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What does the appendix do ? It’s not NOTHING !
I often talk about the importance of cultivating the “right” microflora.
If your microflora take a serious knock, thanks to the antics of a nasty bug, your body does exactly this, it cultivates the “right” microflora, so that you get back on your feet, quickly.
And get rid of that “nasty” bug, permanently.
Well, this is what happens when you have an appendix.
When you don’t, well getting the “right’ microflora back in place, can be more difficult.
The hazards of an appendectomy
For some people, it becomes impossible.
And can leave them succumbing, and I do mean dearly departed succumbing, to infection. The name of the problematic infection…… Clostridium difficile.
It’s quite common.
Stats suggest for every 1000 people admitted to hospital, somewhere between 3.4 and 8.4 people will find themselves suffering from a C.difficile infections.
The reason………………… antibiotics.
Antibiotics decimate bacteria
Mostly. But, bacteria vary in their sensitivity to antibiotics.
As a rule, the good guys are defenceless – they don’t even see the antibiotic coming. In a flash, they’re gone. The bad guys on the other hand, are often tough as nails, having deliberately acquired special “tools”, to combat antibiotics.
And then, there are the in-betweens.
C.difficile is an in-between. He actually lives in the gastrointestinal tract of many people, along with a multitude of other bacterial species. He is not a bad guy per se, but, he is a little tougher than the average bacteria. This toughness allows C.difficile to survive the antibiotic exposure.
In a decimated world…………………as a survivor, C.difficile picks up the pieces and starts to multiply.
And multiply, and multiply.
With no real competition, the number of bacteria quickly increase, C difficile numbers sky rocket. And things in the GIT tract turn ugly…….
The appendix to the rescue
The job of the appendix, is to provide the good guys with a safe haven – a place to ride out, decimating events, like diarrhea and antibiotics.
Okay, okay………….. it’s not designed for them to survive antibiotics.
Antibiotics are a modern phenomenon, Mother Nature never saw this one coming, but good design has utility.
And the appendix is DESIGNED.
The appendix is not vestigial
Phylogenetic studies, that is studies comparing different animals, find it is a common feature of animal lineages. It occurs in one form or another, in over 30 different animal lineages.
And animals with an appendix in their history, never get rid of it – it’s too useful !
The long narrow pipe, packed full of lymphoid tissue, right at the bottom of your colon, is an important part of your immune system.
Keeping your bacteria safe
It is positioned in such a way, that it can miss, a lot of the drama, associated with a bad case of diarrhea. As torrents of liquid , rapidly exit the gut, carrying ALL gut residents, good, bad and ugly, OUT, the bacteria holed up inside, barely experience a ripple.
Huddled inside, wrapped under a special sticky cover, known as a biofilm, they “ride” the storm out.
When things calm down………..they venture forth and multiply – reseeding your gut.
And things return to normal.
The appendix is needed
It’s an ancient protective system, designed to help organisms survive a serious case of the runs.
Something that was not so unusual in times gone by.
Being exposed to “dirty” water and/or “dirty” food, was a common hazard. In fact, it still is a relatively common occurrence in many parts of the world.
Diarrhea can be deadly.
Especially when the diarrhea is accompanied by malnutrition and dehydration. Medical and nutritional interventions have transformed it from a killer, to an inconvenience.
Safe haven from antibiotics
Good design……….has utility.
The shape, position and composition (biofilm) of the appendix, give C.difficile sufferers an advantage. Instead of just C.difficile emerging, following the antibiotic decimation, other gut residents survive too.
And a little competition, puts C.difficile back in his place.
People with an intact appendix are 2.5 fold less likely to end up with an overgrowth of C.difficile.
Cultivate the “right” microflora
Maybe you’ve been told, your appendix does “NOTHING”.
That’s not TRUE. It helps maintain the “right” microflora.
You can get by without one, and maybe in the modern world, where diarrhea is not a big health threat, having one is not quite as important for your survival, as it used to be.
But, your appendix can help you “survive” ANTIBIOTIC exposure.
Keep all your bits and pieces
So do what you can, to keep yours.
An appendectomy can be life saving, but current stats suggest, 50 % of surgeries are not necessary. Acute non-perforated appendicitis, that means the appendix hasn’t burst, can be treated conservatively with course of antibiotics.
NOTE : Yes, antibiotics do cause damage, but if you’ve got an appendix, the damage won’t be quite as bad.
Exactly who is living in your gut matters, that said, who shows up, doesn’t change much from day to day UNLESS you take somekind of trip…
For gut bacteria, the antibiotic storm means it is no longer, business as usual. Only the tough survive and it takes time to return to “normal”.
Our gut cells are innately great gardeners, they know which fertilizers to deploy in the gut garden, using the right fertilizer grows the right bacteria.