The Real Reason Humans Are Born With An Appendix

The appendix is a thin tube that sits in your gastrointestinal tract. Located in the lower right abdomen, the appendix is attached to the large intestine and measures about 4 inches in length (via Everyday Health). While the rest of the gastrointestinal tract helps your body break down and digest food, the appendix has no known role or function.

Scientists previously thought that the appendix lost its original function as a result of time and human evolution, but they now believe the appendix may help protect healthy gut bacteria from disease. This is known as the "safe house" theory. Although the theory has yet to be proven, studies have shown that there are more microbes in the biofilm around your appendix than any other organ in the gastrointestinal tract. As a result, researchers have theorized that the bacteria from the appendix's biofilm could be used to introduce new bacteria into the gut after an infection.

What happens when your appendix becomes inflamed?

Regardless of its function, it is not uncommon for the appendix to become painful and inflamed. In fact, appendix pain, or appendicitis, is the most common cause of severe abdominal pain in the United States (via Healthline). Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed and infected. This can cause severe pain in the lower right abdomen and can be fatal if left untreated.

Appendicitis is often caused by an obstruction of the opening of the appendix, which can lead to infection. This blockage can be caused by hardened stool, intestinal worms, trauma, lymphoid follicles, or tumors, which can lead to pressure and swelling in the abdomen. Common symptoms of appendicitis include nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, pain around the belly button, and painful pressure in the upper and lower right side of the stomach. While it is possible to treat appendicitis with antibiotics or other nonsurgical methods, most cases require surgery.