What Does the Appendix Do?

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Far from useless

For years, the appendix was only seen as a potential annoyance. Many people have had to get it removed because it became inflamed. It turns out that it plays key roles in maintaining our digestive and immune systems.

Digestion

Our digestive system contains enormous amounts of bacteria which aid in digestion. Sometimes, diseases or other illnesses can kill these healthy bacteria. The appendix acts as a reservoir for good bacteria and recolonizes the gut when it faces a shortage. The appendix essentially reboots the digestive system by replenishing it with good bacteria. This role’s importance is highlighted by the findings that people without an appendix may be four times more likely to suffer Clostridium difficile colitis (swelling and irritation of the large intestine).

Immune system

After birth, the appendix accumulates lymphoid tissue which aids in the production of antibodies and the maturation of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). It also produces molecules which help the lymphocytes move to different locations in the body.

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