Why do we have an Appendix? New research is suggesting that the Appendix has an important role in Gut Health. It may well be the safe house for the good bacteria.
The Gut Health arena as the core of health is emerging as a very strong idea. Here are several links that explore this more broadly and deeply.
In 2007, Parker and his colleagues suggested that the appendix has an immunological role, acting as a “safe house” for beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria help train the immune system and can prevent diseases by outcompeting dangerous pathogenic bacteria—but there are times when the dangerous microbes gain the upper hand and overrun the gut. The researchers reasoned that when this happens, the beneficial bacteria could retreat to the safety of the appendix, which remains unaffected. Once the immune system has beaten the infection, the beneficial bacteria emerge from the appendix to quickly recolonize the gut.
The “safe house” idea makes sense, says Indi Trehan, a pediatrician at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis who recently studied the importance of maintaining gut bacteria when treating people with malnutrition. “The appendix has a unique anatomical location that is out of the way,” he says. “Bacteria can be kept safe there for repopulation as needed.”
The safe house hypothesis is reasonable, Nesse agrees, but he points out that just 50 of the 361 mammalian species included in the analysis have an appendix. “One wonders why such a trait with such a function would not be universal,” he says. That suggests it is possible we still haven’t completely cracked the mystery of the appendix, he says.