Why Do We Have An Appendix?

A team of researchers at Duke University think they've found the purpose of our appendix: to produce needed "good bacteria" for our digestive track to help break down our food.

And if this group of researchers is correct, I should be glad I still have it. A team of scientists at the Duke University Medical School thinks its found the purpose of the appendix.

That little dangler found between the end of our small intestines and start of our large intestines could be producing good bacteria for your digestive system. Our body actually uses bacteria to help digest our food. And if we lose too much of it, the researchers surmise, the appendix produces and kicks in a new batch of bacteria to help us keep breaking down our food.

Chew on this stat for a second: there are more bacteria than human cells in our bodies. Most of that bacteria is good and works in out digestive system to process our food.

This new news flies in the face of the long held idea that the appendix had no current purpose. Some scientists figured that it was a leftover from some bodily function that humans had evolved out of over the years. Doctors routinely snip it out when doing other surgeries in the area to prevent the patient from the chane of suffering appendicitis. The most recent figures, from 2005, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 321,000 people in U.S. where hospitalized for the condition.

The new theory figures that the appendix can regenerate bacteria after too much of it is lost by the body. Severe intestinal problems like cholera or amoebic dysentery can completely flush a persons body of all of its digestive bacteria.

In our more diverse culture of today, we actually dont need out appendix as much because we are exposed to many good germs on a regular basis, the scientists postulate, with us picking them back up, if we need them, from other people around us. That has made our appendix less needed.

Helping back that idea up are statistics that in less developed countries, where an appendix is still very useful, the incidences of appendicitis are much lower.

Other medical researchers not connected with the study say the idea seems credible.

And we should all still be worried our appendix if it starts to hurt. If they become inflamed, it can be deadly with about 300 to 400 Americans dying year because of the condition.

Historical Background Of Appendicitis

Most people assume that appendicitis has always been with us. But in fact, it emerged quite recently, coinciding with the introduction of sitting toilets toward the end of the 19th century. According to the Medical Journal of Australia, the epidemiology of appendicitis poses many unanswered questions. Almost unknown before the 18th century, there was a striking increase in its prevalence from the end of the 19th century, with features suggesting it is a side effect of modern Western life.

In 1886, Reginald Heber Fitz, a Harvard Professor of Pathological Anatomy, became the first doctor to recognize and name the disease. He was also the first one to propose treating it by removing the appendix.

The conservative British medical establishment resisted the novel appendectomy procedure until after the turn of the century, when it was used to save the new king's life. In 1901, the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, underwent an emergency appendectomy, just two weeks before his scheduled coronation as King Edward VII. His successful recovery finally convinced British surgeons that this operation was the only way to save the victims of this "mysterious" new disease.

Currently, 7% of the U.S. population will contract appendicitis at some point in their lifetime (according to The figure would be even higher, except that 40,000 incidental appendectomies are performed each year (according to Harper's Index, Feb, 2002.) Incidental means there was nothing wrong with the appendix, but the surgeon happened to be operating on another organ nearby, in most cases performing a hysterectomy.

Appendicitis is the most common reason for a child to need emergency abdominal surgery. Young people between the ages of 11 and 20 are most often affected (according to

Modern medicine recognizes that appendicitis is primarily a disease of the Western World. They attribute this to the (allegedly) greater amount of fiber in the diet of the Third World. However, the fiber theory has never been substantiated, as evidenced by this quote from There are no medically proven ways to prevent appendicitis. Although appendicitis is rare in countries where people eat a high-fiber diet, experts have not yet shown that a high-fiber diet definitely prevents appendicitis.

Many residents of the developing world, not wanting to appear "backward", feel obliged to adopt western toilets. This trend is causing health problems that were previously unknown among squatting populations. Appendicitis is one example, as reported by, a health care portal based in India: The Indian type of toilet is more conducive to complete evacuation than the Western toilet. With the western style closets becoming popular in India, there is a risk of increased incidence of appendicitis.

Unfortunately, western doctors have never made the connection between toilet posture and appendicitis. Their understanding of this disease has advanced little in the century since Dr. Frederick Treves performed his famous appendectomy (mentioned above) on the Prince of Wales. Ironically, Sir Frederick (knighted for saving the king's life) lost his own daughter to appendicitis. Despite being highly skilled at surgery, he had no idea what causes the disease, or how to prevent it.

Now his successors have a chance to redeem their profession. By informing their patients (and their children) about the health hazards of the modern toilet, they can prevent a great deal of needless suffering.

Appendix Information: Natural News 11/16/2009 - You don't Need Your Appendix, Right? Wrong!

Appendix Information: Dr. Mercola 10/23/2000 - Is Your Appendix Really A Useless Organ?

Appendix Information: Dr. Mercola 7/8/2008 - Helpful Bacteria May Be Hiding In Your Appendix

Appendix Information: Dr. Mercola 9/17/2009 - Your Appendix Is Useful After All

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