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FACTS: The appendix is a finger-shaped tube sticking out of your colon. It is often considered a “joke organ” with no function. In rabbits and some other herbivores it helps with plant digestion. But in humans, the appendix may only come to mind if it gets blocked and causes inflammation known as appendicitis. This is no joke as it can cause severe pain around the navel and lower right abdomen. Standard treatment is surgical removal.

The appendix mostly does get bad press. Yet far from being an organ of evil, it may actually serve a useful function by harboring beneficial microbes in your body. In effect, the much reviled organ is really a microbe sanctuary. The theory is that the appendix is a storehouse, a safe house, or a cultivation center for the normal bacteria that your intestines need to properly digest food.

This safe house is necessary in case the colon, the primary dwelling place for beneficial digestive microbes, becomes contaminated with bad microbes and flushed out. The microbes that hang out in the appendix may be there to reinoculate or reboot our digestive system with good bacteria.

Keep in mind that we carry trillions of microorganisms on and inside our bodies, mostly in the gut. Their relationship with humans is symbiotic. The bacteria take some food we eat and in return they produce vitamins and other compounds we need, plus they help to prevent the growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria. Microbes are crucial to our health and well-being!

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