast is clear.
As you can see from the diagram, the appendix, which is a small slender tube, hangs near the juncture of our small and large intestine. This closed-ended tube is approximately 2 to 4 inches long and 1/4 inch in diameter, and is lined with an abundant thin and delicate layer of microbes, mucous and immune system molecules and immune tissue called biofilms. According to the research, conducted by William Parker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of experimental surgery, at Duke University, these biofilms are also present inside the gut to nourish and protect the good bacteria, by producing mucus that gives them a food source and a place to grow. In turn, the good bacteria crowd out the harmful bacteria that might make us sick.
Interestingly, the biofilms in the appendix thin out the further you get from the organ. Its tube-shape helps keep out the bad bacteria, according to Parker, partly because it’s thin and narrow, and partly because there’s a constant outflow of good bacteria that would force harmful bacteria to “swim against the current” to infect the appendix.
What does it mean if you have had your appendix removed? Don’t despair, as you certainly aren’t going to be doomed to living a life of not having good gut bacteria. In fact, you should be perfectly fine, according to the research, although, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add a probiotic supplement like Natren’s Healthy Trinity to your daily regimen. It seems likely that the types of diseases that cause severe digestive issues, the types that result in the entire contents of the bowels being flushed from the body, usually occur in those countries without modern health care and sanitation practices. This might suggest that the “safe house” theory makes more sense in those undeveloped parts of the world— places where medicine is hard to come by, clean water isn’t readily available, perhaps even scarce, and diarrhea can kill. In these instances, the appendix probably saves peoples’ lives, especially the very young.
Whatever its true purpose is, says Parker, it’s “an important step toward solving medical mysteries.
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