The human appendix has been considered a useless vestigial organ that is routinely removed when it is inflamed. That seemed unreasonable to me because living animals, humans in our recent hundred thousand years of evolution included, are in life-long competition to perform well. An organ that gives normal humans an occasional severe bout of inflammation, and occasional death, would need a counterbalancing value to have survived without being eliminated from the gene pool.
With the recent interest in the nearly one thousand intestinal bacterial life forms we naturally carry, I considered the possibilities for my appendix, and yours. I have several blogs based on Dr. Martin Blaser’s foundational book, Missing Microbes. It is my main source for science-based information on the subject of intestinal flora.
In recent news I discovered Appendix might do intestines a favor. I was searching for background information for why we have an appendix. It became obvious to me that the appendix’s function is to preserve a reserve of these bacteria tucked away in a pocket at the junction between the small intestine and the large intestine. That is the location where it can resupply both of these differently functioning intestines with needed bacteria after a serious bout of diarrhea has washed away all of the other material from mouth to anus.
Unfortunately the article above recommends the exact wrong procedure for coping with appendicitis. “The shift in thinking about the appendix comes as some hospitals consider scaling back appendectomies and making greater use of nonsurgical management of appendicitis with antibiotics.” Other doctors quoted in the article say, “Appendectomies are safe and remain the treatment of choice.”
The function of the appendix for a hundred thousand years, before modern medicine, probably was to resupply the intestines with its essential bacteria, because without that bacteria we will soon die of starvation, and other things too. A heavy dose of antibiotics will kill off all of the bacteria in the body, including those in the appendix. Probably the reason modern people have survived seven decades of antibacterial treatments is because the material in the appendix is to some degree isolated from both the intestines and the rest of the body where the drugs are also flowing. The bacteria surviving in the appendix repopulate the intestines in a day or two and we are as good as before the disease, and the appendicitis. A diseased appendix may be a perfectly healthy organ just doing its normal disease-fighting routine, which includes inflammation.
A better treatment for a mildly inflamed appendix, and until it ruptures, is to give anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, and mild foods. Keep the person under hospitalized observation for a day or until there is no choice to let them go home or to operate.
With appendicitis don’t take antibiotics or operate until you must.