Letter Re: The Human Appendix

Monday, Mar 11, 2013

Sir:
I have a medical question that I thought that maybe you could forward to Dr. Cynthia Koelker, your Medical Editor, on perhaps she could write an article.
 
My appendix was enflamed recently and they performed emergency surgery to remove it before it burst. My doctor said that his granddad, also a doctor, performed preventative surgery to remove his daughter's (my doctor's mom's) appendix. He said that there is really no purpose for the appendix except to get infected and inflamed and burst. I agree that he is probably correct in this day and age, but when I asked the same question of my surgeon, he said that pandas have the largest appendix, and they live entirely on raw plant materials, that the appendix is to make it easier to digest plant materials.
 
So here are my questions:
1. What IS the purpose of the appendix in the human body?
2. In a survival setting, how would you insure keeping the appendix healthy, especially in climates where there is a long winter and thus, difficulty in obtaining fresh food? In hot climates? In asking this question, I am assuming that TEOTWAWKI has occurred, like 10 years ago, maybe I had a baby somewhere in there, there is no food save what I have grown, no modern devices, etc. So for people that are alive now, we can go get the surgery before it gets bad, to prevent the appendix getting sick. But how would I prevent the inflammation of the appendix of a future baby?
3. I haven't experienced problems with the gall bladder, but how do you keep it healthy?
 
Thanks so much, - Anita L.

JWR Replies: Dr. Koelker is now writing a reply. That should be posted tonight.


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