Is the appendix just a useless evolutionary vestige, or does it have a role to play in our health. New evidence suggests that it may be persisting in our systems for a purpose!
Case 1: My 40-year-old friend collapsed with a sudden abdominal pain one morning. With no prior warning, she came close to an absolute blackout. In minutes, the pain was gone completely. Nevertheless, she went to a hospital to get it checked out. Routine scans were done to check if her appendix was to blame, but the technician saw no problems with her ‘evolutionary vestige’. All through the morning, one thought kept coming back to mind. Her IUD was long past removal date – maybe that was to blame. The doctor she met later, however, insisted that she be admitted immediately for an appendectomy. She ventured that she felt totally fine, and that she would check with a gynecologist about the IUD first…the doctor immediately proposed that she could be admitted, have an appendectomy and also have the IUD removed by his wife, who was a gynecologist. Deeply troubled by that option, my friend insisted on going back home, despite dire predictions of doom by the doctor. The next day, she got the IUD removed, and has had no ailments since. She says, “I understand that the appendix is considered unnecessary…but it’s something that’s inside my body that wasn’t giving me any trouble! Why should he insist on removing it even when it is fine? I was being pushed to do a surgery that was totally unnecessary!”
Case 2: A patient comes into the hospital complaining of acute abdominal pain. The doctor diagnoses acute appendicitis and surgery is immediately scheduled. Later, the patient finds out that his appendix was on the verge of rupturing and that the timeliness of the operation had saved his life. “It was such unbelievable pain! I am so relieved that it could be solved by such a simple procedure – and thankfully we don’t need the appendix, so it’s not going to affect my life!”
Yes, it’s true that the appendix is considered a remnant of an evolutionary process by evolutionists. But is it a ‘useless’ mass of tissue in our body? The human body is a super-intelligent mechanism that harmoniously conducts millions of processes in every second. If something was really useless, why would the body still have it inside? Is it right of us to see the appendix and the tonsils so lightly – and choose to throw them out at the slightest provocation? Does it all come down to a comparative decision? Or does the appendix only function as a source of financial support for surgeons? Let’s find out.
The Unwanted Appendix
Till some time ago, science on the whole considered that the appendix was a part of us that the body missed out or forgot to discard when we evolved into homo sapiens. However, it has always been the focus of a lot of discussion and debate. It is understood that the appendix may have had a big role to play in the past, but after our bodies evolved to what they are now, their role diminished.
It has been widely considered that the appendix is a shrunken remainder of a large intestinal tube, from which our intestines evolved to their current state. Inside the body, the appendix is a small, finger-sized projection attached to the large intestine in the lower right area of the abdomen. It is usually between two to eight inches long. The appendix is longest in childhood and gradually shrinks through adult life.
Scientists’ view of the appendix is changing from what they believed in the past. A growing consensus is that the most likely function of the human appendix is as a part of the gastrointestinal immune system. Some opine that reasonable arguments exist for suspecting that the appendix may have a function in immunity as the appendix is highly vascular, is lymphoid-rich, and produces immune cells normally involved with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. It’s also known to be a storehouse for the ‘good’ bacteria also.
Appendicitis is a painful inflammation of the appendix. The condition starts as a pain in the centre of the abdomen. It then travels to the lower right-hand side and gradually gets worse.
Appendicitis is a medical emergency that usually requires urgent surgery to remove the appendix. If left untreated, the appendix can burst and cause potentially life-threatening infections. It’s not exactly clear what the causes of appendicitis are, although it’s thought to occur when something, usually a small piece of faeces, blocks the entrance of the appendix, causing it to swell.
Appendicitis typically starts with a pain in the middle of your abdomen that may come and go. Within hours the pain travels to the lower right-hand side, where the appendix lies, and becomes constant and severe.
Pressing the appendix area, coughing or walking, may make the pain worse. You may lose your appetite, feel sick and suffer from constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting and high fever.
Go for Surgery
An inflamed appendix will most probably rupture if not removed. Rupturing spreads the infection throughout the abdomen, creating a potentially fatal situation. In most cases, the appendix will have to be surgically removed. This is one of the most common operations and its success rate is excellent.
Surgery is most commonly performed as keyhole surgery (consisting of three small cuts). Open surgery (a single large cut over the appendix area) is usually carried out if the appendix has burst.
Are there any other ‘spare parts’ in the human body?
Men have nipples and mammary tissue which can be stimulated to produce milk. They can also get breast cancer.
Early humans had an extra row of molars to help with the vast quantity of vegetable fibre they had to chew. Now, about 35% of the population does not develop wisdom teeth at all.
The remains of a tail lost long before man began to walk upright six million years ago.
Humans have 12 ribs but about 8% of humans have an extra pair, as do chimps and gorillas. They live with that extra pair of ribs!
The appendix does have a use: Re-booting the gut
For generations medical orthodoxy has maintained that the appendix is useless, warranting attention only for its tendency to becomepainfully inflamed and requiring swift removal. But now the reputation of this unwanted little sac in the human gut has beenrehabilitated by a theory from a team of immunologists.
Scientists have found that the appendix acts as a “good safe house” for bacteria that are essential for healthy digestion. In effect, theappendix ‘re-boots’ the digestive system after a bout of amoebic dysentery or cholera or any case of extreme diarrhea that purges thegut.
This function has been made obsolete by modern, industrialised society; in dense populations, people pick up essential bacteria fromeach other, allowing gut organisms to re-grow without help from the appendix, the researchers said.
But in earlier times, when land were more sparsely populated and whole regions could be wiped out by an epidemic of cholera, theappendix provided survivors with a vital individual stockpile of suitable bacteria.
“The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria that populates the human digestive system,” said BillParker, a professor of surgery and one of the scientists responsible for establishing its status as a useful organ. “The location of theappendix, just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine, helps support the theory.”